Nintendogs needs to come back.
That’s probably something that appears to be out of nowhere, but I was reading about rescues dealing with dogs surrendered after Christmas because they were given as gifts, and then quickly given up because the owners didn’t expect the responsibility. Obviously, these people were not prepared for real dogs. What about virtual dogs?
Nintendogs, originally released in 2005, was a virtual dog you could raise on your Nintendo DS. It was cute and had puppies running around, and was pitched as a dog for people who couldn’t have an actual dog. It also made more sense as a gift, because there was no risk. At least if you don’t know how to take care of the Nintendog a virtual dog can’t die.
My proposal for a revived Nintendogs would have an extra mode. Let’s call it “simulation mode,” and it would either have to be a mobile app or interface with a cell phone in some way. Unlike regular Nintendogs, which can be turned off, this version would need regular care and attention – just like a real dog. Players would need to train out bad habits, they would have to remember to feed it, they would have to go for walks regularly. All of this can be tracked by a modern phone.
If you want some time away from the dog, say to go to a movie or something, you’d have options just like with a real dog, but you don’t want to do this too often, especially in the puppy stage - again, just like a real dog. The game would have a way of rating your performance as well.
Would this mode be for everyone? No, of course not, but not everyone can raise a real dog either. For some people, it would be a way to see if they can handle dog ownership. Clearly, some people can’t, and the dog they briefly adopt suffers.
The real market for such a thing would be parents. Every mom and dad whose kids really want a puppy could give this new Nintendogs to their kid as a test. If you can successfully take care of the virtual dog, you can earn a real one. If you can’t do it, you can’t handle the responsibility. The game could also link to shelters and rescues in the player’s area to help with the next step for these families, provided that the player has done a reasonably good job with their virtual pet.
Because while a virtual dog would be a great training and preparation tool, a brick of glass and metal isn’t really a substitute for a real furry friend. While a dog is a ton of responsibility, it’s also an incredibly rewarding one, and a dog is always a big part of the family when they join it.