And the ‘classic’ rebranding on all of my favourite childhood games
When I found myself spawning in the middle of Jamaa Township with people to my left and right yelling “TRADE ME BE FAIR!” and “CHEAP SHOP MY DEN!” The flashbacks hit me like a ton of bricks.
Buried within the crevices of my childhood, I hadn’t thought about the game in years. I played Moshi Monsters probably twice and Club Penguin had its memories, but with Animal Jam it was love at first click. If there’s one thing I remember, it’s begging my mum to let me extend my computer time so I could continue hanging out in my favorite virtual world. My buddies and I would hang out in someone’s den or go exploring for secret rooms on the map. One of them even had a YouTube channel with the goal of achieving Animal Jam stardom, whatever that was. Every Monday I would hunt in shops for the weekly rare item. My additional fascination was with the game’s lore, which revolved around a group of heroes, or Alphas, who saved the game world of Jamaa from the phantoms. Nine or ten-year-old me even emailed AJ headquarters asking them to bring one of the Alphas back when everyone thought he died in an adventure (spoiler: he came back).
When I logged in for the first time in a long time, I was surprised at how much progress I had made in the game. Whether it was my collection of items from trading or the achievements from minigames and going on adventures, it reminded me how much time and money (cough one-year membership cough) I spent on it. However, as I kept playing, something felt off…
With most regular players gone and the amount of servers only a fraction of what used to be, the game has definitely changed since its establishment in 2010. One example of this would be the diminished popularity and presence of in-game roleplays, such as in a school or cafe.
Apart from going on adventures with people you’ll never see again and chatting with others hoping they think you’re cool enough to buddy, there’s not a lot to do – especially if you’re a non-member. That being said, some things have stayed the same. The weirdest things and the best conversations can arguably still be found in the pillow room and recently I met someone from NZ there (hey 123dinogirl <3).
Rediscovering nostalgia can be strange. The sense of community that used to be so prevalent might not be the same anymore, but with the game’s history it was probably bound to happen. In 2020, the original version of the game was rebranded as Animal Jam Classic, while the newer, mobile-friendly version of the game, known as Play Wild, was officially changed to Animal Jam. This caused a lot of backlash as attention would be directed away from the original game that so many people knew and loved. With the further shutdown of Adobe Flash, the original version could only be played through a desktop app. A data breach that same year didn’t help either. My own trial of Play Wild gave me headaches from the graphics so I’ll be sticking with the original.
It’s safe to say now that the classic version of Animal Jam is mostly populated with those who play purely for nostalgia, such as myself. The game might not be what it once was, but it’s still nice to log on and relive part of a bygone era every once in a while.