Balancing on the Precipice of Evil, or: Stealing a Hot Tub from My Cousin in Webkinz
By Quinn Nierzwicki
For centuries, philosophers have debated the basis of human morality– do good and evil exist? Are these concepts built upon pillars of absolute truth, or do they exist as a spectrum? Some argue they’re governed by divine force, while others insist they’re merely social constructs of a particular time and place. Among all of these fascinating accounts, precisely zero succeed in considering a very important case– the troubling issue of the one time I stole my cousin’s virtual hot tub in an online game.
For the uninitiated, Webkinz was a silly little web game that defined the mid to late 2000’s internet era. In order to play, one would have to purchase a physical (and overpriced) stuffed animal with an online code included. With this code, the buyer unlocked access to a sprawling virtual world where they could play as the pet they had purchased. You could enter chat rooms with friends, play a variety of arcade games, cook fantastical recipes, and design and decorate your own house. And as with any community, a hierarchy quickly made itself apparent; the more cool stuff you had littered around your house, the more strangers online wanted to play games and friend you. Of all the cool exclusive stuff one could cram into their 15×15 tiled house, by far the greatest and most expensive was the hot tub.
For a mere 40,000 Kinzcash (roughly equivalent to an entire trip to the DMV’s worth of grinding for top scores on the arcade’s knock-off Candy Crush leaderboards), you could take one home from the store for yourself. That was the life– meet a new friend in a chat room, beat them in battleship or checkers, assume without thinking about it that they were also 10 years old and not a 35 year old predator, then invite them to your virtual house where both your pets could unveil a special 2-frame animation of entering into the hot tub you’d inserted as the centerpiece of your sprawling mansion.
Tragically, though, I had neither the skill nor the allocated computer time per day to accumulate so much currency. My cousin, on the other hand? The sheer quantity of Kinzcash she had at her disposal led me to believe that her French bulldog’s parents had presumably met an untimely death and left behind their massive stake in the rubber ball industry.
And she had two hot tubs.
So, on the day she shared her account password with me so I could browse some of the secret recipes she’d discovered in game, I finally acted on my long-brewing envy. In an act of passion and socio-economic defiance, I went into her house editor and gifted one of her two hot tubs to my own account before quickly logging off. It was done. I was made.
But it didn’t come without a cost. Though my cousin never asked me about it (or probably even noticed), the guilt began to set in. For the next few days, I stumbled through the rest of my life, a shell of my former self. Shadows began to stain my eyes as thoughts of evil haunted me at night. At dinner, my fork seemed to wander aimlessly away from my plate, too disgusted to be seen with me. My every thought was consumed by my betrayal. In my little 10-year-old head, I had marked myself for life. I was a bad person. There was a primal fear that consumed me; if I had taken such a detestable action in privacy, what else would I do? I was a crazed maniac, a man without morals, rhyme or reason. There was no fixing this now. I would have to die with my crime.
This mania went on for a week and a half until I couldn’t take it anymore. I barged into my parents’ room, sobbing, and told my mother what I’d done. She stared at me, worried, her face getting harder and harder to read as I sputtered out the heinous details of my vile crime. Would she hate me? Disown me? Send me to prison? Have me executed on the spot? To this day, I don’t know what the great philosophers of past eras would have said about my mortal transgression, but my mother made her stance clear. When I had finally finished choking out words, she simply tilted her head and said, “Quinn honey, that’s really stupid.”