Almost two years in quarantine and it’s gotten to the point where people are knitting noodles and waiting for midnight to have a go at the latest Wordle, taking “whatever keeps me sane in the midst of the world burning” to the next level. And as we strive to cope in these—pardon the overused term—”trying times,” sometimes a quick trip down memory lane could work wonders for our dreary hearts.
This throwback goes all the way back to 2008, when, in between writing papers and studying for major subjects late into the night, were visits to my block mates’ pets.
These adventures were in the gaming realm, of course.
Pet Society, a Facebook game developed by Playfish, came at a time when Gossip Girl was an immensely popular series. It was also where I got my pet’s name—Rufus—because I was rooting for the older Humphrey than the younger and arguably more problematic ones.
Rufus looked like a cross between a cat and a bear, with bright yellow skin, blue eyes, and a stoic expression that took after this writer’s resting bitch face.
Just like in real life, having coins were important in Pet Society. If you wanted to provide the good life for your pet, you had to work for it. The easiest way to earn coins was to visit your friends’ pets daily and interact with them—kiss, hug, tell a joke, dance, or even fight without consequences. It was merely a way to see you and your friend’s pet have some sort of interaction in the virtual world. When the 40th visit to a pet has worn you out, you always had that option to head to the Stadium and participate in a race, with familiar pet faces in the crowd (yes, your friends’ pets). Socializing batteries drained? You could visit the Pond and while the time away in the fishing mini-game.
Designing a pet’s home in Pet Society was akin to the feeling of being a Home Buddies lurker—the kind where you admire marvelous homes and think of ways to improve your own space. But since this is Pet Society, no one would have judged you for the way you arranged your pet’s belongings or that you did not subscribe to minimalism.
Your pet could have a grandiose foyer with five chandeliers, a kitchen with an all-black selection of small appliances, a bathroom where you have a toilet adorned with poo. Some players were lucky enough to make their pet create the rare Golden Poo and Rainbow Poo that you could display like a trophy on your pet’s shelf. There weren’t any rules—you could design rooms as you please and get inspo from other pets’ homes, too.
You could say it’s the kind of game that got people super emotionally invested that the announcement post on Facebook still gets comments to this day.
Decorating was just one engaging aspect of the game. What I liked about Pet Society the most was its sense of community. It was the kind of game that you could play with real-life friends, so much so that we would remind one another in person to visit our respective pets and personally ask them for items. Like a tita, there were times when we would subtly nudge a friend to check on her pet because the poor thing was already swarmed with flies the last time we checked.
If I had extra moolah, I would even send over a mystery box as a gift—heck, even virtual pets need some ayuda. Rufus would get special treatment, of course. I would occasionally take him on a mystery-box shopping spree—all Expensive Mystery Boxes—till my Pet Society wallet runs dry, then dump all the boxes in a room. It was my cue to sit back and watch Rufus repeatedly show the same look of surprise as he opened one box after another; and me, playing the part of the stage pet parent assessing the goods. I always get this robot. Does this have high resale value? Oh great, another piano.
It got to a point where I joined the Playfish forum to trade items for jukeboxes—one of the most sought-after items in the game. It went for 20,000 coins when it was still sold on the Luxury Shop and with a resale value of 6,666, and if you looked hard enough on the boards, you’d manage to find a great deal. Some users were so high up Paw Points- or XP-wise that they would be happy to help out other pets get the stuff of their dreams in exchange for a reasonable number of Mystery Boxes.
Months went by and the struggles of the real world caught up to me and my college classmates. Playing Pet Society was the least of our priorities. I did try sticking with it for months but it wasn’t just the same with fewer friends actively playing. Fast forward to June 2013, Electronic Arts, which acquired Playfish in 2009, shut the game down, much to the dismay of players globally. You could say it’s the kind of game that got people super emotionally invested that the announcement post on Facebook still gets comments to this day. Even videos on YouTube about Pet Society are peppered with comments about missing their pet and wishing for a comeback.
Once in a while, I’m one of those nostalgic folks. I fondly remember Rufus and wonder what playing Pet Society in 2022 would be like with most of us cooped up in our homes, with better computers and Internet connection. My only regret as a Pet Society pet parent? I wish I took more photos.