In 2005 and 2006 a little game called Nintendogs took the handheld gaming world by storm. Such a simple idea, taking care of virtual puppies, the idea had been done before, but most of those games had an ending; ultimately there was a way for the game to end whether it be training the dog after a certain amount of time or completing mundane care tasks with little reward. Then the Nintendo DS artfully used its stylus and touch screen to create an interactive environment in which the person behind the screen acted more as an actual owner and less of an errand boy.
First of all, you got to pick your own dog. You were given enough money to pick whichever dog you wanted that was available in your specific game. Then you got to name it, feed it, give it water, give it baths, make sure they were happy and energized with toys and walks. You can could teach your puppy tricks and even train it for competitions. You could make your dog a pro athletics champ or maybe just dress them up and take them out on walks hoping for a special mystery gift to show off your doggy prowess to your friends who also had the game.
The game offered tons of opportunities to redecorate the house, dress your pup up, and become a competition champion. The only real end goal was maxing out the trainer points which were earned while playing the game, but in the end there were always the dogs to take care of. The puppies always needed to be fed, given water, washed and walked at the very least. There was always something to do in Nintendogs; so why do so why are so many puppies left abandoned?
It is really sad when you think about it, the puppies being left all alone with only themselves or maybe they have a friend or two to play with. They’ll be parched, starving, and filthy with flies jumping off of them, but they’ll slowly walk up to the screen begging for a bit of love and attention. It’s almost heartbreaking going back to an abandoned Nintendogs game, simply because they don’t die; they just wait.
It could be said that this style of punishment is used in other games, but in games like Animal Crossing the villagers move away if you don’t keep up with them. That would almost be better than the Nintendogs treatment. Yes the dogs run away, but that actually only happens if the game is left on. If that game isn’t played the dogs are left in a state of abandonment, still growing hungrier, thirstier, and dirtier with each passing day.
Thinking about the dogs being left to just wait reminds me of that one story, Hachi: a Dog’s Tale, the story of a very loyal dog who constantly waited at the train station for his master so that they could come home, but after the master dies while at work, Hachi finds himself waiting still for him to come to the train station, leaving Hachi to wait for the rest of his life. He was so loyal he couldn’t bear to leave his spot.
You can’t really ever hurt your Nintendog. They can get “sick,” but there isn’t a risk of losing them. They just look a little off for the rest of the walk after they eat trash, but after a few paces they’re back to their chirper selves. You can tug their leash a little too tight, but they only whimper for a second then they bark with joy. You can tug their paw a little too hard and it prompts a sneeze or they dance a bit jumping back and forth on their paws, but you can never really hurt them at all. They don’t hold a grudge over anything that their owner does or doesn’t do; they just continue to wait for love and attention, even if it’s the form of a few style taps on the screen. Give them food, water, a bath, maybe even a walk; make your Nintendog’s day, they’ve only been waiting ten years.