Cool Math Games, Poptropica and Club Penguin: Surveying Northwestern Students’ Favorite Childhood Browser Games
Today, the Internet is full of dead things. The gutted remains of Poptropica and Cool Math Games show that a light has gone out for good since Adobe Flash will stop working in 2020. But we can still remember things. I remember spending hours trying to beat the last boss in Red Ball 4, making up recipes for my Webkinz, and flying around in Poptropica’s Astro Knights Island.
Even though these are titles from a long time ago, as a group of young people who grew up with the Internet, we can enjoy the bittersweet memories of joy, which help us get over the loss of the sweet, sweet honey that is playing Papa’s Freezeria. I thought that this group of people lived at Northwestern.
In this spirit, I asked 50 students at Northwestern what browser games they used to play as kids. I wanted to show results from both a quantitative and a qualitative point of view, so I also talked to 12 students who volunteered to tell me more about what made their favorite game unique.
People who filled out the survey were asked how many games they played when they were young. In total, 150 people answered this question. With 41 votes, Cool Math Games won by a large margin over Poptropica and Club Penguin, which both got 25 votes.
Students were also given the chance to choose their favorite game, and 36 of them did so. Cool Math Games was in the lead, but Club Penguin, which had nine votes, cut that lead by a lot.
Many people who liked Cool Math Games chose to name specific games. Run 2 and the “Papa’s Games” series were the most popular.
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— Coolmath Games (@TheRealCoolmath) April 28, 2022
Hope McKnight, a sophomore at Medill, said of the Papa’s Freezeria game, “It was all about accuracy. “You need this much-whipped cream,” was so much fun to say. I always tried to make a circle with the sauce, but it never worked.”
Medill freshman Luke Jordan said that when he was in the fourth grade and he found Run 2, it was the best day of his life. He played it every day until he graduated from high school, calling it a “formative part” of his time there.
Jordan said, “I think what makes Run 2 great is that it gives you a sense of completion.” “Run 2 gives you something to work toward. It teaches you a lot of useful skills and how important it is to work hard and keep going. Other games are just a waste of time, but Run 2 helps you get ahead in life.
Some students are still interested in Club Penguin.
Alonzo Williams, a second-year at McCormick, said that Club Penguin was more like a group project than Cool Math Games. “All you do in Cool Math Games is play games. Club Penguin was something to do.”
Steven Gu, a second-year at Weinberg, got his first taste of popular multiplayer online games with Club Penguin.
Gu said, “I think it filled a certain need.” “It filled a need in my heart when I was in middle school.”
Even though Poptropica and Club Penguin got the same number of votes when students had more than one choice, more students chose Club Penguin as their all-time favorite than Poptropica. Nine students chose Club Penguin as their all-time favorite, while only five chose Poptropica.
Williams said, “In Poptropica, you could play with other people, but in Club Penguin, you get clothes and secrets.” “You read in the library and get the codes… It pulls you in.”
Fans of Poptropica had their problems with Club Penguin.
“If we have to go to war, I will fight for Poptropica.” Sophie Levya, a second-year student at Weinberg, said. “I remember trying to figure out the islands with other kids, and they weren’t even friends of mine. We’d lean over each other’s shoulders as we tried to solve the puzzles, which was one of the things I liked most about it.
Communication year two “Poptropica girlie” was what Amelia Reyes-Gomez called herself.
Reyes-Gomez said, “You didn’t have to be a member to get the most out of the game. You could be a member to get exclusive things, but they were just costumes and skins.” “But with Club Penguin, if you wanted to be a girlie, you had to pay for a membership, and my mom wasn’t going to pay for that for me.”
A new graduate student named David Dorf said that Poptropica is a classic.
“I think it was the first time many people had ever felt free,” Dorf said. “You can go behind your teachers’ backs, and it’s a break from schoolwork, so that made it fun.”
Webkinz didn’t do well in this category, with only 3 votes. However, Maelea Tan, a second-year Communication student, said that Webkinz wins for them because they could make up a story with it, whereas in other games they just had to follow a storyline.
“When I was a kid, I had a lot of Webkinz, and I had friends who also had them. We wrote stories about them and played games with them online. I liked that each animal had its personality,” Tan said. “I still quote the Curio Shop Monologue, which is fun for my boyfriend to hear over and over again.”
Some students liked a game that wasn’t very popular.
Carolyne Geng, a second-year student at Weinberg, talked about the good things about Petpet Park, a game that was owned by Neopets and shut down in 2014.
“It’s a bit of a niche thing, but from what I can remember, it was a game a lot like Club Penguin. Geng said, “You had your little avatar, and you could move around the map and play different minigames.” “I miss it a lot. They [Petpet Park] gave away a lot of free premium awards and perks, which might be why they went out of business, but… I liked how friendly everyone was.”
Apollo Umbra, a first-year Communication student, talked about playing Epic War 3 on Kongregate, which had a lot of games.
“I love a good game that goes on for a long time. I played Papa’s games and got to level 130 or so, but Epic War is my favorite because you can play as eight different characters and unlock more people for your army based on who you play.” Umbra said. “Most of the games I liked were either simulation games where you had to build something up over time or long war games.”
Jim Wei, who was in his third year of SESP, also went to Kongregate often.
“The way those games worked changed how I look at the world now,” he said.
Now, it’s clear that this study is neither statistically significant nor strong. In fact, “study” might be too strong of a word because I wasn’t trying to find answers.
Instead, I thought that we all have a lot of love tucked away somewhere, wasting away in a corner of our hearts since the fall of Adobe Flash (or since becoming adults). If I had the chance, I thought it would be worth taking the time to look at it again. I wasn’t wrong.