Why millennials are seeking comfort in petting virtual dogs

Is there any fresher hell than spotting an excellent dog in a game only to discover that said dog is unpettable? It feels like a betrayal when you can only hover over your distant, furry friend. But the love of a good canine is a form of bonding that millennials and Gen Z are finding themselves increasingly starved of. That’s why Can You Pet the Dog? should be the first account you hit up every time you unbox a new game. And even though it sounds like just a shallow way to bond with virtual animals, it’s actually about much more than that.

Can You Pet the Dog? is the Twitter page that brings life to the increasingly dour platform. It’s already got over 273,000 followers despite only joining Twitter in March 2019. And it might not answer all the questions you have about dogs, but it answers the most critical one plainly stated in its title. The page offers a succinct tweet with usually a GIF to support the case on whether or not you can pet the dog. If you have ever fallen down the rabbit hole of researching every possible dog-related cheat for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, then this discovery will surely be a blissful relief to you too.

Why do we want to pet the dog?

Why millennials are seeking comfort in virtual animals can you pet the dog

It might strike the casual observer as slightly strange, but it’s an epidemic that developers are become even more savvy to, even adding in-game animal petting action as an incentive to people funding their games. But it may stem from differing life patterns that call for a different form of companionship. Marriage is happening later in life for millennials, and as a result, we are seeking bonds in our little furry friends.

With parenthood delayed as well as later marriage and property ownership, we turn to the good boys (and girls) in our lives for uncomplicated love and affection which this generation could use more of. The millennial generation is used to living hand to mouth, and our diminished prospects of home ownership is hardly an easy pill to swallow. A dog is a comparatively easier pill to swallow that you ironically don’t have to slip into some mozzarella cheese first. And even though dogs are a huge responsibility, they’re easier to handle than the commitment of a child or the increasingly outdated ritual of marriage.

With dogs featuring more frequently as player rewards or incentives, it seems that the upward trajectory of interactive dogs in games will continue. Cats may even start popping up more, even if they still aren’t as big among millennials as dogs. A menagerie in your pocket of any kind is hard to resist. But that reflects our times of wanting a sort of unconditional love that animals provide.

Gaming has always offered escapism and the chance to indulge your fantasy so is it so strange that fantasy can take as pedestrian a form as the friendship of an electronic good boy? Many tenancy agreements in rented apartments don’t allow dogs leaving plenty of us languishing dog-less into our late 20s and 30s. Millennials are a digital generation, anyway. It’s no surprise that we turn to tech to fulfill our pet-needs, too since we use tech to find food, make connections, solve problems, and find love.

Digital bonding that goes beyond dogs

Why millennials are seeking comfort in virtual animals

And that love is getting increasingly digital. The use of online dating apps among millennials has tripled since 2013, showing that bonds in that age group are increasingly digital across the board. We’re becoming more secluded but we still crave intimacy, which is Tinder in a nutshell. Albeit a different form of intimacy, dogs are the easy button for love because their love is never false or questioned. Online dating takes risks and is full of questions.

These two subjects collided on one of my last dates where my companion woofed audibly at all passing dogs. There was a crazed look in his eyes that I knew only too well. “I just really, really love dogs,” he said, sheepishly. But I understood. Online dating is a big charade of having to work to find a partner where dogs are not that complicated. Dogs let you be yourself whereas early dates from online dating apps don’t always allow for such freedom.

Being able to pet video games dogs is like Tinder in a sense since both are digital shortcuts for connections. We don’t have to leave our seats to get a tickle of endorphins; endorphins that used to solely be facilitated through real-world interactions. And as millennials get married later and have fewer in-person connections, these dogs that are full of ones and zeroes become all the more important, especially when you can interact with them. Because be it fur or a bunch of lines of code, they’re still good dogs, Brent.