Hey Poptropicans, it’s Slanted Fish.
Here’s a topic we haven’t explored much on this blog: Poptropica and age. I’m writing this from my perspective as a 20-year-old who’s been playing for almost a decade, which means I’ve seen the game grow from its humble beginnings to the big franchise it is today. And, it means I’ve grown up with the game from childhood to adulthood.
It’s often purported that Poptropica is a “children’s game,” but how accurate is this description? The answer may be a little more complicated than it seems.
Since this ended up being pretty long, I’ve broken it up into a few parts that will be posted over the coming days. In this post, I’ll go over who the game is made for as well as what kinds of people make up the actual community. Let’s begin!
Who is the game for?
Strictly speaking, Poptropica is a game for kids. It’s got kid-friendly content, has cartoonish graphics, and is marketed towards young kids, particularly pre-teens. When you register for an account on Poptropica Original, the age options are between 6 to 15. But by popular demand, in Poptropica Worlds, your age can go up to 99 – suggesting that Poptropica can be for all ages.
Still, even with this notion of “all ages,” there is a certain age group that Poptropica aims at in particular. One Poptropica Creator, Mitch Krpata, said in an interview that “a kindergartener could probably play the game but might not get much out of it. The sweet spot is around ages 8 through 12, when kids can both read the dialogue and understand the larger story. After that, you may still enjoy it, but (laughs) you may want to move on to your PlayStation 4.”
So, who is the game for? Technically, pre-teens and maybe younger teenagers, but it’s not like there’s an Age Police Force to stop you if you’re older than 15 and want to play. However, as I’ll discuss in the next section, this snapshot is only scratching the surface.
Who else is playing?
Some of you reading this may know that I got into Poptropica (and blogging about it) at the tender age of 11, in 2008, when you could fit all the islands of Poptropica on one map page. Even though the game was much simpler in those days (no store, no membership, no customizer!) I enjoyed it a lot. So much so that I started a blog.
Over the 9 years I’ve been involved in the Poptropica Help Blog (PHB) and the wider Poptropica fandom community, I’ve seen this idea of a Poptropica “age group” been broken down many times. Although the 11-year-old me who remembers the day Super Power Island came out definitely fit into the standard when I first started playing, I no longer do, and have not for many years. Still, I’m far from the only one.
One of the first to join this blog’s staff team was Codien, who at the time was 16, an age that seemed old and far away to many of the PHB’s readers who seemed mostly to fit the 8-12 range. As years went by, it seemed many in the fandom community also got older, and it became more common to find Poptropicans who were 13, 14, 15. More years passed, and 16, 17 weren’t so uncommon either. In fact, right now, the PHC chat hangout has several regulars who are currently college-aged, including myself.
PHB surveys we’ve conducted in the past few years reveal that the readers of this Poptropica fan site are not all in the expected 8–12 range. Our 2014 survey reveals that the largest group has been 12–14, with 46% in 2014, a trend that continued in 2016 and increased to 60% in 2017. Ages 9–11 were the second biggest group of PHB readers in 2014 and 2016, at 30% and 35% respectively. But in 2017, they were overtaken by ages 15–17, which made up 28%, an increase from previous years.
Of course, although some people have aged with the game as I did, others are also new faces popping up. They may be only now finding Poptropica in their teens, or are re-discovering it from digging up childhood memories, as many have reported in their My Place in Poptropica stories. At the same time, other people will lose interest over time, and that’s fine too.
There is at least one age outlier, though, and that is the gaming YouTuber Thinknoodles, who recently hit age 40. In Think’s case, although he once was an avid Poptropica player, his more recent videos have prioritized other games over Poptropica, suggesting his own fading interest. As of this writing, he has yet to post his promised walkthrough video for Crisis Caverns Island, which came out over two months ago.
And of course, the Poptropica Creators will play the game too, at least to evaluate the job they’ve done if not also for personal enjoyment.
To be continued…
Thanks for reading Part 1 of “Poptropica and Age”! What did you think? Your comments are appreciated!
In Part 2, I’ll talk about why there are so many older kids in this fandom and how it affects the community. Stay tuned!