Collecting exists in many forms and is one of Neopia's favorite hobbies. Avatars, trophies, galleries, Safety Deposit Box hoards... it seems that almost everyone has some sort of collection on their account. Collectors are sometimes considered the driving force behind Neopia's very economy. Seemingly peaceful, these crazed – er, dedicated Neopians have over the years formed societies, groups and clubs which frequently, sometimes violently, clash.
In order to help us understand this strange yet strangely common and even addictive habit, I have contacted two high caliber collectors; Usukii (a fervent Usuki and Usukicon collector) and Ava (a dedicated Avatar collector). Their names have been changed for security reasons. What do they have in common? What differentiates them? Why does such a rivalry exist between these two otherwise peaceful Neopians? All this I will attempt to uncover in my latest interview: The Best of Both Collections.
Yams: So, we'll begin with you, Ava. The obvious question is why? Why spend so much time and energy on little 50 x 50 pixels?
Ava: For me it's never been about the Avatars themselves as much as the journey. Some people think we waste our time chasing elusive Avatars; but I ask you to consider, how do we get these Avatars in the first place? By being competitive game players, by restocking, being creative, having great luck and persistence. Almost every area of the site, even the Stock Market, has an Avatar to offer. Having a high Avatar count simply shows other Neopians that you--
Usukii: That you've begged for a lot of items on the Avatar Chat and read some tips on gaming. Spare me the drama, please.
Yams: Now, Usukii, you promised you'd be civil...
Usukii: I will be if he stops being so big-headed. Three hundred Avatars and he thinks he's the best Neopian there ever was. Let me tell you about the Usuki business.
Ava: Humph. Bunch of girly dolls and girlier collectors.
Usukii: I'll just ignore that mean-spirited comment. Usuki collecting is no easy task. Sure, it's easy to start. There are so many Usukis - hundreds in every shop!
Ava: Perish the thought!
Usukii: Let me finish. So once you've collected all the cheap Usukis, you go for the more expensive ones. Soon you can't find what you're looking for on the Shop Wiz anymore. Now you're on the Trading Post, trading hundreds of thousands of your hard-earned Neopoints for these precious dolls. And where are you getting this money from? From restocking, the stock market, from games!
Yams: So what you're saying is that Usuki collecting requires a similar set of skills as Avatar collecting?
Ava: Of course she leaves out the key point that you can excel in one area only and be rich enough to collect. In Avatar collecting it's not so easy. If you're not good at just one game, then you're short that one Avatar forever.
Usukii: Usuki collecting is more flexible, yes. And there are no 'retired' Usukis the way there are retired Avatars.
Ava: Yes, there are!
Usukii: Ah, but I can still buy them and add them to my collection, even if they are super expensive! You can't do that with retired Avatars, now can you?
Ava: Well, no.
Yams: This would suggest that only the rich can afford Usuki collecting. Avatar collecting seems more accessible to me at this point.
Ava: Exactly! Not only are many Avatars easy for anyone to obtain, but most Avatars require skill rather than bags of Neopoints. High scores in games, entries in the Neopian Times, participating in or completing Plots and Site Events, the list goes on. There are a few Avatars that require expensive item or lots of Neopoints but kind Neopians have been known to help out in the past.
Usukii: Well, whoever said that Usuki collecting was about nothing but buying Usuki dolls?
Yams: You did.
Usukii: Oh, balderdash. Did I mention there are quite a few Usuki Avatars?
Ava: More like three very easy to get--
Usukii: Oh, stop interrupting. Besides those Avatars, there are countless customizable Usuki and Usukicon related items! So it's not just collecting, it's a real life dress up game now! The coveted Usuki Paint Brush will do wonders to any Usul. There is also a Usuki related game: Usuki Frenzy. Any real Usuki collector will try for that trophy! It's a beauty! Besides Usuki dolls, there are millions of Usuki items, books, accessories and even food! Chances are, any collector you find will have something Usuki related in their collection. And I haven't even started on the yearly Usukicon!
Ava: Spare us, please.
Yams: It seems Avatar and Usuki collecting are neck and neck at this point. Truly the possibilities are endless! It's too bad I didn't invite the Book collector I met yesterday evening in Neopia Central!
Ava and Usukii both give me dark looks at this point.
Yams: Ahem, so back to our interview! Usukii, a common criticism of Usukis is that they are too girly to truly be enjoyed by everyone. What are your views on this?
Usukii: I suppose it's true... though there are some more boyish Usuki items and plenty of male collectors out there, the majority is female from what I've seen.
Ava: To be fair, there are quite a few girly Avatars as well.
Yams: Hmmm. Food for thought indeed! Now, Ava, a criticism of Avatar collecting is that it encourages begging and stealing! Those are grievous charges indeed – what do you say to that?
Ava: The thing is, some Avatars require the possession of super rare and expensive items, not to mention one Avatar that requires the Neopian to have nearly five million Neopoints or more on hand! Madness! Some Neopians are lazy and some simply don't have the time or resources to achieve these crazy amounts of NP so they resort to asking others for help. Some of them can be quite rude about the asking and others actually don't return the items or NP they borrow!
Ava: However, this sort of thing is not just a problem that exists in the Avatar collecting world alone.
Usukii: I suppose I have seen some shady business going on during the Usukicon myself...
Yams: So the general opinion is that collecting is not the problem?
Usukii and Ava: Of course!
Yams: Well, we're almost out of time, you two, would you like to leave us with a few words of wisdom from such seasoned collectors as yourselves?
Ava: I guess what I've learned from my years collecting Avatars that there's really no point collecting something that doesn't give you joy. If you collect something to impress other people it becomes a chore instead of a hobby. Selling my Paint Brush collection to fund my Avatar collection was the best thing I ever did! And maybe Usuki collecting isn't as girly as silly as I thought it was before.
Usukii: Aw, thanks Ava, I appreciate that. Collecting Usukis and going to the Usukicon every year has been a life changing experience for me. Not simply because I've collected so many brilliant items and gorgeous dolls but because of the great people I've met! It's great being part of a group with similar interests, people who are happy to help you find that elusive item missing from your gallery or willing to cheer you up when you've given up hope! Part of the appeal of collecting is the group experience, the feeling of being part of something big!
Ava: And you said I was being dramatic!
Usukii: Hey, I said something nice about your silly speech, the least you could do is -
Yams: And I think that's all for today, Neopians. Whether you collect Books or Piles of Sludge, collecting is a hobby anyone can enjoy regardless of where their skills lie. With the yearly Usukicon taking place, perhaps you might want to take a look around and meet some fellow collectors, see what they have to say for themselves! Until next time, happy collecting! I'm off to see if there's any new Usukicon Notebooks for my gallery...