Nostalgia Nook: “Warrior Cats,” Playground Role-Play, and Roblox

Oct. 12, 2022, 11:40 p.m.

Welcome to“Nostalgia Nook”! In this column, I revisit popular children’s literature from the early 2010s. I’ll discuss the book’s highlights, examine the culture that developed around the book and check in on where the books are now. I hope that I’ll be able to remind you of iconic books,  forgotten moments and re-spark your love for children’s literature. 

In the early 2010s, there were two types of kids on any middle school playground: kids who role-played Warrior Cats, and kids who thought having fun meant “playing tag” or “using the swingset” or “literally anything else, what on Earth are you doing?!”. With “River (Warriors: A Starless Clan #1),” the first book in the newest Warrior Cats saga, being published this April, and a second installment expected this November, it seems as though role-playing Warrior Cats will continue to be a playground staple for some time. 

For those not in the know, Warrior Cats is a children’s book series, first published in 2003. Using the pen name Erin Hunter, several authors have contributed to the series, notably Cherith Baldry, Kate Cary, Vicky Holmes and Clarissa Hutton. The series follows four clans of cats who live in the woods. Tension between these clans runs high and battles between the cats frequently occur. In the almost twenty years since the first book was published, between 89 and 109 books in the series have been released, depending on how the books are counted. The wildly popular series have spawned a large fanbase, including but not limited to role-playing the cats on the playground. For the young fans, role-playing could come in a variety of styles, but popularly involved fans creating their own characters and stories taking place in the Warrior Cats world. 

But the playground isn’t the only place that today’s Warrior Cats readers have been role-playing as the beloved cats. The official Warrior Cats game on Roblox was released in August 2019, giving kids a completely new way to role-play. The game, which, according to its Roblox webpage, has had over 237 million visits, allows players to create their own cat, explore the world, and become a Warrior or Medicine Cat. Warrior Cats hunt and defend their clans in battle, while Medicine Cats use herbs to heal sick and injured cats. 

I have been immensely burdened by the knowledge of the Warrior Cats Roblox game. I am beginning to fear I will never be able to sleep again. In my youth, the Warrior Cats were not video game avatars, but our very selves. While I can honestly say that this technological development seems like a fun way to engage with the Warrior Cats world, I also doubt that it can capture the pure, primal joy of pretending to be a Medicine Cat, scrounging your local playground for ‘herbs’. But next time I see a ten-year old on an iPad, I will now, for better or worse, choose to believe that they are role-playing Warrior Cats on Roblox.

Picture of a black cat with round yellow-green eyes sitting sideways on a chair
Ziggy, beloved black cat, (above) poses on a chair. Ziggy is the model used for the Mini Cat Maker, pictured in the title graphic above. His black fur, round yellow-green eyes, and sideways-facing triangular ears were all captured in the customizable features of the Mini Cat Maker.
(Photo courtesy of Bella Meyn ‘23)

“Warrior Cats: Ultimate Edition” is only one of the official Warrior Cats online games. The Warrior Cats website has quizzes, activity sheets, and of course a page that allows users to design their own Warrior Cat. This last feature was one that was present back when I was reading Warrior Cats for the first time in the early 2010’s, but has since been updated from the old cat maker. Warrior Cats Mini Maker, the cat maker that is now featured prominently on the Warrior Cats Games page, creates cats in a style that is generally cuter and friendlier looking than the ones I remember from my youth. Like the old cat maker, Warrior Cats Mini Maker allows users to design their own cat, personalizing everything from color to markings and eye shape. However, unlike the old cat maker, Mini Maker does not contain a section in which users name their own cats. 

I will not be sharing the name of the cat I made on the old cat maker, as there is possibly no more intimate knowledge one can know about a person than what they named their Warrior Cat original character. However, I do still remember his name. One of my friends from middle school had introduced our whole friend group to the cat maker, showing off the cat she had designed, so of course we all went home that day and brought a printed version of our cats to school the next day. Even then, there was a significant amount of judgment regarding whose cat had the coolest name and design. Moments like these, little things still remembered over 10 years later, are a large part of what made Warrior Cats so important to me. 

One other online feature of the Warrior Cats website is the Moonpool, in which visitors can answer a yes or no question and receive advice. To test out this feature, I asked the Moonpool if I should drop STATS 60, and was told that “the stars shine brightly in favor of yes.” While I’m not sure whether or not I will be taking advice from the Warrior Cats website’s random answer generator, I suspect that the Moonpool’s response means nothing good about the results of the stats’ quiz I took this Friday. Personally, I would like to blame the emotional toll of knowing about the Warrior Cats Roblox game. Going forward, I’m going to have to try to spend less time ruminating on Warrior Cats, and more time studying statistics. 

When I was reading the series, there was something so appealing about the pure drama of it. Both the scandalous relationships and constant deaths were dressed up as something more childlike in the guise of a series on cats. This allowed me to read something with a level of heightened drama that I wouldn’t have been allowed to read otherwise. I think the combination of these two elements is perfectly represented in the official Warrior Cats family tree. (If you click on the cat icon with the star, you can see which of the cats on the family tree have died—the vast majority.) 

Between “Warrior Cats: Ultimate Edition,” the new book releases planned for this year, and the many features of the official webpage, it’s clear that the universe of Warrior Cats is alive and well. With eight sagas and several spin-off stories, the Warrior Cats’ universe is continuously expanding. Each saga builds on and explores the world in its own unique way, giving readers more material for their imagination. I’m glad to know that the new generation of readers will continue to experience the drama of Warrior Cats — even if they do it through a Roblox game.

Isabella Saracco '23 is a staff writer and columnist for The Stanford Daily. She loves Chicago, deep-dish pizza and cats.

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