This fine July a few TGENerates got together to talk about expansions of the year, mobile games and companion pets in MMOs. The third TGEN Tribunal roundtable was hosted by Braxwolf and if you enjoy merry and casual banter by MMO players for MMO players, you should check out his site for the latest episode. We had a lot of fun doing this show which I think really carries over in the recording.
Why are companion pets so popular?
A topic that was suggested by me and definitely took some interesting turns during our discussion, is the eternal fascination of companion pets in MMOs. Whenever an MMO like Wildstar doesn’t have them, there’s an outcry on message boards until they’re finally implemented. Now FFXIV is great for collecting pets but sadly makes it very hard for players to have their companions along most of the time because you’re either in queue for something, in party with your chocobo or another person (who is also a chocobo….no wait) or inside instanced story content. All of which means that your companion pets remain benched. This is quite the vexation for many players, a thing which made me ponder why some of us (more than others) get so attached to our ingame critters.
Roger and Liore both suggested on the podcast that it’s a question of collector’s drive and that is certainly a big part of why players collect pets. Achievements, bragging rights or straightforward completionism are reason enough to collect anything in MMOs. Still, I believe companion pets have the potential to be a bit more than that – or why would some players really miss not having them around if they were just another number on a checklist? Companion pets, NPCs or not, are company. They are your personal NPCs, they tirelessly follow you around pulling a funny stunt every now and then (the good ones, anyway). In some MMOs pets will even interact with others, they can be stabled, fed or groomed. This introduces a lot of extra tamagotchi-style engagement.
As someone who solos quite a bit in MMOs these days, I like having my “entourage” with me while I am out grinding in the field and I don’t actually collect pets that I don’t find funny or unique in some way. It may be a small cosmetic thing but having one or two pets/mounts/summons follow me around, makes me feel more immersed in the world somehow. I keep pets in real life too and just having them around the house and being able to watch them going about their business fulfills some deeper, human need for connection inside me. For the most part, they remain a mystery to me but it’s good sharing my environment with animals. It just feels natural. And since we all know that many features and mechanics in MMOs directly appeal to our real life makeup, why not companion pets?
(And I really want that red panda in FFXIV. *sigh*)