By Georgia Grellier | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez

Yes, we’re all (hopefully) inside right now, and we’re all avoiding strangers like the plague (pun intended, unless it’s too soon, in which case pun not intended), but it turns out that  for those on the quest for love, the grind doesn’t stop — even and especially during a global pandemic.

The romance or hookup seekers out there have been able to make do with Facetime and Zoom dates or a six-feet-apart walk. And yet, in times of crisis, Freud did once argue that we all tend to regress into our childhood tendencies, and for all his cocaine-fueled flaws, he seems to be right on this one: Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble dates are now happening on Club Penguin.

If you’re not familiar — greetings, Boomers — Club Penguin hit its peak around 2007, when children flocked to the website to create penguins, build igloos, and solve mysteries while begging their parents for a paid subscription. Trying to get weird on Club Penguin is nothing new, with the website “Engadget” even featuring an article about it in the same year, but the website quickly cracked down by restricting the formerly lawless chat feature to a list of prewritten questions and answers directly pertaining to the game.

The site closed its metaphorical online doors in March 2017, but now exists via a private server unaffiliated with the original Club Penguin developers. The new server was launched in 2018 following myriad shutdowns, and since social distancing measures became stricter and more common nationwide in late March, Refinery29 reported that the new version of the game has reached over 6 million players.

One of these players is a Colorado College student who used the game for a Hinge date, describing Facetiming in the background while decorating igloos, going ice fishing, and the like. “It was super comical and weird but at the same time felt like a new normal,” she said of her foray into Hinge-Club Penguin hybrid romance. “We just went around trolling people and playing the game together.”

Meeting on Club Penguin itself rather than initially on an app, however, is a whole different story. As a dating site, Club Penguin actually has a laundry list of perks, including the fact that since there’s no swiping, standards for attractiveness are clearly out the window. Why waste precious quarantine time on clever bios or rearranging photo orders when you could just as easily make yourself stand out with a horde of puffles?

There’s no banter or niceties required either — Club Penguin users have been pretty explicit about what they’re looking for. A recent screenshot sent to me by a friend showed a crowd of “penguins” out on the town, with one speech bubble reading “you said you was horny” and another echoing the sentiment, posting, “im so horny now haha.” Other users were even more direct, with statements like “any girls wanna trade nudes on [snapchat]” and “you can have my noodles if you want,” which I took to be some kind of autocorrect for “nudes.” In less sexual dialogue, one user inexplicably wrote, “I’m married to Harry Styles,” while another said, “Okay friends.” I hope someone informed the latter that if they’re looking for friends, they might be in the wrong place.

As the culture adapts to interacting with others almost solely online, a hoodie-clad penguin accompanied by an orange puffle posed perhaps the most important remaining question: “literally how do you guys plan to [expletive].” In all honesty, I’d prefer not to know the answer.

Tinder, I regret to inform you that you have some new competition. There’s a new forum for love on the market, where users will never run out of profiles to swipe on and virtual hookup and romance opportunities abound. Free speech has quite literally changed the game on Club Penguin, and I have zero doubt that in a few months, at least one or two weddings will be in the works because of it. When you think about it, there’s really no better time to give it a shot and then never tell anyone about it. Happy Puffle catching, quarantiners.

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