i like animals, with one or two exceptions: wasps, as far as i’m concerned are the illegitimate spawn of the devil and virtual animals really don’t float my boat in the slightest.
Whether it’s tiny Tamagotchis, the latest in sl breedables or anything in between, for me the average digitised dog, cat, horse or dragon is about as loveable as a slightly rancid bag of fat trimmings. Maybe it’s the life-scarring experience of being given Dogz many years ago by a well-meaning relative… it was all fun and games to start with, but then the panic began to set in: was i petting the damn thing often enough?… what if i missed a mealtime?… and, heaven forbid if i chose not to switch the computer on after school. Eventually, i made the heartbreaking decision never to run the program again – it was just too traumatic – and i’ve lived with the stigma of sending that poor virtual scamp to his digital deathbed ever since. You can imagine how i felt just recently when i came across a poor little breedable pussy, lying on it’s back in a store, blanket up to its chin and thermometer under its tongue – it all came flooding back!
The other thing i can’t stand about breedables is how they look so damn unreal – by all means bankrupt yourself by breeding scripted horses, feeding them every five minutes and pampering them with the best tack that sl can offer, but at least do it with something that looks like a horse, not a bloated purple creature with metallic skin and laser eyes!
Granted, they aren’t real, so there’s no earthly reason why they should look realistic, but whenever i see one of the awful things, i can’t help but perceive an almost overwhelming feeling of smugness flooding towards me from the beast… every pixel seems to be saying, “Oh yes, I’m a breedable… how fabulous am I?”. To me – and yes, i do realise how weird this sounds – it poses a rather thorny question of hierarchy, (stick with me, it’ll become clearer!), particularly as sl becomes ever-more complex and scripting becomes ever-more innovative, because at some time in the future, i’m convinced it’ll be possible to create virtual animals capable of developing some form of sentience – and if they’re going to be all high and mighty about how wonderful they are, we could be in for a whole load of trouble.
Breedables – whether of the large unmistakeable horsey variety or the small, prone to be stepped on, miniature type are not the only animals to be found in sl. A friend of mine owns a scripted dog that doesn’t breed, but does all the other things a rl dog is likely to do… hell, it’ll probably pee on car tyres and sniff other scripted dogs’ butts, given half a chance! i myself, have a horse that moseys around my land and neighs, and occasionally goes flying off out to sea, although i don’t think it’s supposed to do that! Then there are shoulder pets, personal attachment style critters and the sculpted beasts that simply sit and look majestic. Let’s not forget those cutout cows and, of course, their polar opposite – animal avatars: yep, real people who look, act and behave just like animals – although in many instances, nothing like animals too!
Within this veritable zootopia who exactly rules the roost?
Are breedables more deserving than simple cow cutouts? Is a scripted animal more important than a bot and, if so, shouldn’t the Lab insist that scripted animals have their own accounts, like they do with bots? What sort of standing does an animal that eats, sleeps, breathes and breeds have within the community – should it have rights and privileges? And do we have the right to own an animal that can function autonomously and without our presence?
i have chilling visions of virtual animals rising up and asserting their right to usurp us from sl in some bizarre reverse re-telling of Animal Farm, and i fear the day when i see those words appear in chat… “Two legs good; four legs better!”, as the animals of sl, driven by primal memories of digital pets who have gone to meet their maker thanks to the carelessness of a young owner, take control and have their day!
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama
Circle of Life – The Lion King