It was the home of so many firsts — first dates, first parties, first independence.

I still remember that pizza parlor like it was yesterday. I still remember those igloos like I remember my childhood bedroom. But now, the place where so many of us grew from kids into adults is waddling off into the sunset.

Club Penguin officially shut its doors on March 29. The iceberg will float off to sea, the lighthouse will shut off its beacon and the Puffles will move on to the great Pet Shop in the sky. There will be no more snowball fights, no more sled races, no more visits from Captain Rockhopper.

We all remember the first time we logged on. It was a place that welcomed all of us, regardless of whether we had that shiny “membership” badge. There was a place for everyone. It was more than just a snow-covered island with a few shops and an inexplicably accessible mine shaft — it was a community. And damn, it was a great community.

We experienced penguin-kind at its peak. The unity that it took to organize so many fruitless attempts to tip the iceberg, the Dance Club parties that rivaled a spring break trip to Ibiza, the honor and prestige upheld by each and every proud member of the Elite Penguin Force. God, I would give my life to suit up in that uniform just one more time.

There were so many momentous highs. Moments when we put aside our differences and celebrated what made us penguins. When we trekked off into the mountains and explored the Dojo for the first time. When we went deep undersea, where no penguin had gone before, in our first aqua grabber adventures.

But just as the highs lifted us to new heights, the lows took us so low. It sure seemed like a utopia, but we can all remember times when Club Penguin took us to some dark places. Each time I messed up an order in Pizzatron 3000, I felt like I was letting down the entire island. Each time Captain Rockhopper left port, it was like someone ripped out a piece of my very soul.

I think I’ll always remember the time I spent in Club Penguin. I can still hear the click-clack of the mancala games I played above the coffee shop, toiling away hours late into the night. I can still feel the rush I got when I was handed the deed to my first igloo — my own igloo.

But like all great civilizations, Club Penguin was bound to fall. The Roman Empire lasted 500 years, and I thought our little snow-covered corner of the world would last for 500 of its own. Alas, our day came 488 years too soon.

We all grow. We all change. We all move on to bigger and better things. But we may never find a place we can call home quite like Club Penguin. Even once the igloos have melted and the landscape becomes overgrown with pines and feral Puffles, a little piece of that world will live on in the heads and hearts of every penguin who was lucky enough to ever log on.

Waddle on, friends.

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