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March 03, 2007

The emergent mythology of Club Penguin

screen shot from Club Penguin

If you're a sociology grad student looking for a dissertation subject, look no further, I have the perfect topic for you... the rise of collective myth in Club Penguin.

If you're older than 15, you've probably never heard of Club Penguin. But if you're a kid or tween (or have one in your house) then you know all about this online analogue of crack cocaine.

Briefly, Club Penguin is a online world where everyone's avatar is a cute, waddling, cartoon penguin. The world is filled with games to play, igloos to decorate, and places to explore. It's ad-free, free to join (though you have to be a paid member if you really want to get into serious igloo decoration and penguin haute couture) and has all sorts of behind the scenes intelligence to block potentially unsafe chat.

It's only been around a bit more than a year, but Club Penguin already has more than three million members. And when you get that many people together in a culture... even a virtual one... cultural histories and mythologies develop.

another Club Penguin screen shotFor instance, watching my 9-year old daughter play Club Penguin, I noticed time and time again collections of penguins trying to tip one particular iceberg over. They're convinced that if they can just get enough penguins to dance on the edge of the 'berg, it'll flip over and reveal some sort of fabulous prize. There's no evidence that there's any truth to this... as far as I can tell the people who run the game have never said anything like this... but somehow this idea spawned and then spread like a virus. I think this is fascinating as hell. There's definitely a paper in it.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at March 3, 2007 08:22 AM


We have not gotten the club penguin virus here but I imagine it is like second life for the under 13 set. Should I turn the kids on to it or just let them wallow (waddle) in ignorance?

Posted by: Sue at March 3, 2007 12:12 PM

Now I have gone and done it. The kids have become penguins. But who am I to compain, when I ride a horse around Second Life?

Posted by: Sue at March 13, 2007 06:07 AM

i wish you can tip the ice berg that would be so cool

Posted by: Queen tamc at July 20, 2007 02:10 AM

well its not possible i emailed cp 2 or 3 times they said no not even on spacial accasions its not possible but it is fun to try even if it wont tip!

Posted by: Kait33 at July 20, 2007 09:50 AM

just let them have fun

Posted by: Kait33 at July 20, 2007 09:52 AM