An old friend of mine invited me to play Pet Society. I must have been really bored that day, so I clicked on the invite and gave it a try. Pet Society, created by Playfish, seemed harmless enough, with its simple, 2-D avatars in a game that didn’t appear to have much of a competitive urge. The environment was flat and uninteresting. Here’s a screenshot of my pet, “Sushi,” in his empty house:
Yeah, I know, it didn’t really impress me either. Little did I know that Pet Society had the addictive properties of corn syrup or crack cocaine. Once I started visiting other people’s pets, I began to sense the game’s appeal. I saw that my friend, Holly*, who invited me to play, had a much nicer house and a closet full of cute clothes. I asked Holly how long she’d been playing the game. “Hmm. A month, maybe a month and a half. It’s good for OCD,” she replied.
I immediately went into downtown to shop for pet clothes. This, I realized was the hook. Like The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the lives of the pets in Pet Society revolve around shopping and looking good. I visited the stylist, and experimented with various hair styles and facial shapes, but found to my dismay that I couldn’t afford most of the changes. Getting a heart-shaped mouth or a pair of furry, cat-like ears would cost hundreds of points. Changing the skintone was the cheapest at 50 points, but I decided to keep my pet coffee-colored. Obama had just been elected President after all. It was hip to be latte.
Most disappointing was that I couldn’t change my avatar from a boy to a girl without shelling out 250 coins. I preferred to have a female pet, but I needed my points badly for new duds and furniture, not to mention food. With my tight budget, I settled for a striped shirt and a pair of simple black shoes.
The next day, I got a note from Holly. “Sushi looks sooo adorable in his new shirt! But he’s a bit of a perv. My pet Genevieve went to visit him, and he answered the door with no pants on!”
“Just pretend the shirt is a dress,” I replied. I explained that I couldn’t afford a sex change and that I was just going to treat Sushi like a girl.
When Holly wrote back, she sent over a pair of virtual jeans. “These are for your boy-girl.”
It was a nice gesture, but I didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. It’s not like the pets have big boobs and genitalia anyway. Besides, having a trannie in the neighborhood would add to the diversity of Pet Society.
I didn’t tell Holly this, but I sold her jeans and went shopping again, this time buying an orange couch and a potted plant for the house. My pet was now ready to receive visitors in style.