Now seeing as Webkinz made its way into our world in late 2005, those of you with small children are currently shaking your heads as if I’ve just told you about this neat new invention called the Iron Horse. But please keep in mind that Mr. Pop Rocks and I have not yet spawned, so really, my ignorance is understandable.
I found out about Webkinz through my husband’s boss, who has two sons who are apparently obsessed with it. As I understand it, Webkinz is a money-making scheme that involves purchasing a stuffed animal (or, in Webkinz terminology, a “plush pet”), typing a code on its tag into the Webkinz website, and then “playing” with your online plush pet. (Check out the Webkinz Web site and click on “Take a Tour” I swear to you that you will develop cavities from the sweet wittle narrator’s voice.)
Apparently, the child is given $2000 in virtual “KinzCash” (are you barfing yet?) to decorate the plush pet’s virtual room. By the way, if you can’t afford a full-grown Webkinz plush pet, you can get a “Lil’ Kinz” mini-version. (You’re barfing now, right?) You can also dress your pet in different outfits and buy food for it. (Consume, little capitalists! Consume!) Meanwhile, what happens to the actual plush pet? I guess it just sits on the floor by the computer, forgotten…poor plushy. Seriously…what kid wants to play this? I guess a lot, apparently. But Hell, it sounds as exciting to me as the game of LIFE did when I was 12 years old. (“So I’m playing a game…where I have to get married…and get a job…and pay bills…hmmm. Where’s Hungry Hippos again?”)
Now I suppose Webkinz isn’t that different from adults creating characters in The Sims universe and living in their virtual worlds or whatever. Not that I think that’s any lamer or less pathetic, but at least those adults are having virtual sex and drinking virtual beer and maybe even snorting some virtual blow.
Somehow, I don’t think that goes on in Webkinz world.
When I was a kid, I dressed up in my mother’s old 1960s peasant dresses and ran around in the mud outside and pretended to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. My brother and I constructed multi-room forts out of sofa cushions and blankets. We did back flips off metal jungle gyms built over concrete slabs. I rode my bike, for God’s sake.
Kids do not need Webkinz. They need to play. Outside. Away from the computer.
Yeah, yeah, I’m doing the crotchety old lady “You kids stay off my lawn” routine once again. And yeah, I’m stuck to my PC like a baby to her mama’s teat. But I wasn’t when I was 7 years old! Like the next generation wasn’t fat and lazy enough already. Enough with the Webkinz, people! – Jennifer Mathieu