Anyone growing up on the Internet at the turn of the century might remember Neopets. A gaming website filled with millions upon millions of starving pets who have been forgotten about by their owners. Surprisingly with this virtual animal cruelty the site has done well for itself over time and despite being sold by the original owners to Nickelodeon it is still going strong 18 years after its launch.
The gist of the site is to create a virtual pet and play with it, feed and care for it like a responsible pet owner. The way you earn Neopoints (the in game currency) is by playing various games and converting your points into Neopoints at the end.
The reason I bring it up is that the site is so large and varied that it’s in game currency very much resembles real-life currency and can be used as a teaching aid to help people test various methods for improving their finances in real life and seeing the results in a much shorter space of time. Let me explain:
In the real-world most people’s best method for earning money is to get a job, in Neopets you open up a game and practice until you’re good enough to get a decent score which you then submit in return for Neopoints. Sure, it’s a lot more fun than most people’s jobs, but it’s essentially the same thing. You’re trading your time and effort for money.
The game has a bank which you can deposit your hard-earned Neopoints into, and it grants you interest in return. The more money you have the better the account you have access to. Similar to richer people in the real world being able to afford accounts with perks and services.
If playing games doesn’t appeal to you, there’s the option to become “self employed” by setting up a shop, this is where any items you accumulate in Neopets can be sold and it comes with the some of the same issues as real-world self employment such as pricing, competition, restocking. The shop is open 24 hours a day so classes as a more passive method of making money than playing games.
Once you’ve earned enough to cover living expenses you’ll notice the game comes with its own stock market. It can seem surprising that a game aimed at children has a stock market but it very much resembles the real world markets. There are a few restrictions, but in general you can invest in companies from the fictional world of Neopia. The value of the shares seems to follow the “random walk” theory of stocks so the best strategy is to buy and hold.
Players face similar temptations. Just as in real life there are plenty of gadgets and fashion items you can spend your neopoints on that reduce your bank account rapidly if you don’t keep them in check.
I’m going to spend the next few weeks applying as many of the saving and investing methods as I can think of to Neopets and seeing how long it takes me to go from 0 to 1,000,000 neopoints. I’ll cover all the individual aspects to the game in greater detail in future points with a discussion on how they mimic the real world.
Hopefully the quick feedback helps identify what works and what doesn’t in a way that can be applied to real life without risking real money.