Back when I was only 15 years old, I was playing an online game called Neopets for most of the year, however, one day I got on to check my account before school and my account was frozen for no reason. I sent multiple support tickets, but none of them ever received any replies from Neopets’ staff members.
So, when November 4th came around, I decided to create my own directory that listed virtual pet sites and sim games. We were doing well because after a few months of being online, we were managing to attract 200-500 visits per day with less than 1k pageviews being generated on a daily basis.
A few months went by and I decided to release a new comments system, so that any game that was listed in our directory could be talked about by anyone who’s viewing a game’s profile page. Our commenting system was used by a lot of people and we thought we could take things up a notch though by launching our online community.
When we introduced our online community, we closed down the directory and redirected everything to the new forums. We made this change because we wanted to embark on a greater mission of reaching more people in our industry with more quality content that we couldn’t exactly offer with just being a directory.
My dream has always remained the same and that’s being able to talk about virtual pet sites/other games with fans like myself that share the same interests as me with the subjects that we talk about. I never have thought about letting go of my dream or sell it to anyone else because I’ve always been a firm believer that if you want to do something, then follow your heart/passion and focus on accomplishing the dreams that you know you can accomplish. Nobody can make up your mind for you because you have to life your life, the way that you want to.
There’s nothing greater than seeing your dream come true and seeing people enjoy what you manage to release. Even though Neopets froze me, my passion was always in the virtual pets niche and they couldn’t stop me from working hard and making an online community that is now the biggest forum that caters to both virtual pet sites and sim games.
I always hate to say this, but we’ve been hacked multiple times in the past and each time, we had to start over again with 0 posts, 0 threads and 0 members. Quite frankly, each time that we got hacked, we just came back stronger each and everytime because we wanted to prove to our members that just because someone hacks you that doesn’t mean you should give up on something that you’ve worked so hard on. It just sucked everytime that we did because our server admin at the time went on to delete any and all backups that we had saved on our server. Yet, he always blamed the problems on our server company when we know damn well that they won’t screw their customers over like that.
I also had some backups saved on my laptop, but my laptop got busted into one night and I lost all my passwords, files, an email, plus a lot more. All because, there was a security loophole that I didn’t know of that could allow anyone to gain full access to your computer with just your ip. My remote access wasn’t turned off, so I got hit hard.
Since then, there’s only one another person that has full server access and that’s my great friend, Evolution that stays in Australia. So, when I’m not online during the night, he’s usually online working on things and really, I like it better trusting someone that you know won’t screw you over in the long run. Some people just can’t be trusted with any power because they always want to ruin something good.
Even though we had some many setbacks because of the hackings that we had to endure. It wasn’t the only thing that hurt us. In 2010, some bad things happened in real life and we were forced to meet these problems head on. Which resulted in us having to close down the forums for the time being. So, in January of 2011(without any backups, fresh start), we came back online running SMF’s free forum software, but once people became aware that we were back, one of our great friends went ahead and sponsored us by purchasing us a vBulletin 4 license on February 11, 2011 and we stuck with using vBulletin 4 until we decided to make the move to Xenforo on October 16th, 2013.
We’re very grateful that both vBulletin 4 and Xenforo were both purchased by two of our loyal supporters. Not only has Virtualpetlist managed to grow even more on Xenforo, our search engine rankings have also improved by a lot. I really think it’s because Xenforo just loads a lot faster than vBulletin 4 does and content is easier to index for search engine spiders. At first, some of our users didn’t really like the change of our forum software, but a lot of them became used to it as they used XF more frequently.
So, the moral of the story is don’t give up and follow your dreams. We’ve gone through a lot of things in our lifetime of being online, but we could never sit back and not chase our dreams to the fullest. I’m proud of what my community has accomplished since coming back online in 2011. It now has 20,520 topics, over 228k posts and more than 5,300 members and really, our stats wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t so focused on keeping our dreams alive and continue working hard on the community on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
Our future is very bright because as we continue to expand and introduce new content(same with our members), then the more discussions that will occur on the forums and if any of our visitors find any interesting topic that makes them want to join, then we’ll have new members joining and having fun with us on the boards.
We used to have one mega thread that listed all the pet sites online and sim games, but recently, we purchased a new plugin called showcase that has allowed us to have more than one category for each type of game genre.
So, we’ve been trying our best to get more virtual pet sites and sim games listed on our new directory and at this time, we have 55 pet sites along with 46 sim games available on our directory.