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Why do you play virtual pet games?


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I've played a lot of virtual pet games over the years starting with Neopets, and I think many people in this forum have as well. Despite playing them myself, though, I've often found myself wondering: What is the point of a virtual pet game? 

By that I kind of mean: what does the virtual pet game genre offer that other kinds of games don't? For example, these days I think a lot of the casual gaming demographic tends to focus more on mobile games than browser games. And browser games generally don't offer the sort of immersion and polish you find in PC games or, honestly, even mobile games. So, what is it about virtual pet games that makes us choose to spend time on them over all the other sorts of games out there? 

For me, I think community interaction and playing with virtual markets are some of the main reasons I tend to enjoy virtual pet games. These things are not really found in most other kinds of games except say... MMOs. But, I spent a lot of time on MMOs back in the day and found them to generally feel a bit too committal/time-consuming for my tastes. So for me, I think a lot of what makes petsites nice is that I think they capture a lot of the aspects I enjoy most from MMOs (player economies and feeling like I am becoming part of a virtual world/community) but in a much lighter form that doesn't feel like it demands a lot of attention. 

What about you guys? 

Edited by tiff
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For me personally I grew up playing virtual pet games because they were accessible to me. I grew up relatively impoverished so the computer and internet I had access to was not my own and I didn't have the ability to install any games or such, which limited me to games such as Neopets, which provided me a stress free play as I wanted to environment which was awesome.

I think these games provide a great community environment that isn't as competitive or in your face as most other game genres do. The markets are also much more approachable.

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I think to me, as I see it anyways, its a virtual set of responsibilities where a player can own something they normally can't in real life. It's a way to let your imagination flow and its human nature to want to take care of something. Most people may not be able not be take care of an actual pet like a cat or dog, so a virtual one fills this odd internal void. You can have all the responsibilities of a pet but without the actual mess. And in some games, the pet can die too, so then it sorta feels like stepping into a living world where life is created and ended. 

In many ways, Pokemon was the start of this pet adventure for me, then neopets because it started to get popular and then it was howrse and then several other games. The part I also like in these games is not just the responsibility, but also seeing what sort of world is created in these games and wanting to feel as though I can be a part of it.

These days, many pet games I play for either research purposes or to pass the time. 

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I play games, some of them just *happen* to be pet games.

For me it's not about owning pets (I already own several real ones), but rather the community, the world that has been created, the ability to perform multiple tasks and feel like you are accomplishing something. I also don't like to spend real money on virtual stuff. I've seen way too many great games go belly-up, leaving your real investment gone. I guess I think of myself as more of an MMO player than a pet game player.

Games I've loved and now miss include most of Donna and Adam Powell's games (most recently Meteor Games), Mr. Tiki, and even Millsberry. 

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Back in the day when I was a lot more of a social hermit than I am now, I never took part in (or even cared about) the community. The things that made me attracted to virtual pet games were their:

  • Accessibility 
  • Pets (from their graphics to their written description)
  • Pets I would make characters out of  (because I still used to do this, I now dislike hoarding virtual pets-- unless it's pokemon-esque games)
  • Story (if they have any)

And there was always a thrill I got from progressing a virtual pet game with a pet I've grown with and have given value to... Like one of the first VP games I really loved was this site called PowerPets (it's still alive, but it's pretty much barren, everything is now outdated and the newest layout is horrendous). But on that site, there were a lot of things I could do on this site that made me feel like success came from the individual (like a single pet getting stronger or you progressing through a story) rather than how much you have (like -of course- wealth and pet hoarding). I have since adapted to the more social aspects of virtual pet games, and while it's nice to have big, lively communities in these browser games, that should not always be the main reason of a game's greatness.


(now that I'm saying this, lemme just give a shout out to Acitius. I don't think I've ever posted a thing in the forums, but dang was that game fairly enjoyable for me...)



On a side note, while my views on the world are expanding, it seems as though the world of virtual pet sites aren't. In fact, a lot of the games I've played never really outgrown the "Good/Great community + subpar game = Great game" mentality. And again, there's nothing wrong with having an invested community in a game, I'm just saying the lack of innovating or just telling a story has become more and more blatant as we keep on seeing the same kind of games resurface with just a different (prettier) look.


(pretty much why I kinda-sorta hate all SIMs nowadays. XD Also, I'm sorry this was so long. ;-;)





Edited by MasterDaye
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19 hours ago, MasterDaye said:

But on that site, there were a lot of things I could do on this site that made me feel like success came from the individual (like a single pet getting stronger or you progressing through a story) rather than how much you have (like -of course- wealth and pet hoarding).

I would agree with this comment in most virtual pet games, it is one of the reasons why I really (and still occasionally log on to) Neopets. It was never about the community in the game that I ever played it, it was about what I could do in it.

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I get bored and they're easier for me to go in and out of on a whim without losing track of where I'm at. I loved playing Guild Wars 2, but I didn't play for awhile and now I'm almost afraid to open the game again because I haven't the slightest clue where I left my character. Pet sites are a lot "safer" in that regard.

The community is the biggest thing that keeps me interested in a pet site. I'm shy and don't like to voice chat, so other types of games' communities don't work as well for me as pet sites do with their live chat and forums. The site I'm on the most right now is Neopets and part of what gives me stuff to do is the people there that I've befriended. There are some regulars on one of the boards that I'll say hi to, I talk with a lot of my friends via pm, and then I've always been a huge supporter of guilds there. Guilds are what kept me on Neo until I grew up more and realized there were other things to do there that were interesting (like the pet side of the site). They're still a place I can generally go to chat and in the one I'm currently in, someone will probably be there to talk with me during the hours I'm most likely online. There are enough active people where it's fun to have quick-moving conversations on the private guild forum.

So I guess in summary it's because I can switch between them whenever I want and not feel as lost and the people are usually what make/break the sites for me after that.

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