10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

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duskypack
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10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

Post by duskypack » Sun Aug 29, 2021 4:19 pm

Today marks a decade of me being a part of the Wolfquest forums and it's left me feeling reflective. I've loved the game for even longer and have countless good memories from there, but it's the forums that have shaped me the most. I was something of a rogueish rule-breaking outlaw, joining the forums as a non-COPPA user well below the age of thirteen. If not for the heavy moderation and stringent rules, that would have been problematic. Instead, due to the moderation and community, these forums ended up playing a small but valuable role in my growing up.

I speak well of (most of) the rules now, but I was frustrated by them initially. They encouraged me to be the best I could be, and I didn't like them. I wasn't used to being challenged – after all, I was a kid, and everyone treated me as such. The anonymity of the forums, though, meant that there were implicit expectations placed on me regardless of my age. I either could play by the rules, or go home and waited until I had matured. I was impatient, so I accepted the challenge.

Real life doesn't have a rulebook on how to act. While growing up I would shrink into my shell, terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. The forums, however, did have clearly spelled out rules. There were even little user-made guides that gave friendly advice on how to conduct myself (like this one). When I did make a mistake, I was swiftly and gently corrected. There was no additional shame or social repercussions. I can't think of a better gift for a shy, self-conscious kid. The forums provided a training ground for me to learn how to express myself and interact with others. I learned what I contributed had to be constructive (and at least somewhat original). If I was sharing information, it had to be well-sourced. And, though it was never strictly required, I learned soon enough to use proper grammar. I can flip through my posts and see how in just two years of infrequent forums activity the way I communicated entirely changed. Even more, I learned not to be reactive, to remember there's a person behind the screen, to think twice before I typed a post. I learned how to humbly learn from my mistakes and be patient with the mistakes of others. After all, I was once a "newbie" just like them. These forums weren't a place to win arguments. They were a place to contribute, collaborate, and learn. I learned the rules and delighted in participating in this community.

When I found the User Writings section it inspired me to write stories (a wolf video game introduced me to one of my greatest passions). I received praise and encouragement, but also critique for the first time in my life. Again, there was no shame or stigma attached. It was offered as a gift and I learned to use it to make me better. There was an old User Writing guide that introduced me to word count, the publishing process, and character arcs. I wrote story after story and poem after poem and with every work I received encouragement, found new writing buddies, and was continuously offered helpful critique. I delighted in being listened to and taken seriously. I can't stress how important it is for a child to be taken seriously, to have their thoughts and ideas and artwork considered. Unlike the real world, I was never patronized, belittled, or dismissed. The critique itself was a sign I was being taken seriously, so I learned to love it. I was encouraged, but I was never given a "gold star" and a pat on the head. Instead, I was challenged to grow in my writing. Eventually, that gave me the courage to share my writing with the real world.

User Writings has some basic rules for realism, which meant I had to figure out what was realistic. In short, I had to learn how to learn. That was a new, deeply valuable skill. It has improved my life in every way, and I can only trace it back to this place. I learned to ask questions and seek out the answers. I learned to research and find reputable sources. I learned about wolf misconceptions and "fake news" and to dig deeper to find the truth. I learned about the complexity of wildlife management. The community encouraged me to dig deeper than "Save the wolves!1!". Suddenly, I found myself pondering the impact of wolf reintroduction on ranchers and native populations and found that answers are not always clearcut. Almost accidentally, I learned another valuable lesson – nuance.

The benefits of this internet space leaked into the real world. As a kid, I brought a story I wrote here to a young writer's conference and read it aloud in front of a large crowd. I went to Yellowstone and pelted a wildlife biologist with dozens of questions. I got exceptionally high scores in every English class I ever was in because I had already learned the basic principles of good communication and thorough research. I read countless books recommended to me by forums users that were supposed to be above my reading level. I started a creative writing-themed pack that taught me about moderating a community and building a website. I became a beta tester, which really gave me an in-depth look into game design. And there's no way I can fully express what good it did for me to learn how to be more fair, reasonable, and thoughtful.


My generation has been deeply shaped by the internet. It's a strange thing, the way the internet can "raise" a child, with even stranger results. It seems that most of my peers ended up in some online community that shaped them. Much of the time, these communities are lawless. They take children (who, naturally, lie about their age), inevitably traumatize them, and shape them into people who are reactive and harsh. Ever so often, though, there's a community that does the opposite.

Thank you for offering a safe place for a shy kid to grow up. Thank you for teaching her to be curious, creative, and conscientious. Thank you for teaching her to be respectful and thoughtful, teaching her to accept critique, grow from her mistakes, and for challenging her with new ideas. Thank you for being patient with her, especially everyone who was a moderator when I was determined to break the rules.

So, as this is a forum, I want to hear from you. I know many of you have been here much longer than I have. What has this community taught you or helped shape you into?
Last edited by duskypack on Sun Aug 29, 2021 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By silver streams that run down to the sea.
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Re: 10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

Post by rowantobias » Sun Aug 29, 2021 5:03 pm

this post was a really good, thoughtful read. it makes me think a lot about my teen years and growing up on the internet. i'd like to leave a little bit of my own story here, if i may...

i came upon wolfquest circa 2010, and i loved it. i loved getting to immerse myself in the life of a wolf - i was heavily into escapism because of a lot of IRL bullying and other issues, and it let me be "something else" for a while. kind of therapeutic. although i don't do this as much now, i still get some enjoyment out of playing pretend and being a little wolf. (my life still needs improvement, but i am no longer bullied, have a stable and happy relationship, a solid friend group, and have processed a lot of my trauma)

wolfquest gave me an outlet for my creative process (although i was mostly uninvolved with the forums, i was on multiplayer at any chance i could get, and i roleplayed and drew my wolfquest ocs with a friend a lot). it inspired me to really appreciate nature, and like you, helped me with writing. (not that i write much now - the most i write is stuff like this, or journal entries, though every blue moon i do write a small story to get it out of my head and onto some paper...)

i had a lot of fun growing up on wolfquest. i don't remember if i kept any friends i met back then (unless you count loach, who drew me art back then and i never forgot them, and then later found them again via the discord a decade later...) but the characters i made and drew still hold a place in my heart.

cosla/creek was my first wolfquest oc and it's funny, because every couple years i would draw her out of nostalgia even if i didn't play often. her story has definitely changed (her original backstory painted her as a healer from a broken pack, whereas now she is just a regular old wolf) but she's kind of a comfort character now. she reminds me of the good parts of middle school - running around outside with my close friend and sister, pretending to be wild animals in the cow pastures, climbing rocks and wading through long yellow grass, finding a deer skull, running after my friend's pregnant cat...

i may not be friends with that person anymore (for good reason!) and it may have been the darkest time of my life, but it's funny - wolfquest was always there, and it helped pull me out of my depressive funk more times than i could count! i am really grateful for its presence and i'm overjoyed i get to help out in any way (as a discord mod and a tester), as it feels like i'm paying back the great fortune it's given me.

anyway, sorry for that long post haha! but i think about wolfquest a lot and it means a lot to me :]
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Re: 10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

Post by DaniBeez » Thu Sep 02, 2021 8:35 am

Happy WQ Birthday Dusky! I think my ten year milestone was in March of 2020.
duskypack wrote:
Sun Aug 29, 2021 4:19 pm
There were even little user-made guides that gave friendly advice on how to conduct myself (like this one).
Funny this came up. I had re-read it at some point after the recent forum reorganization, and felt my words came across as pretentious at times. So interesting to get feedback from someone else that it read as "friendly". The tips are still good, I think. Although just today I realized "avoid" is spelt wrong in the title. LMAO!
duskypack wrote:
Sun Aug 29, 2021 4:19 pm
So, as this is a forum, I want to hear from you. I know many of you have been here much longer than I have. What has this community taught you or helped shape you into?
Like you I think I found a small passion for creative writing because of the small community feel of WolfQuest and the character creation aspect of Pack Central. I think participating in the forum also improved my written communication skills.

I'm not sure the forum played a large role in my personal development, but I keep coming back despite everything that's happened, so there must be something about it with lasting appeal beyond nostalgia.
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Re: 10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

Post by Sambhur » Thu Sep 02, 2021 9:40 pm

I have a lot to thank WQ for. I already had an interest in animals/art/creative writing but getting on the forums really let me explore those aspects of my personality way more and develop them into what they are today. Talking to people on the forums got me into the idea of digital art and buying my first drawing tablet, which led to doing avatar requests, improving my art overall, and then eventually making art for WQ itself (wow!!). I didn't do much of my creative writing on the forums but pack central helped me maintain a steady enough interest and allow me to keep practising my writing skills even though I wasn't actually putting out any stories. Although I do have one piece in wild canid user writings that I'm super proud of, and 100% wouldn't have written without the motivation of "man I kind of want to try to revive that subforum, let me go write something" lmao. I also had a similar thing to you, duskypack, in that my daily forum posts and pack RPs actually helped me do super well in English class hahaha.

The animal stuff goes without saying, WQ's dedication to accuracy and education strengthened my interest in biology (although Zoo Tycoon 2 also played a very big part in that lol). But also, just the way that a lot of us here on the forums share a lot of these interests meant that it was really easy to make a lot of basically lifelong friends through here. I have very close best friends who I met through WQ forum related stuff basically 10 years ago now, who I still talk to daily, alongside a bunch of other really good friends who I'm so grateful for even if I'm bad at keeping in touch a lot of the time 😭.

I should also specify that these are not just interests, like, my uni degrees are in biology and creative writing and being an artist has been my on and off side job since I was a teenager. This forum definitely helped shape my life lol. I likely would have pursued these interests anyway, but WQ really helped me kick them into high gear through my addiction to the forum. It's insane how quickly my digital art improved when I was drawing avatars for people 24/7 lmao. I need a lot of external motivation to do things and the forums were very good at providing that for me.
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Re: 10 years of being on Wolfquest Forums: A Retrospective

Post by Kitsuhime » Fri Sep 03, 2021 4:59 am

What a beautiful reflection letter, you absolutely have grown as a person and happy 10th birthday on your Wolfquest forum.
I first discovered Wolfquest in about 2011-2012,i even remember my username, AuoraWolf. Loved the RPs and the friendships I have made there, I was also an avid reader of user stories in the forum, though barely posting. After 2.7 emerged in 2016,i had to wait for 4 years to buy it with my own card and money, I lowkey wished to get on 2.7 earlier, in its most active years but I still made friends and am glad I didn't miss out in anything much. Now it's 2021, I play AE, constantly learning about me and my mistakes as I play with other people. I wish to get to know more people and also spend time with the community forum too. This game is one of the games that grew on me, I would play the same way I used to play flash browser games, and learn about nature. Definitely added to my huge love for animals and nature, and wolves are one of the animals I've been practically fixated on!

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