Howdy, Pridetropicans! Earlier last week we rallied our lovely readers to join us for our second party celebrating theLGBTQ+ community, the PHB’s Pride Palooza. We had a gay ole time! 🏳️🌈
While we recognize the surrounding nuances of opinion regarding LGBTQ+ topics, here at the PHB, we are safe space and believe everyone should be shown kindness and respect no matter who they love or how they identify. That’s why we had this party and why Pride Month is celebrated all around the world.
All the attendees gathered in the Blast-Off Arcade to go head-to-head in Star Link, Balloons, and Sky Dive. I had a pretty good winning streak, myself, though I will admit I lost a couple of times.
Digital doodles and a fair amount of disconnections from switching tabs away from Poptropica also made the night eventful. It wouldn’t be a Poptropica party without the art and the server hiccups, now would it? Here are a few that didn’t make it into the recap collage:
Artwork by Ayman, BrittScarlet, Purple Paw, and Slanted Fish.
The PHC is always open for Poptropicans to talk and hang out, and we strive to be an inclusive place where everyone can have a good time. Pop in and join us anytime.
Hey Poptropicans, this is a guest post by HfEvra (Mess of a Being). Enjoy!
Greetings, fellow humanoid creatures with unrealistic proportions who lack ears and noses! This is HfEvra or Mess of a Being, and I’m here today with another guest post, this time about minority representation in Poptropica — particularly on ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.
As a Middle Eastern non-binary lesbian, seeing minority representation in current children’s media brings me immense joy and makes me hopeful that the kids of today will grow up to be tolerant, well-adjusted adults. But recently, I found myself thinking: What if Poptropica also had this sort of representation? And that’s what I’m here to talk about today.
Representation in Poptropica so far
Before talking about how more diversity can be implemented into the game, I wanna go over some instances of Poptropica’s existing attempts at diversity and inclusivity — both the successes and the failures.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the removal of the gender selector from the account creation screen, clearly meant to make the game inclusive for LGBT people who don’t fall into the gender binary of male or female.
Instead of a player’s choice of gender affecting whether or not their Poptropican has eyelashes, the player simply gets to choose whether or not they want eyelashes without having to go into the nitty-gritty of gender identity. In addition, it was also made so that both masculine and feminine clothing could be seen at the same time in the (now removed) New You building on Home Island.
In terms of representing persons of color (POC), however, Poptropica is a mixed bag. On one hand, we have C.J., the brilliant young girl scientist from Shrink Ray Island as well as Dr. Rachel Salerno, the courageous astronaut woman from Lunar Colony Island. On the other hand, we have Ringmaster Raven, the horribly mistreated and tragic villain from Monster Carnival Island. (Yes, it does seem that I am incapable of making anything that doesn’t end up referencing him.)
There is also the fact that Poptropica is guilty of whitewashing — the act of taking a character who isn’t white (or white-coded) and altering them to be white, or at the least, white-passing. Crusher from Super Power Island and DJ Saturday Nite from Zomberry Island, who were both dark-skinned when they were first introduced, had their skin tones lightened in subsequent appearances in the game years later — quite a problematic move considering that people of color are already lacking representation as is. Here’s the before-and-after of the DJ:
And as for Crusher…
That being said, there are ways that Poptropica could add diversity to the game and make things more inclusive without falling into problematic implications. Let’s discuss a few of those ways, shall we?
What else can be done?
In the PHB’sQ&A with Poptropica’s CEOfrom last November, it was mentioned that Poptropica doesn’t currently have any characters whose sexual orientation or gender identity plays an important part in the story, but that it is something that should be considered for future islands. However, there is actually more that can be done in regards to representation than having islands revolve around the minority identities in question.
(Some players read Hazel and Beatrice from Crisis Caverns as a couple. Had it been confirmed in the island itself, this could’ve been an interesting representation of not only gay and/or biracial couples, but also older LGBT couples, who don’t get as much representation as younger ones.)
One of the more subtle ways to establish a character as LGBT is to integrate it into their appearance or environment. Maybe a character could have a pride flag color scheme, or wear something like a pin that has the pride colors on it! Maybe we enter a character’s house as part of the story and we find a pride flag tapestry on the wall! Maybe the character has framed pictures of them alongside their same-sex parents! There’s practically an infinite amount of ways to add LGBT content to Poptropica without being in-your-face about it.
Of course, that isn’t to say that all LGBT content has to be shunted out of the frame by being restricted to subtle design choices and/or background characters. One aspect of representation to remember is that a character’s minority trait shouldn’t be their entire personality, but if the LGBT characters in the game are restricted exclusively to background characters, that’s not fully representative either.
Luckily, Poptropica islands have more moving parts than just “player” and “background NPCs” — they also have a ton of secondary characters who play a part in the islands’ stories! In the future, there could be an island where a sidekick character is explicitly shown to be gay, trans, etc. Perhaps they have a romantic partner of the same gender who’s mentioned or seen alongside them during the story, or perhaps they’re a non-binary person who uses gender neutral pronouns! It’s not a hard thing to add to the story — simply referring to the character in question with non-binary pronouns like “they/them” or “xe/xem” (hey look, those are my pronouns as well!) would help normalize non-conventional pronouns to the game’s audience of kids.
Since the Poptropica Creators advertised 2021 as “the year of stories,” perhaps their current priorities are the Dream Island contest winners, so we likely won’t be seeing this sort of representation anytime soon. But hey, a gay can hope!
Hey Pridetropicans – we’re proud of you for standing up for love.
Last week, the PHB invited everyone to Poptropica’s first ever Pride Party, a celebration of showing kindness and dignity, particularly to our LGBT neighbors who don’t always get that love. Though we may all have various perspectives on the topics surrounding them, we do not have to agree on everything to agree on the most important premise: loving our neighbors by extending them their due respect as fellow humans.
Just in time before Pride Month wraps up, we had our party the other day over on the PHC and a couple of Multiverse party rooms on Poptropica. Everyone was dressed up in dazzling rainbow hues and funky parts like antlers and crescent moon masks. Check out all the fun colors and costumes in the recap pic above! Lots of PHB staff came, and the Pop Creators and Mitch Krpata even retweeted our mentions of the party, though they did not make it to the event.
Of course, the lag soon began with the explosion of firecrackers, confetti bubbles, and other special effects… as it tends to go. We planted some peaceful decor as well, including rows of Poptropolis grass statues and flowers, which really brightened up the rooms! It was a great space for chatting and battling in head-to-head games.
Over on the PHC, it was cool to have people supporting one another, be questioning and investigating issues of identity, and striving for peace. At the heart of it, that’s what a Pride Month event such as this tries to do: inspire thoughts and discussions about what it means to love, even when other people love differently.
Whether or not you believe gays should marry or see gender as either a binary or a spectrum isn’t nearly as important as how you choose to treat the members of the LGBT community. Even if you could not make it to this party, we hope the dialogue we have started will inspire you to ask questions, hear more of their stories, and affirm their value as equally created human beings. Likewise, if you’re already a big supporter, remember to be gracious when you express your views to those who are not so familiar.
The PHC is always open for Poptropicans to hang out, and we strive to be a place where all can feel welcome, LGBTs included. Come join us anytime.