Meet Jenny, Annabel's virtual pet Webkinz. Jenny's pseudo real-life counterpart, a stuffed dachshund toy, has been sleeping with Annabel since we activated the account.
For those of you still blissfully unaware of this particular corner of hell; let me enlighten you.
These are -- for the most part (but not in Jenny's case, of course) -- the crummiest looking stuffed animals ever manufactured. But the toy itself isn't the real draw; the $12-$14 you shell out for it also covers the cost of a secret code that allows entry into the Webkinz World, an online hub for video games that promote all that is wonderful and annoying about the interwebs, including social interaction and consumerism.
All the things we love and hate about reality are realized in Webkinz World, too.
In Webkinz World you can get a job, earn cash to feed and clothe your little friends, and collect over-priced virtual stuff to decorate your intangible pet's imaginary house. You can play some games for hours and others are only available to you once a day. You can click on ads. Put purchases in shopping carts. Watch your imaginary money dwindle away as you buy $900 tables, that don’t really fit into your pet’s tiny room anyway. You can work at the pizza joint for a few hours and make enough dough to buy your pet an extra room.
You can even sell your pretend stuff back to the make-believe shop (which sold you the invented junk in the first place) -- no questions asked. You will have to resort to that once you get fired from your ghost job at the shoestore that the employment office set up for you because you aren’t terribly skilled at matching shoes, and you won't be making any tips in the replacement gig you got on your own by visiting the Arcade: It's hard to make pizza when you have to follow when the video game won't allow you to do two things at once.
Of course, you can't do two things at once in real life very well anyway, so quit yer bellyaching.
In this virtual world you don’t have to deal with folks dressed in floral housecoats and wearing socks with sandals, pawing over the stuff you’ve dragged curbside, trying to negotiate a lower price. You can just get your money back for that apple you bought for $25 bucks regardless of when you bought it.
Of course you can learn a lot about your kids’ priorities when you activate their account and let them go hog wild.
For instance, Annabel isn’t terribly patient when the Web site crashes and I have to sign her in again (because she can’t read or spell her sign-in and passwords.
“MOM! I feel like I’m 25!”
“Why is that?”
“Because it’s taking so LONG!”
But really, I think poor Jenny is gets the worst end of the deal.
She may have the best room EVER, but her mistress is forgoing food to pay for it all.