Most of us tend to focus on the negative side of things when it comes to routine. Work is boring, schools are bad, our apartments are old, and Club Penguin Armies are toxic. We claim they are toxic, yet we’re still here, aren’t we? And it’s not just me and you, it’s an entire horde of penguins, still wearing their uniforms, still shouting chants, still doing “emotes”, still battling with other penguins. After 14 years, all of us are, still, here. Which raises the question:
Why are Club Penguin Armies working so well?
For the most part, Club Penguin Armies work like, well, armies. You fight against other armies, you follow orders, you get promoted; it’s a pretty simple formula. But the thing is, they’re not just armies, they are communities. When we think of CPA, the first things that come to our minds are logging in on Club Penguin, getting in formation, doing “tactics” and switching rooms. However, as far as I’m aware, events in CPA last roughly 30 minutes, so how about the other 8 hours we’re spending on our computers? We spend all of that time being part of a community.
But behind each community, there’s a political structure, a foundation, a keystone. At a first glance, a Club Penguin army simply follows the basic principles of an oligarchy. A few people, the Leaders, have all the authority, they make the rules, and people obey. If you ask most leaders why CP Armies are working so well, they will most likely mention oligarchy as the main reason. What they tend to focus on when referring to oligarchy, is the fact that only a few people have the power, and thus it’s easier to manage the authority.
Although this is true, it doesn’t make up the main reason why oligarchy is working so well. The main aspect of Oligarchy that makes it so successful is that it follows a totalitarian regime. Totalitarianism is a concept for a political system that restricts individual opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises a high degree of control over public and private life. Does that ring a bell? If you have ever read the rules of a CP Army, you may notice that most of them mention: “The Administration always has the last say”. You cannot dispute an army leader’s opinion, you simply listen and act correspondingly. They also control what you do in your life: every day you have to recruit for a substantial amount of time, record how many people you recruited, welcome every new member, and then attend an event scheduled at a specific time.
In contrast to democracy, totalitarianism is a “complete” and “perfect” political system. Democracy is nothing other than the constant and persistent implementation of laws to a world that is changing, while totalitarianism is the complete opposite: the adaptation of a world that is changing to a “complete” and “perfect” institution. But let’s not exaggerate, no army leader is pointing a gun at anyone. Everyone can leave the army at any time, right?
This brings me to the second main reason why CP Armies are so successful: They make people addicted. Freedom is an illusion when it comes to deciding whether you want to stay or leave an army. They exploit your feelings to make you so attached to the army, that even if you decide to “retire”, you will be back in less than a few days. When recruiting new people, many new recruits tend to ask “Is this a cult”? While the reply that they get is no, armies are indeed some form of a cult.
Club Penguin armies do not produce troops, they produce fanatics. They brainwash you into believing that armies are the top priority in your life. I’ve seen people give up their studies, their hobbies, or their friends, over a CPA battle. They tell you: “We are more than an army, we’re a family”. They make you “shout” (type in CAPS) chants and slogans during events, even if you do not know what they are about; what matters is that you are doing something to contribute to the purpose and the goals of your “family”.
It is of great importance not to leave out the best tool that armies use to keep you addicted: Hate. As much as it sounds insane, armies teach you to hate; they inspire you to. George Orwell portrayed it best in his novel “1984”. In that book, there was a constant mention of the “Big Brother”, a figure that a government inspired hate towards. Later on in the book, it is revealed that Big Brother is not a real person but an invention of the government that functions as a focus for the people’s feelings of reverence and fear.
We may not realize it, but armies use the same method to exploit our feelings. To prove that, I interviewed people from ACP, DCP, and IWCP, asking them whether they have taken part in any wars against other armies, and asked them what they thought of the other armies. The overwhelming majority of people who had taken part in wars claimed that people from the opposing army are bad and toxic.
“Obviously because they’re our enemies, I dislike them”
“The army is just too much of a toxic place to be in”
“DCP is really toxic”
“People there are really annoying and toxic”
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and disliking someone is totally normal, which would make the aforementioned statements totally reasonable, however, in the end, I asked them if they had ever met a single person from the army which they critiqued. All of them said “No”.
They make you sit on your computer, yell phrases that you do not know the meaning of, cause you to hate people you have never heard of, and force you into a routine by rewarding you. This is why CP Armies work so well.