The illusion of love: Does a virtual pet provide the same companionship as a real one?
The purpose of this short paper is to examine whether a screen based virtual pet, specifically Nintendogs, gives any form of companionship comparable to a real pet. Nintendogs runs on a Nintendo DS, a mobile games console. The unit has a full colour screen showing an animated puppy which users must feed, water, walk, play with and train. An abundance of literature exists examining the benefits of owning a real pet yet very little has been written about human attachment to virtual pets. Six hundred five Nintendog users were contacted by email with a request to complete a questionnaire about their interaction, 80 (13%) responded. Nine hundred requests were made to a similar group who were asked to respond about their real pet, if they had one. One hundred sixteen responses were received. Results indicate that a Nintendog does give companionship, but companionship which is significantly less than that given by a real dog or cat.
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