Remember Club Penguin? It was successor to the online kids game throne after the Neopets craze of my own childhood. Disney Interactive shut down the kiddie MMO back in 2017 but fan clones have lived on. The unofficial Club Penguin Online is now going offline after it was found to be full of explicit messages ranging from racism to "e-sex" as reported by the BBC.
Naturally, that doesn't fly with Disney any further than an actual penguin. The BBC reports that Disney sent copyright notices to "all private server games" including Club Penguin Online, which had recently passed 7 million registered users. "We are appalled by the allegations of criminal activity and abhorrent behaviour on this unauthorised website that is illegally using the Club Penguin brand and characters for its own purposes," say Disney. In their Discord server, CPO announced that they'd be officially closing on May 31st.
This all follows a report in which the BBC dove into Club Penguin Online themselves and found, well, a lot. Chat filters had been disabled on several servers, which allowed folks to shout expletives and slurs uncensored. "Moderators were no longer removing racist content," they say, citing one player's house decorated to spell out a slur. And, as I hate to say I am not at all surprised by, "players were engaging in 'penguin e-sex', sending and receiving explicit messages."
BBC say they weren't able to verify the age of players but "many told the BBC they were teenagers, and there were children playing, too." I certainly wandered into backwater internet territory on chat boards and fan sites in my own pre-teens, though the difference was I pretty much knew when I was straying from the manicured path. You can imagine how a kid might wind up in a knockoff Club Penguin server by accident thinking it's legit.
The BBC interviewed one kid, a fourteen-year-old named Kaden, who said "I've seen people advertise strip club igloos, I've seen people ask for pimps. There's a lot of swearing on there and I've been asked a lot of crazy things. It's really put me off going on these mature servers." Kaden explained that there were safer areas of the game, but apparently most folks wind up in the "mature" areas where penguin people were openly sharing details of their other social media accounts like Snapchat or Discord.
Unfortunately, an unmoderated mess is the least shocking result of fan communities reviving homonculi of beloved dead games. Shame for anyone who was actually finding new friends in their favorite dead game, but otherwise probably for the best, eh?
Header image credit: BBC.