Long before iPads ever existed, casual video games could only be found on the internet. Internet games are about as old as I am and I remember spending hours upon hours playing these games through different phases of my young life. I frequently visited several sites dedicated to serving users free flash and java games. I decided to go back to my old virtual stomping grounds and see if the party was still raging.
Pogo is one of the original internet games portals and is home to many classics like Zuma, Bejeweled, Poppit, and dozens of card/board games turned digital. My babysitter introduced me to Pogo in elementary school. She helped me make my first email so that I could create an account. She also taught me what terms like ASL meant and how to lie about your identity in the chat rooms. I admit she wasn’t the best role model.
I was happy to see that all my favorite games like High Stakes Pool and First Class Poker are still on the site, but since many of the games were built on Java, they aren’t supported by Google Chrome. And the ads are extremely obtrusive; I had to watch a video in between 2 minute rounds of a game. If you miss these games, I’d recommend downloading the mobile versions instead.
Newgrounds is a platform where artists, animators, and game makers could share their flash-based creations with the world. It was a popular site among teenage boys and anime-crazed girls. Most of the creators in the community were self-taught in their field and rose to internet fame for their work even though they didn’t make a dime off it. One day, my best friend showed me the 18+ section of Newgrounds and I saw things no middle schooler ever should. I’m starting to realize I had a lot of bad influences growing up.
One of the early viral hits of Newgrounds was a series called Madness where the player controlled a stick man armed to the teeth with guns and explosives. The objective was simple: kill everything. It was very popular among tween boys. If you go to the site now, there is still a very active community of game makers and it seems like the protagonist of the Madness series has become the site’s mascot. Some Newgrounds creators eventually ported their games to consoles. The game Alien Hominid is perhaps the most successful example.
Back before I got my own laptop in college, my family shared one computer. There were many times when my desire to play internet games was trumped by my parents’. There was a huge online Poker craze in the early 2000’s as such many people found their way to MansionCasino.com (which was just Casino.com when it first launched in 2003).
Out of all the sites I revisited, Mansion Casino seems to be one of the only ones that have stood the test of time. It has become a hub for online pokies machines and other Vegas casino staples. You can gamble to heart’s content, but don’t expect a cocktail waitress in bunny ears to bring you any free drinks.
Addicting Games hosts literally thousands of flash games and the majority of them are actually really fun. I remember the first game I ever played on AG. It was called Kitten Cannon and the objective of the game was to launch a kitten from a cannon as far as you could, using trampolines and explosives to propel it further. I looked for the game while writing this and successfully launched my kitty 2,000 ft on my first try. Somehow that didn’t feel as gratifying as it did when I was 12.
Eventually Addicting Games was bought out by Nickelodeon. I don’t see the Nick branding on the site anymore, so it’s possible they ditched it. Either way, Addicting Games is worth revisiting for games like The Impossible Quiz and the Cheater series. Just try not to let these games take over your life.
Who could forget Neopets? It basically defined a generation. Neopets allowed you to create and raise a virtual magical animal in an online space with millions of other kids and creepy adults. If you didn’t visit the site regularly and feed your Neopet, it would get hungrier and hungrier before it eventually ran away. Several of the little guys ran away under my care. To this day I do not own any pets, virtual or otherwise.
The vast world of Neopia had its own economy for players to explore. Back in the early days of the internet, you spent more time waiting for things to load than actually playing as you navigated from screen to screen. Within the game there were hundreds of mini games like a variation of the Nokia phone game Snake called Meerca Chase and a role-playing game called Adventure Quest where every action you made meant having to load a brand new page. Kids on that dial-up life like me never made it very far.
Everybody at my school played Neopets. Both guys and girls, popular and the nerds like myself. Literally everybody. It connected millions of kids together and showed the power of a robust and friendly online community. Unfortunately, Neopets seems to have run its course. The rich world looks like it has been stripped away in favor of a list of the mini-games. It’s Neopets without the Neopets which is a bit disappointing.
Many of my memories are tied to these online gaming experiences. I miss those carefree days where I had the time to spend online. I look at my sister who is 11 now. She plays a lot of games on her phone and my mom’s tablet. While I’m sure they’re fun, she’s definitely missing out on some of the most creative and fun free games ever created. Maybe the next time I visit home, I’ll break out my laptop and teach her about the good ole days. And then maybe I’ll dig a hole in the backyard and jump into it because apparently I’m an old fart now.