Why there was nothing 'natural' about my EyePet's death
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:41 PM
Healthy one-year-old virtual animals like EyePet don't just fall asleep and never wake up.
EyePet, a virtual pet for your living room, or in my case, my bedroom. Yes, I game in my bedroom. Bite me. Already out for the PlayStation 3 in Europe (the game has been pushed back to 2010 in the US) EyePet brings a monkey-stroke-dog-stroke...the little bastard is liking this too much...into your life.
When I was initially given my EyePet, by a strange over-enthusiastic American scientist (implying that he'd moulded the poor little thing in his lab, like Ripley's resurrection in the fourth Alien film) my love and hate relationship started with the sodding blighter.
I was first tasked to hatch the thing. Hatch a mammal monkey dog? Why aren't we birthing the thing to then steal the ugly puppy from its mother like Michael Jackson and Blanket? Moving on...
Well it turns out that hatching an egg isn't as easy as you might have thought. Heating up the shell with a hair-dryer (well, what did you think you'd use?), which is held using the game's magic card (many of the game's objects are tracked 1:1 to your movement of the magic card), seemed simple enough. But then you have to rock the massive egg (about the size of an Ostrich egg) between your hands.
Furry muff, doesn't sound too hard. That is until I realised that perhaps my bedroom wasn't the best place to play with my EyePet. I'd plopped the PSEye to the side of my room, making my on-screen movements confusing. The rocking of the egg turned into a 'rubbing my stomach and patting myself on the head simultaneously' type of task; the muddled left and right resulted in the egg staying put, like that annoying nose hair you've tried to snip off in front of your bathroom mirror.
Time to rearrange the furniture and place the camera directly in front of me. Sorted. The egg is now suitably rocked and relatively warm. What next? The egg-cracking task soon turns into a game of Simon-says with taps, waiting for the stubborn creature to get his game on and free himself from the egg that the cruel American scientist obviously imprisoned him in.
And then he shows his face. Shy, furry, and I must say, slightly adorable. Things started to go down hill from here.
First to take a picture of me and my pet for our Identification Card - god knows what we'll need that for. I bend down to get my mug in the frame and usher my pet to face the camera. However, the thing had the audacity to saunter up to my face and lick me on the cheek. Little sod.
With that task failed, it was time to name 'it'. "A furry monkey dog type thing" was all that came to mind, but then I remembered my childhood pet guinea pig; fluffy and scruffy, I had named it Fizgig. From the Dark Crystal, you might remember. Now my EyePet FizGig (complete with pretentious mid-word capital letter) had the hard task of living up to the glory of my now long dead cochon d'Inde.
FizGig was determined to run away from the shower head when I tried to wash it, which was pretty realistic animal behaviour (they don't like the waterz) but once clean and dried, FizGig was ready to be styled into my very own unique pet.
That styling your EyePet is such an integral part of the game makes me squirm just a little. Seeing a pink poodle with perfect bobbles ushers me to eat my own eyes, and a little bit of puke comes up when I spot one of those little shitsu fashion accessories dressed up like they're an integral part of some brain dead prom queen's outfit. Paris Hilton dressing Butters up as Mr. Biggles in South Park's 'Stupid Spoiled Whore' always comes to mind.
With the knowledge that dressing my EyePet in some ridiculous costume would most likely lead it to suicide, I decided to place a beret on its head, giving the ridiculous thing some sort of dignity. I then painted an impressive tiger strip pattern on its belly, so it could impress the lady EyePets.
Not content with looking dapper, FizGig was intent on me actually feeding it. O.K., have some biscuits. Munch, munch. FizGig full. What starts to grate with this creature is that it's obsessed with trying to outdo every other pet I've ever owned. My rabbit, my dog, my guinea pigs. None of them could hope to live up to the skills of FizGig and so every time it shows its talent, salt is rubbed into the wound. My real pets were never this talented.
Sure my dog knew commands like "feed the guinea pigs," but it couldn't draw pictures. My dog might have known "give me your paw," but it couldn't jump on a trampoline. And FizGig's real life counterpart only knew how to squeak, eat and poop. What makes my EyePet think it can undermine everything my much loved, and now passed on, animals did.
It's a slap in the face when the EyePet is not quite
as good at tasks as it promises to be. Its pictures are usually a poor resemblance of my own, and when I try to teach the sod a tune, the song is not nearly as well performed.
With every task acting as a double whammy - FizGig patronises my real life pets, but also patronises itself - my contempt for the magical virtual creature was starting to develop. In fact, I began to question whether it deserved to "live" at all.
And so began an obsessive series of events to euthanise my EyePet. Firstly, I waited for FizGig to jump as high as possible on the trampoline, to then pull it out from under him, hoping it'd break its fragile neck. No dice. Though the splat was amusing, FizGig was eager to climb back on and try again.
I drew an aeroplane that popped into the virtual world and ushered my pet onto the craft. Suffocating FizGig at the edge of the Earth didn't seem to work, despite the warning, and so I piloted his aircraft into a nose dive, towards the ground. CRASH! BOOM! Sigh, the plane broke into pieces, but FizGig was left unarmed.
How about kicking the little sod? Well though that is possible, FizGig mostly jumped out of the way, rather than being hurled across the room (onto impaling spikes).
I made FizGig draw a knife that I might be able to stab him with, but that went as far as his awful recreation of the weapon, creating something that looked more like a back-scratcher.
My closest attempt came with the creation of an angry, evil robot. I armed him with a baseball bat and chased FizGig around the room, swinging the bat into its chest whenever I got close. But what would the cheeky bugger do other than bring the robot watermelons to smash, instead of his behind. Cunning, young FizGig, I'll give you that.
Time to take evasive action. I stopped feeding my EyePet. No more biccys for FizGig. I stopped washing him. I stopped giving him attention, leaving him for hours upon hours with nothing to do. No activity, no exercise, no inspiration, no food, no water. And crucially, no affection. If FizGig tried to sleep in its wallowing mess, I'd scream to rudely wake it up.
I know, it sounds cruel. And I couldn't help but feel bad, especially when it looked at me with those sulking eyes, surrounded by buzzing flies feeding off its filth. Please don't look at me like that, FizGig! His beret started to sink lower over his face and he began to take on the appearance of a homeless child from Victorian England.
The thing is, there's nothing, not by any yardstick, natural about my EyePet. Let us be absolutely clear about this. It's a digital, virtual pet, that's tricked me into feeling complex emotions for it. You'll even notice that I've been very careful to refer to the pet as an 'it' rather than a 'he/she'.
I gave my pet its final health screening with the magic card. It revealed what I had hoped. FizGig was hungry, sad, in need of affection, weak, and generally on his last legs. Soon after, FizGig, after dragging his bowl to me in a last attempt for food, slumped over and slid sideways to his sorry demise.
Sure I'm spinning this into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap, like a broken dog biscuit in a rented kennel, but FizGig was asking for it.
Healthy and fit one-year-old virtual animals like FizGig might not just fall asleep and never wake up, but there was nothing healthy or fit about my EyePet by the time I had finished with him.
I hate to strike a blow to the happy-ever-after myth of video game characters living alongside human beings. Not every character, they say, is like Master Chief. But my EyePet's strange and lonely death should act as a warning to those who find themselves becoming emotionally attached to digital or robotic creations.
The thing is, I kind of miss my EyePet.
R.I.P FizGig, we hardly knew thee.
Parts of this story are a work of fiction. Neither Gamezine.co.uk nor Sony Computer Entertainment endorse cruelty to animals in any form, whether virtual or otherwise.