Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pets, Virtual and Otherwise

I've never been much of a pet person. I know plenty of people who are, and getting acquainted with their pets when I visit doesn't bother me. But having a pet of my own hasn't really appealed to me. I think I've filled that particular niche in my brain in other ways.

We had a few different animals in the house as I was growing up, but most didn't stay around long. Between various allergies among family members and our frequent housing moves, it was easier not to have them. Once I was out on my own, I just never really felt the need to get a pet. It would cross my mind occasionally, but I'd lose interest long before actually going out to get one.

I was thinking about this recently as walked past the pet supplies aisle in the store. The sheer amount of things you can invest in to keep your pet healthy and happy is pretty amazing. And that was just one section in a big-box store. Shops dedicated to pet supplies, and of course the Internet, makes the selection a whole lot larger. The investment that people make in their pets, both in time and money, is pretty foreign to me.

A bit later on, once I'd gone home and logged into a game, it struck me that I do actually have pets. Just about every role-playing game, especially MMOs, encourages you to be invested in the actions and well-being of your characters, much like keeping a pet. It's not exactly the same, obviously - you don't directly control the actions of your cat or dog, or send them out to fight dragons or soldiers. (At least I hope no one does.) And your MMO character isn't going to sit on your couch or wake you up with a wet nose. But there's a lot of parallels: work to keep them healthy, obtain toys and (maybe) clothes for them, spend time with them just playing around with no real end goal except having fun. And it can be a rough experience when you lose them (as in hardcore-mode games with perma-death, or if the plug is pulled on an MMO).
No, I don't have pet rocks. But the picture seemed appropriate.
So I guess I do understand a bit of people's fascination with their pets. Mine are just virtual. Has the benefit of less messes to clean up.

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