Sunday, January 18, 2009
Welcome to Hell ... social networking included
I’d like to introduce Jenny, Ittybit's virtual pet Webkinz.
Jenny's pseudo real-life counterpart, a stuffed dachshund toy, has been sleeping with Ittybit since we activated the plush pet.
For those of you still blissfully unaware of this particular corner of hell; let me enlighten you:
These are -- for the most part (but not in Jenny's case, of course) – the crummiest looking stuffed animals ever manufactured. Many have stringy hair that protrudes in all directions, even if they’re supposed to be reptilian.
But the toy itself isn't the real draw; the $12-$14 you shell out for it also covers the cost of a secret code that allows entry into the Webkinz World, an online hub for video games that promote all that is wonderful and annoying about the interwebs including social interaction and consumerism.
All the things we love and hate about reality are realized in Webkinz World, too.
In Webkinz World you can get a job, earn cash to feed and clothe your little friends, and collect over-priced virtual stuff to decorate your intangible pet's imaginary house. You can play some games for hours on end, but other games are only available to players once a day. You can click on ads, shop in fake stores, put crazy-looking purchases in shopping carts and proceed to a one-click check out.
You can watch your imaginary money dwindle away as you buy $900 tables that don’t really fit into your pet’s tiny room anyway. You can work at the pizza joint for a few thousand hours and make enough dough to buy your pet an extra room.
You can even sell your pretend stuff back to the make-believe shop (which sold you the invented junk in the first place) -- no questions asked. You will have to resort to that once you get fired from your ghost job at the shoe store that the employment office set up for you because you aren’t terribly skilled at matching shoes, and you won't be making any tips in the replacement gig you got on your own by visiting the Arcade: It's hard to make pizza when the video game won't allow you to do two things at once.
Of course, you can't do two things at once in real life very well, anyway, so quit yer bellyaching.
There are benefits to living in an imaginary place.
In this virtual world you don’t have to deal with folks dressed in floral housecoats, wearing socks and sandals, trying to negotiate a lower price for the stuff you’ve dragged curbside for your twice annual yard sale. You can just get your money back for that apple you bought for $25 bucks regardless of when you bought it.
Of course, parents can learn a lot about their kids’ priorities when they activate an account and look over their shoulders as they go hog wild.
For instance, Ittybit isn’t terribly patient when the Web site crashes and I have to sign her in again (because she can’t read or spell her sign-in and passwords.
“MOM! I feel like I’m 25!”
“Why is that?”
“Because it’s taking so LONG!”
You also may find, as I did, that poor fake Jenny gets neglected. … That your precious little peanut barely even visits her online pal, or cleans her room, or puts her to bed at night. Instead she opts to head straight for the Arcade. And instead of buying healthy fake food for her pet she buys hideous furnishings for her already cramped room.
You may even find yourself going online late at night, trying to figure out what ails the poor pooch, whose icon is perpetually sporting an ice bag, by putting it to bed or feeding it some vitamins before you head to the arcade for a few rounds of Cash Cow yourself.
Not that that’s ever happened to me.
Posted by toyfoto at 6:54 AM