It was late 2015. I was a sophomore in college. Obama was president. The 2016 election campaigns were heating up. The middle class was shrinking. Gun deaths became as common as traffic deaths. Gay marriage was legalized. What was I doing during this historical moment in American history? What was I doing while my friends were entering the job market, serving in the military, and falling in love? What was I doing with my limited time on this earth?

I was spending my time and money on digital dragons.

As it turns out, a lot of explanation is required to bring you up to speed on the incredibly brutal and competitive world of digital dragon collection. This world, which I do not recommend to the faint of heart, is located on a website called Flight Rising. According to the site’s Wiki, “Flight Rising is a browser-based game based around breeding, battling, and raising a clan of customizable dragons.” But for me, it was more than a game. It was an addiction, and as far as addictions go, it was incredibly unfashionable.

Left virtually untouched for three years, my Flight Rising profile was a time capsule waiting to be unearthed. I was barely an adult at the time- old enough to vote but young enough to get kicked out of ABC Liquor for trying to buy orange juice. I knew this time in my life was cringy, but I didn’t realize how far I had strayed from God’s light until I was reminded of my username: DankMemesDotGov.

Previously unreleased to the public, I present to you my terrible Flight Rising profile.

Worse yet was my profile description, which nearly sent me into cardiac arrest when I read it.

To truly appreciate the horror above, I must break this paragraph down. You can see that I opted into the Nature Clan, as I have a hearty love for plants. That’s all. I like plants. No subtext here. Next you’ll notice the mention of “Rare Pepes,” a reference to collectible images of Pepe the Frog. Blissfully unaware that this frog would soon become a symbol for the white nationalist movement, I plastered this shit right on my profile for everyone to see. The rest of the Clan Information is a clear call for friendship of any kind, as I was quite lonely in college. I mean, I’m still lonely, but I don’t look for friends on dragon websites anymore. I’m not sure if this is an improvement. All in all, I think we can agree that this bio did not age well.

The next step in my excursion into the past involves checking out some of my dragons. I believe you can tell a lot about a person based on the names of their digital dragons and mine are no exception. Many were named after friends, such as the objectively cool “GayLauren.”

GayLauren is a Level 25 Spiral Female and is not for sale.

You can see that this dragon was a favorite of mine, as it is adorned with multiple digital accessories. If you look closely you can see the GayLauren’s “Simple Iron Wing Bangles,” which suggests that she is part of some kind of punk subculture for dragons. According to the profile information I wrote, she “loves animals, nature, and beating people up.” 2015 Jane really knew how to craft some lore.

In my dragon lair, you can also find the occasional dragon named after a celebrity or political figure. This one is named “SandraDayOConnor.”

In the event of my untimely death, I will this digital dragon to the United States Supreme Court.

When I looked at the “Offspring” list on SandraDayOConnor’s profile, the name “GaylordPalms” jumped out at me. I clicked the name, only to find out that I had him “exalted to the ranks of the Gladekeeper.” What does that mean? He’s fucking dead, and I killed him for digital dragon currency.

Did GaylordPalms really deserve to die?

You read me right. Sacrificing dragons to the digital dragon gods is an essential mechanic of Flight Rising. In fact, breeding dragons specifically for sacrificial purposes is quite common on the site. Why? Exalting dragons gives your “Lair Type” a bonus, which mean almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. Exalting also gives you in-game currency, which can be used for all kinds of shit- dragon food, dragon accessories, dragon pals (familiars), and dragons themselves. You can even buy a new, more attractive dragon to replace the ten you murdered, which retrospectively seems just a teensy weensy bit heinous.

To see how much money an exalted dragon is worth, I sacrificed this fella to the Gladekeeper.

This dragon, named after an ex-boyfriend, is as dead as our relationship.

In return for murdering one of my digital children, I was rewarded with 2478 “treasure.” Treasure is a form of in-game currency that is generally pretty easy to obtain, and its value seems to have decreased since my time on the site. You can tell the value of treasure by seeing how much it is worth when compared to “Gems,” the site’s other form of currency. Currently, the treasure to gem conversion rate is 1000:1, which means that this dragon is worth 2.478 gems. How much is that worth in real money? With 350 gems costing five American dollars, I calculated that my ex-boyfriend’s namesake is worth 3.54 cents. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made here, but I’m haunted by another disturbing statistic: I murdered one hundred and eighty five dragons to advance my dragon collecting career. For perspective, that’s about six dollars and fifty five cents worth of dragon money, and it only took a mass killing to get there.

The forums of Flight Rising are another noteworthy aspect of the game. They operate like any PG-rated Internet forum, with topics ranging from dragons to pop culture. Many of my posts related to the buying, selling, and trading of various dragons, but I did find a few of my more… interesting… messages to the dragon collecting community.

First of all, the title of this thread reflects pretty much everything you need to know about 2015 Jane. Loves memes? Wants friends? Those were two of my three personality traits. The third personality trait? In a blog called Merry Jane Writes, I’m sure you can guess.

Let’s break down this polite, yet wildly cringy, forum post. A heckin’ fun time? I clearly picked up some more of that sweet, sweet Internet lingo in 2015, though I’m happy to say I’ve mostly moved on. I have recently been known to say “it be like that sometimes,” but like the parent of a child who vapes, I’m trying to curb that behavior. Tidal Trouble? Let’s just say I was spending hours a day playing a Bubble Witch knock-off. We can also see more pathetic-adjacent attempts to make friends, as I emphasize that I REALLY love dank memes. At the time I believed this was a hip and likable thing to say, but… No. As for wishing for death due to high prices… That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms- a can I am more than happy to open for your education and entertainment.

In my quest for attractive and rare digital dragons, I would go to the “Dragons for Sale” forums. Many of the dragons I was interested in were quite pricey, and I simply didn’t have the in-game currency to afford them. What do you do when you don’t have digital money to get a cool digital dragon? You spend real life dollars to get that digital dragon. Over the course of the 6 months, I spent about 25 dollars in my quest for the best. I never got anything stellar, because 25 dollars worth of in-game currency ain’t shit. Here is a very cool dragon that I did manage to purchase with those real life dollars.

His name is Garrus and he costs the equivalent of about 7 chicken sandwiches.

This is where we get into the seedy underbelly of Flight Rising. If I was willing to spend 25 dollars on a dragon collecting game, there were surely other people were willing to spend more. After a cursory Google search, I found one user who had spent 500 dollars on the game over the course of two years. But that’s not the height of big money on this website.

My quest for rare dragons was brief, as I realized I would need to put in a lot of money or get extraordinarily lucky to get the kind of dragons that people would rave about. You see, hardcore Flight Rising users care about a lot more than pretty colors and posting about memes on the forums. These users are looking for specific types of dragons that are extremely rare and valuable. These dragons are generally:

  • First generation, meaning they were hatched from purchased or earned eggs rather than bred. Earning these eggs requires a large time commitment, while buying three or four will run you about five dollars worth of gems.
  • Aesthetically pleasing, meaning that their colors go together well. Dragons with similar primary, secondary, and tertiary colors are worth a lot. Dragons with identical colors are worth the most. If the dragon’s eyes match its coloring, this is considered ideal.
  • Of certain breeds, such as the Imperial.
  • On the low end of identification numbers, showing that they’ve been on the site longer.

As my friend in the Flight Rising community explained to me, the hunt for these special dragons could get extremely intense. Bidding wars for a particularly rare dragon could result in prices skyrocketing well past 25 dollars worth of gems. Prices would get so high that the only way most people could afford the rare dragon would be to purchase gems like I did, but this time, in increments of one hundred dollars. These people aren’t fucking around!

There are also users on Flight Rising who are notorious for purchasing all the best dragons, only to leave them unnamed and unadorned. It is speculated that these users are either spending thousands of real life dollars or somehow cheating the system, angering users such as my friend. Things can get quite dramatic in the Flight Rising forums because of this, though I was lucky to never get involved.

Since we’re discussing rare dragons, you might be wondering what the most valuable dragon on flight rising is? It certainly depends on who you ask, but my inside source once saw a dragon purchased for the equivalent of around 500 dollars. Not 500 gems. 500 American dollars. That’s like, 160 chicken sandwiches. Let that shit sink in.

Though there are many valuable dragons on Flight Rising, I strongly believe that the site’s superior dragon lives in a clan owned by Vladimir Putin. The dragon’s ID number? #420420. His name? Swag. Click this link to view Swag in all of his glory.

All in all, my time on Flight Rising was marked by a general sense of lunacy and asininity. The hours that I put in? Dozens. The money I spent? Enough to buy several high-quality chicken sandwiches. The obsessions with memes that’s haunting my consciousness even to this day? I don’t have the words to describe the profound level of cringe I experienced when looking at my profile and posts. The moral of the story? It’s complicated.

Flight Rising is a game that can be quite fun for the casual player who just wants to play pretty dragon dress-up. The mechanics can be a bit brutal when you get to thinking about them, but in the end, it’s just a harmless fantasy game. However, hardcore players on the hunt for rare dragons may be likely to spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and real life money on the site only to discover that they will never achieve the “perfect” dragon lair. In the end, the hardcore Flight Rising player is setting themselves up for disappointment after disappointment. I left Flight Rising because I didn’t want to fall into that lifestyle, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that style of play to anyone. That being said, we shouldn’t be too judgmental of even the most hardcore Flight Rising players. They’re people with a passion, and even though it may seem silly to us, it matters to them.

My final thoughts? Some people spend all their money on cocaine and some people spend it all on digital dragons. I’m just saying- it could be worse. Don’t judge me, unless you’re judging me for that “dank meme” shit. Good God, that was awful.