A digital pet (also known as a virtual pet, artificial pet, or
pet-raising simulation) is a type of artificial human companion. They
are usually kept for companionship or enjoyment. People may keep a
digital pet in lieu of a real pet.
Digital pets are distinct in that they have no concrete physical form
other than the hardware they run on. Interaction with virtual pets may
or may not be goal oriented. If it is, then the user must keep it
alive as long as possible and often help it to grow into higher forms.
Keeping the pet alive and growing often requires 'feeding', grooming
and playing with the pet. If the interaction is not goal oriented, the
user can explore the character of the pet and enjoy the feeling of
building a relationship with it.
Digital pets can be "simulations of real animals, as in the Petz
series" or "fantasy ones like the
 Unlike biological simulations, the pet does not usually
reproduce. They generally do not die, and they can regenerate.
3.1 Digital pets over real pets
3.1.1 Relationship with digital pet
4 Common features
4.2 Sense of reality
4.4 Example of common features
5 Generalization to non-pet situations
6 See also
Virtual pet sites are usually free to play and accessible to all who
sign up. They can be accessed through web browsers and often include a
virtual community, such as Neopia in Neopets. In these worlds, a user
can play games to earn virtual money which is usually spent on items
and food for pets. One large branch of virtual pet games are sim horse
Some sites adopt out pets to put on a webpage and use for role-playing
in chat rooms. They often require the adoptee to have a page ready for
their pet. Sometimes they have a setup for breeding one's pets and
then adopting them out.
Most sites use quests in order for users to make points and receive
items. Some quests can give stat points to the user's pets for when
they are battling. Such sites that use quests for a primary foundation
on the site are
Neopets and Marapets. These sites, and their clones,
have a single non-dynamic image for each pet and its various colors,
leading to a lot of similarity in the pets.
There are also "simulation sites" where the webpage attempts to
simulate a real-life discipline, such as horse dressage or pedigree
dog showing. Often these sites will also have a breeding aspect,
including genetics and markings. Other simulation sites focus mostly
on the markings. Some have done away with the showing aspect and
created a great fantasy or comedic website, based around a nonexistent
discipline or creature. An example of this is Woolly Hooves, a
simulation game where the player gets his/her very own elemental
llama, and goes on to hike, explore and complete less single-objective
quests than some sites in a bizarre yet endearing world. A few more
websites with a similar genre include Kingdom Of Knuffel, Mweor,
Khimeros, Xanje, Aywas, Wajas, Tygras, The Dragon Empire and many
There are many video games that focus on the care, raising, breeding
or exhibition of simulated animals. Such games are described as a
sub-class of life simulation game. Since the computing power is more
powerful than with webpage or gadget based digital pets, these are
usually able to achieve a higher level of visual effects and
interactivity. Pet-raising simulations often lack a victory condition
or challenge, and can be classified as software toys.
The pet is capable of learning to do a variety of tasks. "This quality
of rich intelligence distinguishes artificial pets from other kinds of
A-life, in which individuals have simple rules but the population as a
whole develops emergent properties". For artificial pets, their
behaviors are typically "preprogrammed and are not truly emergent".
A screen mate is a downloadable virtual pet that creates a small
animation that walks around a computer desktop and over open screens
unpredictably. Each pets is a small animation of an animal (such as a
sheep or a frog, or in some cases a human or bottle cap) that can be
interacted by clicking on or dragging, which lifts the pet as if you
were picking it up. Most screen mates are free to download and used
for entertainment purposes.
See also: List of artificial pet games
PF Magic released the first widely popular virtual pets in 1995 with
Dogz, followed by Catz in the spring of 1996, eventually becoming a
franchise known as Petz. The digital pets were further popularized
Digimon were introduced in 1996 and 1997.
Digital pets were a massive fad in Japan, and to a lesser extent in
United States and
United Kingdom during the late 1990s. Today,
there are also "Digital Pets" which have physical robotic bodies,
known as Ludobots or Entertainment robots.
The popularity of virtual pets in the United States, and the constant
need for attention the pets required, led to them being banned from
schools across the country, a move that hastened the virtual pet's
decline from popularity.
A Mad cover parody on regular issue #362, October 1997 shows a gun
being pointed at a virtual pet with Alfred E. Neuman's face and the
line "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this virtual pet!"
Illustrated by Mark Fredrickson. The cover references the January 1973
issue of National Lampoon which depicted a gun being held to a real
dog's head and the line, "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill
Digital pets over real pets
Some people[who?][weasel words] suggest that digital pets are
preferable for a number of reasons. Having a digital pet in place of a
real pet ensures real pets do not have to suffer, and it is arguably
training before adopting a real pet.
PETA has suggested that robotic
animals can help people recognize that they are not up to the
commitment of caring for a real animal. Another cogent argument is
that the digital pet can successfully substitute a real one for
children who cannot care for a real pet, such as those who suffer from
Relationship with digital pet
There is research concerning the relationship between digital pets and
their owners, and their impact on the emotions of people. For example,
Furby affects the way people think about their identity, and many
children think that
Furby is alive in a "
Furby kind of way" in Sherry
There are many common features between different digital pets, some of
them are used to give a sense of reality to the user (such as the pet
responding to "touch"), and some for enhancing playability (such as
With advanced video-gaming technology, most modern digital pets do not
show a message box or icon to display the pet's internal variable,
health state or emotion like earlier generations (such as Tamagotchi).
Instead, users can only understand the pet by interpreting their
actions, body language, facial expressions, etc. This helps to make a
pet's behavior seem natural, rather than calculated, and fosters a
feeling of a relationship between user and digital pet.
Sense of reality
To give a sense of reality to users, most digital pets have certain
level of autonomy and unpredictability. The user can interact with the
pet and this process of personalizing can make the pet more
distinctive. Personalizing increases the feeling of responsibility for
the pet to the user. For example, if a
Tamagotchi is unattended
for long enough, it will "die".
To increase user's personal attachment to the pet, the pet interacts
with the user. Interactivity can be classified into two categories:
Short-term and long-term.
Short-term interactivity includes direct interaction or action to
reaction from the pet. Example: "touch" a pet with mouse cursor and
the pet will give a direct response to the "touching".
Long-term interactivity includes action that affects the pet's growth,
behavior or life span. For example, training a pet may have a good
effect on the pet's behavior. Long-term interactivity is quite
important for a sense of reality as the user would think that he has
some lasting influence on the pet.
Two kinds of interactivity are often combined.
interaction) may happen through continuing short-term interaction.
Similarly, playing with a pet (short-term interaction) may, if
continued over the long term, make the pet more optimistic.
Example of common features
Responds to calling
Responds to touching
Training the pet
Supplies or toys for the pet
Dressing up the pet
Competition or trial amongst pets
Meeting other pets
Complaining when it needs care
Generalization to non-pet situations
Many of the common features of digital pets are present in some games
that seek to represent something other than a pet. For example, the
short-term and long-term interactivity of digital pets is present in
Derby Owners Club
Derby Owners Club (race horses) and
The Idolmaster (pop stars). Such a
game is sometimes called a raising simulation. It is a pet-raising
simulation, without a pet.
List of virtual pet games
^ a b c d e f g h Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2003). Andrew
Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders Publishing.
pp. 477–487. ISBN 1-59273-001-9.
^ http://www.virtualpetlist.com/showcase/[permanent dead link]
^ J. D. Biersdorfer (February 24, 2000). "Screen Mates for Fun or
Profit". New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
^ Rita Koselka (1996-12-02). "Save on dog food". Forbes:
^ MAD Cover Site, MAD #362 October 1997.
^ G. Jeffrey, "If you kick a robotic dog, is it wrong?" in The
Christian Science Monitor, Feb of 2004
^ Katie Hafner, What Do You Mean, `It's Just Like a Real Dog'? , 2000
^ Frédéric Kaplan Free creatures : The role of uselessness in
the design of artificial pets, 2000
^ Frank, A.; Stern, A.; and Resner, B. 1997. Socially intelligent
virtual petz. In Socially Intelligent Agents.
Video game genres (List)
Beat 'em up
Hack and slash
Shoot 'em up
Grand Theft Auto clone
Escape the room
Point n' click
Construction and management
Multiplayer online battle arena
Multiplayer video game
Nonviolent video game
Multiplayer online game
Social network game