It’s an easy bet to say that most people like puppies. Nature designed them to be cute, and we’ve spent the last hundred millennia breeding them to be our companions. Nintendogs takes both of those and replicates them using the Nintendo DS’ video and audio outputs combined with the touch screen and microphone inputs. The result is a fairly realistic experience which, as many DS games are, satisfies you for brief periods of time.

The Family

We previously wrote about depictions of family in video games. In that article, we discussed that while family is one of the most basic social formulas in sociology, there are very few direct depictions in video games, but a lot of alternative depictions such as workplace or other group dynamics. Nintendogs is cited as an example of the latter. In this case, we have a game in which the player assumes guardianship of a puppy or puppies. These animals are as dependant on the player for love, nourishment, exercise, and training as a real puppy would be or even as a child would be.

As with most open-ended video games in which there is no clear “finale,” Nintendogs progresses however the player chooses. He or she can either choose to get one puppy or two or three, to train them or not, to feed them or not. How many tricks they learn, how well groomed and fed they are, and how many contests they win are at the discretion of the player. In this way too the game simulates real life. Ultimately, that is the aim of this type of game. Like The Sims, the player is able to go through the motions of real life scenarios without the actual dedication, involvement, or risk involved. Picking up dog feces in this title is as easy as a tap on the touch screen. The task is not nearly as pleasant and painless in life. This really is the appeal of games like Nintendogs.

Good Dog

Though this game has a few achievement systems built in to facilitate development of your characters (dogs), the most rewarding aspect of the game is the way your animals respond to you and how that changes as you’ve spent more time together. The puppies for simulated bonds and personalities, similar to real dogs. Some are meek and some are feisty, but all of them have the same capability of bonding with the player and reacting in positive ways to social interaction. Puppies enjoy having their names called, for example, or enjoy receiving a pat on the head. As with real dog ownership, the experience is it’s own reward.

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