Zoya Street on Virtual Pets


In contrast, a virtual pet such as a tamagotchi requires emotional labour of a sort. The skill required has nothing to do with your physical ability to manipulate the keys of the device, but rather is concerned with your ability to hold another being in your mind as you go about your life. It is a care simulator. You have to be aware at all times that there is a simulation of a living thing that at regular intervals will require feeding and cleaning. The information conveyed in the animation of the tiny group of pixels on screen is much more communicative of the creature’s emotional state and relationship to the owner — you watch it hatch from an egg, and then watch it bound around with excitement. You watch it bash its head against the ground in frustration, and bounce up and down when it is happy. A relationship of care is being animated here.

Some early thoughts on miniatures and virtual pets

I’m very interested in where Street goes with this in (presumably) a longer piece or his dissertation. I talked about Jenn Frank’s pieces on Creatures over at Unwinnable in my MA thesis as a way of talking about/getting at the internal relationships of the grand assemblage that we call a video game.

All of that is to say that I’m super interested in how care and virtual pets can be conceived of outside of very linear signification transpositions (like the argument “we care about actual pets, to therefore virtual pets trigger those same emotional effects) and Zoya seems to be onto something super interesting in this miniaturization=>abstraction=>larger-than-perceived line of thought.

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