Neopets is a free virtual pet website. I first joined nearly fifteen years ago, and my children have made their own accounts over time. One thing I really appreciate about the site, as other virtual pet websites come and go, is that Neopets has remained, steady and essentially unchanged. It offers an extensive minigames area and a wide variety of virtual pets to care for and call your own. Their games range in difficulty from long, rpg-style to a short hide and seek game easy enough for the youngest computer user.
They are cash shop and advertiser supported, but the cash shop is done well, focusing on cosmetic changes such as additional clothing. Its use, or the lack of desire to use it, will not impact your gameplay or ability to enjoy the site.
So, what can you do with your virtual pet, other than play minigames? So many things! You can feed it, build it a home, read to it, buy it toys, buy it its very own petpet, groom it, clothe it, train it, and battle it against other players’ pets. All of these are optional, allowing players to focus on only those aspects of the Neopets site they enjoy.
Your pet will become unhappy if it’s not played with or fed, but it will never die or disappear, which is great for young and casual players.
Occasionally, a pet will become sick. This can be distressing for younger players, until they learn what to do about it. A visit to the hospital helps players diagnose what’s wrong and shows what cure is needed. Cures can be bought at the pharmacy or in player shops, auctions, or trades. Some are rare and expensive, though. I’ve taught all my kids to go to the healing faerie at the healing springs in Faerieland, instead, because one of her (free!) random results is a complete cure.
To feed your pet, play with it using a purchased toy, read to it, give it a pet pet, or anything like this, just click on that item in your inventory. A box will pop up asking you what you want to do with the item, showing the pets you can use it on and other available options like putting the item in storage or your shop.
My oldest daughter, now fourteen, has been playing on the Neopets site since she was about three. Navigation of the site was a bit of a pain in her earliest days, because she wasn’t reading yet, but she learned quickly where the games were and the few other things she needed to know to feed and care for her pets. The only hesitation I have about the site, as a parent, is the blatant advertising, which they use in sponsor games and events. Those aren’t the only types of games they have, but it is an ongoing and significant part of the site.
Although they have a cash shop, which children can wander into and add items to a shopping cart without really knowing what they’re doing, the check out process requires their site password and Neocash. Neocash is a different currency than Neopoints, requiring real world money to obtain, either through credit card, paypal, or prepaid Neocash card (bought from a retailer like Amazon or a local store). They have to be 18 to use any method other than the prepaid Neocash card. No Neocash in the account, no purchase. In these days of ever-expanding in-app purchases, that’s a relief.