In case you don’t know, WebKinz are the new, improved, and more insidious than ever interactive Beanie Baby/Tamagochi hybrid. They are little stuffed animals with a digital double-life. You buy a cute little panda (or the new Bengal Tiger, in my case) and you get a special code that lets you go online, register the WebKin as your pet and BAM! They have you. For a full year, you can go online, play with your pet, take part in online contests, play games with other WebKinz owners (with a very child-safe only pre-selected statements allowed chat system similar to Disney’s Toon Town MMORPG). What happens after a year? I’ll answer that later…
Once your pet has a name, your pet gets a one room house of his or her very own, some starting KinzCash and you’re set. Buy clothes, games (anything from Battleship to Checkers), story books, coloring books that you can color online… furniture, new rooms, a back yard… If it’s kid-safe, you can probably buy it.
My experience with these plush little monsters began when my wife (ever attuned to what kids want) got the boys Webkinz for their birthdays. I mostly avoided the whole thing, though family dinner discussions did lean toward what gem who got in the Curio Shop, who KinzPosted what to who, and who bought what in the W shop. My wife stepped in to manage their little accounts, helping them learn a bit about budgeting while logging in every night to earn them a little extra KinzCash.
Then, my wife got a Webkinz of her own, and dinner discussions began to lean toward the possible ingredients involved in certain secret recipes. Before I knew it, her Webkinz Panda, Rosie, was a well-educated pet with a well-decorated house and a tidy little bank account. She’d research the secret recipes, cook up batches of them, and KinzPost the food over to the boys’ Webkinz along with new games, clothes, tidbits for their room themes, etc. (Just like a good mom…) They responded by KinzPosting presents back, somewhat haphazardly, but very generously. They would all log in at the same time to play games together in the tournament arena.
Then, they decided Dad needed a WebKinz, too.
Youngest son: Dad. Where is your WebKinz?
Me: I don’t have a WebKinz.
Youngest son (astonished): Did Pop Pop (his name for my dad) take it away?
Me: No. I just don’t have one.
Youngest son (instantly in tears): But, Dad, you have to have one! You’ve been good and everything.
Me: No, it’s fine. I don’t need one.
Youngest son (still crying): Yes you do! If you don’t I can’t come play to your house in WebKinz World and play with you.
Me (at this point, I am holding my crying little guy and he has buried his head against my shoulder): So you want me to get a WebKinz so that we can play together?
Youngest son (still crying): Yes.
Me: Can’t we just play with Legos?
Youngest son (considers that): Well, yeah, but Dad… you still need one to keep you company while I’m asleep.
Me: I’ll be fine. Mom can keep me company, and you know, I write at night. I won’t be lonely.
Youngest son: Please, Dad.
Me: If you still feel that strongly about it in a week, I’ll get one.
Me: I’ve still got to pick one out.
Youngest son: Okay, but make sure to introduce him to me when he gets here.
So now I have a WebKinz- a Bengal Tiger named Khan. He “sleeps” on the bookshelf and every few days, my sons' WebKinz have a sleepover with him up there on the shelf so that he won’t be lonely. And yes, I log in and feed him, take him to school, search for gems, play games against my kids, spin the Wheel of Wow... it's true. The WebKinz got me.
Here’s a picture of Khan with some of his shelf mates. They seem to be getting along quite well.
In a year, if I don’t buy another WebKinz or renew his year long activation code… he’ll "expire". Die. How evil is that? Fourteen bucks a year or we delete your pet, kid.
In the meantime, though, if your Webkinz gets stomped at Atomicalicious by a tiger named Khan, well, I'm probably guilty.