With all the excitement surrounding the upcoming appearance of Club Penguin’s Captain Rockhopper at Walt Disney World beginning April 30, we couldn’t help but notice some have been asking what Club Penguin is all about. Here we present a brief introduction to the world of Club Penguin.
Quite simply, Club Penguin is what’s known as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG, or MMO for short). What sets Club Penguin apart from other MMOs, however, is that it was designed from the ground up specifically as a safe way for children to interact, not too unlike the very popular Virtual Magic Kingdom from Disney (may it rest in cyberpeace).
Making its debut in late 2005, Club Penguin allows players to adopt their own penguin persona and interact with other players in real time on one of several servers. Penguins can engage in a series of mini-games either on their own or play against others and earn virtual gold coins which can be used to purchase in-game items such as clothing, accessories for their igloo home or even the game’s version of pets, Puffles. Puffles can be played with, fed and taken for walks throughout the easy-to-navigate environment. Penguin interaction comes in the form of built-in actions such as waving, dancing and throwing snowballs as well as two levels of chat: Ultimate Safe Chat which limits the penguins to a series of pre-configured actions and phrases and Standard Safe Chat which allows penguins to type in exactly what they wish to say through an robust and constantly updated filter designed to keep chat clean and to prevent the sharing of personal information. In addition, chat is monitored by Club Penguin staff to prevent abuse. Parents can choose to restrict the mode of chat of the penguin as part of the sign-up process. Parents also have access to controls that allow them to limit penguin access to the servers based on time of day or duration of play.
The Club Penguin environment is completely free of advertisements, so while it allows for penguins to join and play for free, there are paid subscriptions available (via online payments or vouchers that can be purchased at retail outlets) that give penguins extra capabilities. Activities such as using the virtual gold coins to purchase clothing and accessories or upgrades for the mini-games all require membership. In addition, members can receive additional preferred treatment during Club Penguin virtual events/parties. Sometimes criticized as creating a divide between the penguin haves and the penguin have-nots, even just a little bit of game play will make it apparent that membership is where it’s at. It does get frustrating going through online catalogs only to find out you can’t have what other penguins possess (penguins playing free can adopt Puffles but even their options are limited compared to those of subscribers). Fortunately the subscription rate is a comparatively low $5.95 a month (or $60 for an annual subscription) and the virtual gold coins are easy to earn leading to a low frustration factor. Some of the mini-games even require a bit of logic and thinking, if not good hand-eye coordination so there is a bit of redeeming value to the subscription. Club Penguin is always adding new in-game items and events to keep penguins interested.
The game also encourages participation by penguins by contributing questions and jokes to the in-game newsletter as well as volunteering to be a Secret Agent which is more-or-less Club Penguin’s ‘neighborhood watch’ program.
The game also features a few special characters that sometimes appear throughout the environment. One of them is the elusive Captain Rockhopper who is always welcomed by the penguins. Rockhopper is a friendly pirate with an affinity for cream soda who always has free gifts for those penguins fortunate enough to find him.
In 2007, Club Penguin was acquired by the Walt Disney Company. The game continues to operate and thrive under its original devlopers while benefitting from the wealth of resources now available to it as a member of the Disney family. The partnership most recently announced the development of meet & greet characters for Captain Rockhopper and a Blue penguin. The duo will make their Disney Parks debut as part of a test appearance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL where they will meet near the Backlot Tour several times a day between April 30 and May 13. Should the test appearances prove to be successful, the companies will consider making Rockhopper and Blue a larger part of the Disney Parks family.
For more information on Club Penguin game play, visit the penguin-supported Club Penguin Wiki which is an invaluable resource for game play insight, especially for non-members. There is also an official Club Penguin blog keeping penguins up to date on the game.