Neopets; the financial education all kids need
In the year 2000, several students were piled into the school’s computer lab. I watched in amazement as my friends logged into their Neopets account, clicking furiously as the pages slowly loaded on the archaic dial-up internet connection. I was one of those students that merely watched as I did not know what Neopets was all about. I saw images of the most adorable looking pets, beautiful and mesmerizing items, whose purpose I could merely fathom (why is he giving a paint brush to the pet, can it paint?). My best friend explained as briefly as he could, his attention primed on the computer screen.
“I need to purchase this paintbrush so that I can make 1 million.”
I was 10, and did not even know how large a magnitude was a million, but this friend did. Do you see where I’m going with this train of thought?
Eighteen years later, I strongly believe that Neopets will always be relevant for young kids (even teenagers and adults) to better understand financial literacy. Having been involved in teaching young kids and troubled teenagers, I can truly see that Neopets bring serious value to enhancing young minds. Of course, adult supervision and guidance is of vital importance as well. For this reason alone, I truly hope that Neopets continue to better itself so it can continue to thrive for decades to come.
Subheader: An Adult Perspective
As an adult, I see how Neopets teach more about money than schools ever do. On the surface, Neopets seem to be “merely” a game where you take care of a virtual pet in a make-believe universe called Neopia. However, intricately woven into this universe is the need to understand basic economy.
The virtual pets (termed “Neopets”) require food and attention, as you would expect of any pet. While the pets do not die from neglect and lack of food, the snapshot of your pet with tears welled up as it cries out in hunger will gnaw at your heart (unless your heart is frigid and cold) until you feed it.
In order to feed it, you have the option of obtaining handouts. The Soup Kitchen does give out free meals to pets. You could also obtain a free omelette. There are also various daily quests available that provide you a random chance of obtaining a food item.
However, this might not be able to sustain your pet. It might need more food or you might have more than one pet. What do you do? The simplest decision would be to head to the different food stores to purchase food. In order to do this, you will need to have Neopoints, or NP, the currency used in Neopia on hand. Once again, there are various methods of obtaining Neopoints, such as free dailies like Trudy’s Surprise or playing games. Keeping your pets fed is pretty doable, maybe even easy.
What if you desire more? Perhaps you want to work on collecting stamps, or decking out your Neohome or gallery. You are going to have to amass a great amount of NP. This is where you begin to think about greater streams of income. Are you going to stick to playing games daily? If you choose to play games, will you have sufficient time to play hours and hours of games to get the points you desire?
In real life, this would translate to people’s decisions to go for a steady and respectable nine-to-five job, save their money and hope to make safe returns on time or fixed deposits. Neopets shows you that even with a decent amount in the bank, the interest is too little to live off of. Unless, of course, you have 10 million Neopoints in the bank and feel that 3424 NP interest per day is good enough. Will your job allow you to bank that amount of money?
In Neopets, you realize that your limited time on the game means that you need to try your hand at riskier ventures to make serious moolah. Something that I honestly don’t recommend would be Food Club – a game that hinges on betting on odds to make a killing. Highly risky but at the same time, highly rewarding if you hit the right bets. The safer – safer here being a relative word – option would be what most Neopians know as “restocking” – looking for coveted items in NPC shops and reselling it in their shops or on the Auction House or Trading Post.
Even with restocking, Neopets weave another lesson that is important (if you notice it and pay attention). Having passion for the items you are looking out for is critical. Some Battledome items are worth a ton, but if you have no interest in looking at weapons and potions, you would not be able to stay motivated to do restocking. Do you love hotdogs? May you make a killing at Hurley’s Hotdogs.
Subtitle: Closing Remarks
This is not a submission aimed at slamming those with normal jobs – there are many that are happy and satisfied with the work that they do. This is a submission about how Neopets breed financial literacy and understanding whether you realize it or not. At the same time, the parallels with the real world are clear as day.
There is great wealth in being involved with what you love. Games (I parallel this with a normal job) can be fun and rewarding, but at the same time can cause you to feel stress and frustration with your dismal scores. The bottomline is that games can only get you so far. If you want to go for the big goals, be it in Neopets or in real life, it’s time to refocus your energy into doing the things you truly care about.
You don’t have to see the whole big picture. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Perhaps the first step is just figuring out the answer to this question:
“What do I love?”
P.S. I truly hope that I did not offend anyone with the views I share in this article. It is merely a collection of my thoughts this past week as I revisited this game as an adult and felt the need to share it with the world.