A virtual pet (also known as a digital pet or artificial pet) is a type of artificial human companion. They are usually kept for companionship or just simple enjoyment. Some people keep a digital pet in lieu of a real pet or as a trial for children before bringing home a real pet.
Digital pets 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. Often these games use realistic visual effects or interaction to make the pet appear alive and give a sense of reality to users.
Digital pets can be “simulations of real animals, as in the Petz series” or “fantasy ones like Tamagotchi“. Unlike biological simulations, the pet does not usually reproduce or die.
Virtual Pet Websites
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, you can play games to earn virtual money; which is usually spent on items and food for your pets. One large branch of virtual pet games are sim horse games.
Some sites adopt out pets to put on your 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 your pets for when they are battling. Such sites that use quests for a primary foundation on the site are Neopets. 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 Mweor, Khimeros, Wajas, Tygras, The Dragon Empire and many more.
There are many video games that focus on the care. 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”.