ACA Enrollment Deadline, The Legacy Of Neopets, Juvenile Justice Reform

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Heard On Central Time

Recent troubles in Wisconsin’s juvenile prison system have some lawmakers looking to other states for new ideas. We find out about different models for youth detention facilities and whether they could be making their way to Wisconsin. In the early 2000s, the popular website Neopets gave users digital pets to care for. Our guest says that the site also encouraged many girls to get into computer coding. We also discuss concerns from elected officials in Wisconsin about moving up the enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act.

Featured in this Show

  • Why Some Lawmakers Are Concerned About Affordable Care Act Enrollment

    It’s open enrollment season for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Even though the number of people enrolling is higher right now than it was at the same time last year, some local officials in Wisconsin are concerned that the overall number of people who enroll in the endangered health care plan could drop.

  • How Neopets Website Sparked A Video Developer's Career

    Some video game designers pick up coding in a high school club or a college course.

    Video game programmer and designer Nina Freeman, 27, credits the website Neopets — a virtual pet game — for introducing her to the world of gaming. She says she’s not alone.

    For teen girls in the early 2000s, Neopets was a space for creativity on the web.

    “Sometimes I’ll be chatting with other people my age, and we’ll be like, ‘how did we get into this stuff?’” she said. “And a lot of it really did, for many people, start with having access to the internet during childhood and having access to games and being passionate about them from a young age.”

    Aside from playing minigames on the site, which was launched in 1999, users could customize their own personal pages, called guilds, and make their own graphics to decorate them.

    “It was a good place to kind of get your feet wet making these guild layouts,” Freeman said. “And I know a lot of girls went on to make their own websites.”

    There were other places on the web for this kind of experience. But Freeman said Neopets was different.

    It was mostly dominated by young women. It was overwhelmingly positive, she said, compared to other internet games of the time like Final Fantasy, where other gamers often criticized her for being a girl.

    Freeman recently paid homage to early internet culture with the game Lost Memories Dot Net, commissioned for the Manchester Art Festival.

    The game is a snapshot of 2004, based on Freeman’s own positive experience blogging and meeting her first online friend during her formative years on the internet.

    “I wanted to make a period piece really focusing in on my relationship with her and what it was like making websites back then,” she said. “Because it was a really special moment in my life, I think.”

    Today, more women play video games than ever before, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Yet, the industry is still dominated by males: 76 percent of game developers are men.

    In her work today with independent video game company Fullbright, Freeman sees video games as something that should be more accessible. She’s working to make that happen.

    “I think a lot of people are kind of scared off by the interactive aspect,” she said. “I still think games can be so great for helping people get into a mindset and shows them something by doing.”

  • How Neopets Influenced A Generation Of Women Gamers

    Neopets, a fantasy virtual pet website, was wildly popular in the 2000s among tween girls. An influential game designer talks to us about internet girl culture in the 2000s, and how it influenced her work in an industry that hasn’t always been friendly to women.

  • Wisconsin Seeks New Models For The Juvenile Justice System

    Wisconsin’s youth prisons have been the subject of controversy for years, especially after reports of misconduct and abuse by staff and inmates. We talk to a reporter and community advocate about what models experts and lawmakers might look to for juvenile justice reform.

    Tell us what you think at 800-642-1234 or post on the Ideas Network Facebook page. Have you or your family been affected by incarceration? How would you like to see Wisconsin treat youth who have committed serious crimes? What changes do you want to see in Wisconsin’s juvenile justice system?

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Haleema Shah Host
  • Haleema Shah Producer
  • Philip Rocco Guest
  • Nina Freeman Guest
  • Molly Beck Guest
  • Jeffery Roman Guest

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