Virtual pets are something I’ve always shown some kind of interest in. It’s like a pet you can put on hold except when you can’t. If you can’t afford a real physical pet, you could get a virtual one. Or maybe a robot of some kind. Of course, I really love real animals and all of their aspects, so I wouldn’t exactly consider it a true substitute to a real live pet, but it’s still a way to throw a bit of interesting zen into your life, maybe, unless it gets too frantic, but then again, so do real pets.
Of course I have to mention Tamagotchi. I had one. I still have it, actually. And a weird knock-off from around the same time. As well as some Digimon keychains, back when it was just a virtual pet and not an anime and game series. Pretty classic, it tends to just be there and hopefully you treat it right and don’t just forget about it on mute. I’m pretty sure you can mute them, somehow, if not just with some tape. Of course, I would tend to spoil, like I would with many virtual pets. Thankfully, I like the duck-looking one, Kuchipatchi. They also brought this one back recently, with the “mini” version, which is something that was actually released a while back as well, but now just again. It’s a downsized version with a lower resolution screen and fewer options, so it’s not the same, but similar. Of course there are phone game versions, of various amounts of being true to the roots.
At some point there were also Catz and Dogz and Oddballz, all with a Z, and before Ubisoft took over and made it all realistic and tried throwing all kinds of random animals into the mix. It used this spherical render technology apparently from that weird fighting game called Ballz to make the sprites look pretty convincing and alive. Of course, there are strange custom ones you could find online, and if you set them to breed, you can make some total monstrosities that the engine still tries to figure out how to animate. It’s like Spore before Spore.
Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 had Chao. Somehow derived from a weird concept in NiGHTS, this “A-life” system involves adorable baby creatures who can change and evolve depending on how they’re treated and what they’re fed. The second game added the whole “hero” and “dark” concept as well, pretty much tripling the possibilities. They would be a major reason for me replaying the games, aside from the strangeness of the games themselves.
The latest example I can think of is Pokémon Amie or Refresh or whatever it is depending on the game. Refresh is Amie with extra gameplay-affecting layers, but the core is generally being able to feed and pet your Pokémon when possible. Sometimes even give a high-five or similar. I’m glad they kept this feature over two generations and I hope they still plan to expand on it. Essentially, giving more ways to pet all over and spoil to very spoiled levels because I would totally do that. Like endless pancakes.