Recently, the Phoenix Firestorm project offered new SL residents age 60 days and under their very own pet, free of charge! The pets were provided by older SL residents, and the purpose of this giveaway was to welcome Second Life’s newest residents…as well as to make these new residents feel less lonely inworld.
At the heart of The Phoenix Firestorm Pet Project is the notion that virtual pets can make an Second Life resident happier and less lonely. When looked within the context of real life, the idea that pets make for a happier existence has been scientifically proven. Specifically, studies show that owning a real life pet makes a person healthier and happier.
According to Humana.com, owning a pet can lead to lowering your blood pressure, as well as increase the levels of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine in your brain (Humana.com). Pets, as quoted from a study done by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can help their owners recover from a stressful situation more quickly than a person or friend (Humana.com).
Yet, with all Phoenix Firestorm promotional efforts aside, how does this documented study translate into Second Life? To answer this question, The SL Parade requested responses from four veteran SL community members who own and regularly interact with virtual pets.
One individual interviewed was SL veteren Oriya Tituba Ukweli. Ukweli has been a Second Life resident for over five years, and is an owner of over 50+ virtual pets. When asked if her virtual pets make her happier inworld, Ukweli gives a resounding yes. “Virtual pets…” Ukweli explains, “…are a lot of fun to watch and interact with.”
One particular pet Ukweli enjoys interacting with is her Zoobie monkey Maliaka. She says, “Maliaka does have some script issues. Zoobie pets can be set to guard your land but Little Maliaka malfunctions when other folks come around; for some reason her script does not agree with certain scripts someone might be wearing…She will automatically go into defense mode screaming and pushing that person relentlessly…”
Ukweli continues, “I was going to have her redelivered but decided against it after some friends pointed out that by some odd coincidence, everybody she did that to turned out to be bad people. I’ve had her for several years and she has not been wrong yet about her judgement of people!” After Ukweli gives out a joyful chuckle, she says, “We all know if Maliaka doesn’t like someone that that person needs watching. I also make sure to secretly bring new people in her path to see what she will do…”
Although Maliaka has script issues, it sounds like her script issues are a blessing to Ukweli. Like real life animals, Maliaka is very protective of her owner and her owner’s property, and can sense whether or not a person has good or bad intentions. And, according to Humana.com, pets actually give their owners a chance to meet like-minded individuals. Whether their owner visits the vet, pet store, or even participates in pet training classes, having a pet companion can help an owner ferret out those that do not have their interests at heart (Humana.com).
II. Losing and Finding Your Virtual Pet Can Bring Joy
Lixena Lamourfou, who has been inworld for over 12 years, echoes Ukweli’s sentiment when it comes to her pets. Lamourfou says, “I think that having a virtual pet makes my virtual life more fulfilled… they have a way of getting my attention and filling empty spaces with soothing noise and random companionship…” This random companionship, as Lamourfou states, can lead to both moments worthy of sentiment and fear all at once. “Back in 2006 – 2007…” Lamourfou says, “…my Scottish Terrier Xeryus had the ability to follow me. This was a feature that was new to Second Life.”
Lamourfou states that one of many things she loved about her Scottish Terrier was how, as its owner, she could conveniently have her pet walk along side her. “I loved how you can adjust the positioning your dog, and how you could orient himself to you. I had set his position to be about 2 feet behind me to the side a bit.”
She also loved the constant companionship. Lamourfou continues, “Well he had faithfully followed behind me for hours as I went about my business on my land. I decided to head over to a mall on another sim and do some shopping so off I went.” Two hours later, Lamourfou realized that her dog was no longer by her side.
“I went from shop to shop, chasing down group gifts and new releases when all of a sudden, I realized my dog was GONE!! Back then there was no convenient teleport history, so I tried to backtrack where I had been to see if I could find him…”
By this point, Lamourfou was quite sad over losing her virtual canine and initially gave up looking for him and logged off. When asked what made her sad about this incident, Lamourfou says, “Well, I had gotten used to having him around and he had costs me quite a bit of money, and I was not happy to spend the money again just to replace him.
Lamourfou’s reaction to the loss of her virtual pet is quite similar to what a real life owner goes through when they lose their pet. A true pet owner not only worries about their pet’s safety, but also expresses concern about the money they have invested in their pet. From food, to taking them to the vet, and even to how much an owner paid to purchase the animal can all be anchored to the feelings an owner has for there pet.
And, like those feelings of sadness that Lamourfou felt over losing her pet, that feeling of sadness was later replaced with happiness because a week later, she found her Scottish Terrier while perusing around her land. “At first…” she explains, “I looked on the ground a little ways away and saw what looked like a little black prim box…right at my property line. As I got closer, I saw that it was not a box at all; it was actually my dog Xeryus, crippled over in a weird angle. He was stuck in an animation, and it obviously looked as though he had tried to follow me off my land! As I looked closer, I realized that he had followed me as far as he could go; when I teleported off my land to go shopping, he had gotten stuck between the property lines of my land and the land of my neighbor’s….It was a touching moment, and I never lost him again…”
III. Virtual Pets Can Be Virtual Money Makers too…
Besides having virtual pets for companionship, many SL residents look at to their virtual pets as both a personalized work of art and an additional source of income. Dravenrose, for instance is the owner of 3rd Eye Perceptions and Ravens Keep Stables, both of which specialize in breeding Awesome Breed Creation horses, as well as create a line of mysticism-themed products. Located at Whippe, 3rd Eye Perceptions and Ravens Keep Stables encompasses a goth-based, mystical theme throughout its parcel. Dravenrose explains, “I’ve been in SL for 7 years, and have been breeding ABC (Awesome Breed Creation ) horses for 5 years.”
Below, please take a look at some example photos of Ravens Keep. To get the full effect of Dravenrose’s business, please be sure to visit by clicking here: Ravens Keep.
When asked about her first SL pet, Dravenrose says, “My first SL pet was a horse from ABC (Awesome Breed Creations). I chose this breedable brand because of their realistic coat textures and the variety of traits that the horses can have…”
Dravenrose alludes to another factor that comes along with having a virtual pet: realism. Realism is actually a crucial component needed in owning a virtual pet, especially if they are being bred inworld. Dravenrose says, “I am an RL artist, so I greatly enjoy working on [various pet] bloodlines…all as a way to create those perfect traits like eyes and coats…especially on a horse that can ‘wow’ my customers.”
Part of this realism also includes researching various breeds. In real life, many pet owners will look at an animal breed that has a certain color, hair texture and even eye color. To better explain, many who are interested in owning cats may opt for a cat with heterochromia iridis.
According to Cathealth.com, heterochromia iridis (also known as the odd-eyed cat), have two different colored eyes (Cathealth.com). They typically have one blue eye, while the other eye tends to be either green, brown, or yellow (Cathealth.com).
Like Dravenrose breeds her horses with particular traits in mind, real life pet owners breed pets with particular traits in mind, too. In the case of cats, one of many traits that a pet owner may look to breed include kittens with heterochromia iridis.
In addition to breeding horses with prized traits, Dravenrose is routinely purchasing breedables at various SL sales yards. Dravenrose says, when asked why she likes to breed and shop for breedables, that she prefers specific SL products brands based on how accessible they are when it comes to researching key traits. “Personally, I love to shop the sales yards…” she says, “…because you never know what you’re going to find. I also really like the online databases of breedables like Meeroos and Fennux, where you can easily search up the coat and traits you want then teleport right to it.”
Dravenrose also contends that while breeding breedables, she has met a lot of amazing people. She explains, “…there’s nothing quite like going to the ABC main sim in the morning for food….only to find the staff happy and dancing in the lobby or riding donkeys through the sim!” After laughing a bit, Dravenrose continues: “…it’s a great community that will always keep you smiling and on your toes with what will happen next.”
IV. SL Virtual Pets: Can They Make Their Owners Happy?
Based on the testimonies of Dravenrose, Lixena Lamourfou, and Oriya Tituba Ukweli; it is fair to say that YES, virtual pets can bring happiness to their owners! They can alleviate inworld loneliness, guard their owner’s land and offer protection, and can help SL community members earn inworld lindens. All of this and more make a pretty sound argument that virtual pets can enrich the lives of their virtual owners.
And, while it is safe to assume that a virtual pet can make a person’s inworld experience better, be mindful that in order to fully benefit from a virtual pet, one must do their research. ᴘʀɪɴᴄᴇss ᴘɪᴘsǫᴜᴇᴀᴋ ʙɪᴛᴛᴇʀʙᴇᴀɴ, whose inworld username is mothwings3 resident, particularly urges SL residents to shop around. “For example….” she says, “…if you are looking for a hamster set up, there are tons, but each of the different creators have different pros and cons. One may allow you to move hamsters outside of the cage, one may have better textures, etc. Also, if you’re strapped for cash, gacha pets are always a great addition to any SL home.”
As a Second Life resident that has played SL for about 4 years, ᴘʀɪɴᴄᴇss ᴘɪᴘsǫᴜᴇᴀᴋ ʙɪᴛᴛᴇʀʙᴇᴀɴ supports the belief that with tempered judgment, virtual pets can offer great benefits to their owners.
Below, please find a few photos of ReRe Sandalwood with her virtual pets. In addition to The SL Parade sim, The SL Parade has a store that sells pet horses and clothing from Sweet Temptation at the La Bella Boutique.
Finding Happiness With Your Pet. Humana.com (https://www.humana.com/prevention-and-care/healthy-living-and-prevention/emotional-health/pets).
Why Do Some Cats Have Different Colored Eyes? Cathealth.com (https://www.cathealth.com/cat-health/vision/2363-why-do-some-cats-have-two-different-colored-eyes).
Odd-Eyed Cat. Wikipedia.com (https://www.cathealth.com/cat-health/vision/2363-why-do-some-cats-have-two-different-colored-eyes)
Single mom of one child in Real Life. In Second Life, I function as the Editor-In-Chief of The SL Parade, where I regularly write about all things RL and SL. I also own land inworld, and have created a space designed to encourage comfort and relaxation.