It was 1998 and I was eating my square pizza in the middle school cafeteria. A friend of mine, whose name I have honestly completely forgotten at this point, told me about a new game online. It was a text based game, one found online and free to try. It sounded good to me, and when I got home that evening I hopped on AIM to discuss it with my friends as we went to it. The game was Alien Adoption Agency, known as AAA and later A3. A RPG of sorts, you were able to customize your jpg character, travel through mazes one click at a time, and earn different types of currency. It had a pretty dedicated fan base at the time, and we were able to battle each other and anyone else. Think Mafia Wars, but back when this type of game was actually innovative and not some spam riddled crap. There were few boundaries, few rules, and the potential for abuse was ripe. Yes, AAA had it all.
It was a veritable wild west of sorts, and as I entered the game, so did that recondite cousin of mine. I started the game off typically, grinding away to gain XP and level up. He started it off a bit less typically, being gifted a large sum of money by some stranger from the get go. His name was Uncle Pennybags, mine was Lou Derek. We were badasses of the highest sort. We got a few more friends to join in and it became addicting, we would play it while spending the night at each other’s houses and we would discuss it the next day while eating our square pizzas. But while my other friends kept grinding away, Miles and I had a different plan. We had devised a scheme.
There were three big types of currency in the game, because as everyone knows, its not a good game unless it is ungodly confusing. There were marks, which you could find in the mazes, tokens, which you used in the casino, and credits, which I guess were just normal currency. The marks were highly valuable, and varied depending upon in game stock prices. The tokens were basically undervalued credits and were worthless. Trading in the marks was big business, and something we just simply weren’t rich enough to get involved with. But we discovered that you could trade any currency for any other currency, and the amount of trading taking place could get confusing. This was to be used to our advantage.
The plan was simple. Propose a trade with someone rich who was wanting marks. If they agreed, make the trade, but give them credits instead of marks. If they skimmed the offer, they would accept a terrible trade and we’d get an irrevocable windfall. We went fishing with these bad deals day after day, until finally, we both were able to make a big score. I remember my trade being accepted for something like 3 million credits, which was huge. He expected a ton of marks but instead got a handful of credits, taking a huge hit. My lucky victim was of course the leader of one of the bigger guilds in the game, and at once I was blacklisted and constantly attacked, but God was it worth it. It was ok for a while, because I was in a guild too, but when I attempted to pull the scam on our leader, I was kicked out.
We had been playing for a while at the point when AAA attempted to make a tiered payment system, with pay-for-play players getting extra rewards and in game items. It was possible to get some of those extra perks without paying by doing surveys and other virus-riddled activities, but eventually the game would succumb to a common folly, charging for something not worth paying for. In the interim, however, we frequented the chat rooms of the game,
discussing in game topics and giving helpful hints as to how to improve the game for everyone, cursing and trolling people constantly. One day was unusual, however, as the creator of the game, Webby himself, made an appearance. Miles was there with me, and with one stroke, he uttered words I would never forget.
I was stunned. I was for sure that we’d be deleted. I was honestly nervous, as only a 13 year old misanthrope could be. But nothing came of it. Down the road my cousin’s account would be hacked, threatened with hardware destruction if he didn’t hand over his username and password. He complied, and as a gesture I deleted my account as well. Years later I attempted to make another account, but the game had changed too much, and the payment system was now a strict must to play. Free until level 5. I quickly gave up. Looking back though, the game reminds me of a different time, where we were allowed to self destruct a game from the inside, at least in our minds. We avoided the gameplay by getting cash from other players, and when we couldn’t do it legitimately, we would steal it. We griefed other players constantly and at one point insulted the creator of the game to his face. Maybe it seems tame now with all the meth and meth-related activities of adulthood, but for a time a game that allowed too much freedom was discovered by kids who just want wanted nothing but to screw with people. And we got our money’s worth out of that free game.
I attempted to revisit the site and its just not as fun these days. The new layout may be to blame: