The Many Sacrifices of an Avatar Collector
Avatar hunters: a moderately sized, mildly neurotic subset of the population of Neopia.
It can be a rough life. "But why?" a member of the uninitiated might ask, "Why would you spend real time, effort, and emotions on earning these useless collections of pixels?" A valid question indeed; the answer to which is not entirely clear. An avatar is a badge of honor; a trophy that we can proudly display to prove that we persevered, painstakingly practicing sometimes for months on end before achieving success. Just as there are different categories of secret avatars, there are different types of struggles that an avatar collector willingly (though not always without complaint) endures.
When it comes to game-related avatars, physical injury can be a risk. When you sit hunched over your computer for hours, mashing the arrow keys and space bar ceaselessly on your 583rd game of Hungry Skeith, you open yourself up to finger cramps, sore wrists and back pain. Playing Snowroller for too long can leave you with blurred vision and vertigo. Any number of fast-paced, timed avatar games might get your heart racing and your blood pressure rising.
One set of avatars is often referred to as the Annual avatars. With examples including Gadgadsbogen, I ♥ Sloth, and Evil Jhudora, the Annual avatars are only available on a certain day or time period. They can be tricky, though. You check your list of avatars you still need and only spare half a glance at the Chef Bonju one; August is ages away, so there’s nothing you can do about it right now. But before you know it, September has arrived and for the third consecutive year you completely forgot to pay a visit to the Cooking Pot and that smug orange Blumaroo is just mocking you with his arrogant smirk. Even with the help of friendly reminders across the site and fansites, sometimes these avatars just get missed. Because so many of them are available on a single day out of the year, if you happen to have jury duty or a huge midterm paper due on that day in the real world, just like that you’ll have missed it again.
Let’s talk about Neopoints; that sweet, sweet currency that we love to watch stack up in our bank accounts. Unfortunately, for us avatar seekers, that bank balance is often much lower than we’d like thanks to our pixelated pursuits. There are myriad ways to go broke trying for an avatar; whether you’re sacrificing 100 NP a pull to the Lever of Doom, or dropping 100,000 NP daily into the hands of the Wheel of Extravagance operator, or shoving your Neopet’s gullet full of food at the Kelp restaurant, your wallet is going to take a hit. The more unlucky of us can spend tens of millions total trying for these expensive avatars—and that’s not even counting the 10 million NP we’ve all coughed up for the Hidden Tower’s Grimoire of Extortion Affluence. From Battledome training to defeat the Black Pteri to handing over millions of Neopoints for that last stamp in your Sea Shells album, acquiring avatars can come with a hefty price tag.
For one subset of avatars, the Pet and Petpet avatars, there tend to be two distinct groups of collectors. The first is a small but admirable assortment of folks that have opted for the hardcore route of painting or morphing pets and aging Petpets themselves. The people who take on this challenge have some serious dedication. Morphing potions, Paint Brushes and Petpets are some of the costlier items on the site, so it would require a small fortune. In addition, many of these avatars have a minimum age to be reached, some as long as a year! I tip my hat to anyone attempting to obtain all these avatars unassisted. The second group is a larger and more casual section of players who through the charitability and kindness of others seek to be briefly lent the avatar-awarding pets. This is the faster, easier method, though there is still plenty of work involved.
Avatars such as Mutant Graveyard of Doom and Helpful Zafara are in their own special class of hair-pulling. These are random when refreshing, so it could take a few minutes or a few days, depending on your luck. I’ve seen many a board on the Avatar Chat titled something to the effect of, "Why won’t this Drackonack eat the stupid Cheese?!?!?!?!!?!?" In my opinion, the worst part of these refreshing avatars is the high risk of being so distracted in your boredom that you miss that "Something Has Happened!" event entirely. For many of us, that rush of endorphins upon seeing that little notification is largely the reason we bother with avatars at all.
No doubt you’re wondering how such a safe, easy category as the Clickables could be the source of any sort of struggle for a collector. And in some ways, you’re correct. For most of us, the Clickables were the very first secret avatars obtained on our accounts and as such, we’ve likely forgotten the unpleasant parts. But just ask a user with a relatively new account, and they’ll no doubt tell you about the incredible annoyance that comes from clicking through sixty-some user lookup Captchas and selecting all the images of street signs.
In the end, being a collector of avatars can be summed up with the four P’s:
Patience: Also known as boredom, stubbornness, desperation, inexplicable optimism
Practice: Replaying Typing Terror enough times that eventually it becomes muscle memory
Persistence: An admirable, sometimes years-long doggedness and refusal to admit defeat
Persecution Complex: Utter certainty that Edna knows you want her avatar and is purposefully withholding it from you, specifically
My intention with this article was to clarify to the uninitiated why exactly we avatar collectors do what we do, although I’m afraid that in writing it I’ve only managed to highlight the fact that we are rather crazy and masochistic. In essence, we do it for the complete satisfaction that accompanies the appearance of that, "Something Has Happened!" popup, and we do it to be able to view our user lookups and see that our avatar count has gone up by one.