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Admin Admin | Dec 16, 2022

How to Foster Emotional Companionship in the Metaverse

My dear Wawa,
Before you arrived, I used to buy every Sims: Pets expansion pack and adopt as many cats and dogs as the game allowed without glitching. The process was always the same: I got excited from purchasing a pet game that would grant me the joy and delight of being a pet owner, but that would quickly dissipate in a matter of hours once I realised there was only so much you can do. Other alternate pet-like experiences like Pet Society and Tamagotchi had their own limitations; the virtual pets themselves never really grew or developed past what the mechanics allowed. So even though I tried to live the life of a pet owner through these games, I knew it would never come close to the real experience.

The Joys of Owning A Pet…

You’re sleeping right beside Papa as I’m writing this: your little body hugged close to his leg, your limbs in a relaxed stretch. It’s times like these that I’d look at you fondly and think of how you’ve greyed over the 10 years since you came into our lives; while still a spritely, active doggo, we can’t help but see your decline as your face became whiter and your eyes a milky grey in the past year. We have to use bouncy balls that land with a thud now whenever we play fetch, lest you’d dart off in the wrong direction thinking we’d thrown it there out of habit. It used to be cute, but it slowly dawned on us what it meant.

You first came into our lives when you were 2 years old — scared, skittish, and wary of everyone except my dad. I gotta confess, I didn’t like you because, well, I didn’t like Chihuahuas. As we were left alone during my summer break, however, your quirks grew on me with every walk and feeding. It helped that you loved playing fetch, and I adore pups that play as enthusiastically and tirelessly as you do.

I miss the days where my sister and I could hug and kiss you as we want, and you’d have this terrified look that you couldn’t help. We egged you on in your playful tendencies that edged ever so slightly on aggression; laughed amidst poorly-mimicked growls thinking we were only communicating with you. There were even times where we instigated your ‘fight mode’, just to show our friends how crazy you were.

…and the responsibilities that come with it

Then one day, you attacked my sister with no warning growl. It was a deep bite for canines as small as yours, enough to mark the beginning of your reign. We didn’t have the heart to hit you or scold you, what with the puppy dog eyes you’d so masterfully pull. We forgave you, again and again, until you had us in the beans of your paw. This is where we failed you, and no number of what-ifs and amount of chiding can erase my guilt in having a hand. I told myself that I’d treat my next dog differently, so I could give it the life and fullest amount of love it deserves. But that’s not to be…because I’m allergic to the very animal I love.

It’s too late in any way to help you unlearn the bad training, and for me to disregard the pain and inconvenience myallergy brings. Regardless, you’ll always be my first dog. If I could somehow give you a second, better life I would in a heartbeat, so you’d have all the love and affection you rightly deserve. I think many of us would like to have that second chance. Any other pet that may come after would be uniquely themselves in different ways, but never be you. There’s a profound sadness about that, like how a lover lost would never be found in another again.

What About Virtual Pets…In The Metaverse?

That said, I recently found a way I could relive you in the metaverse, perhaps even hone a similar personality from before you were mistrained. Even better, the team gave me an opportunity to be part of the development process: to contribute what I know about games as well as pet (dog) behaviours to help create as realistic and emotionally rewarding a game can be.

Of course, this inevitably brought to question whether another pet game would be able to live up to expectations, but I’m personally heartened by their passion and determination to replicate or even reimagine the concept of pet companionship in the virtual world. It will benefit so many of us who’d love to have pets but can’t for a variety of reasons, at the same time provide an avenue for anyone interested to explore the metaverse while forming genuine emotional connections with pets and humans alike. Perhaps this might be a form of respite for the ones who grieve(d) for a beloved animal that’s passed on too. I know I’ll need it when you go.

Wawa. It’s such a silly name that I often chuckle nervously before telling my friends when they coo over your pics and vids. Yet, we always call for you with a soft voice, laced with tenderness and affection. You’re one of the feisty, naughty ones, yes, but you’re still our beloved doggo who’s blessed us with boundless joy, laughter, and spirit. I hope I can recreate the same experience you gave us in the virtual world, while still giving you the best of all of us in your remaining years.

With all my love,

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