With many indie games diving into the world of simulators, it's not strange to see A Shiba Story make its way onto online storefronts. The game is reminiscent of Nintendogs, an unexpected success of the 2000s.
Most gamers who owned a Nintendo DS probably played Nintendogs at some point. This POV game was a big part of the simulation genre, in which players were tasked with taking care of something. Just like the Tamagotchi handheld pets before it, Nintendogs required a watered-down version of the time and effort it takes to care for a real dog, making it a perfect game for kids learning responsibility. But with the hype of Nintendogs now dead, perhaps A Shiba Story will take its place.
The DS classic Nintendogs debuted before casual gaming was so popular. While now, gamers thrive off Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing for casual addictiveness, this specific genre of casual games, simulations, didn't become so popular until the rise of indie games on Steam. Nintendogs was one of the first to be scrutinized as "not a video game" by competitive gamers, but it paved the way for those less attuned to first-person shooters and daunting combat.
But Nintendogs still comes with a version of a risk-reward system, as do all simulators, even if competitive gamers don't think so. The risk derives from the time and effort put into the virtual pet will be enough to train it well, and the reward comes from the feeling of succeeding, maintaining a relationship with the pet, and maybe even entering some competitions with the pooches.
Not every household is able to get a real dog, whether it be due to allergies or financial aspects, and that's important to keep in mind when considering Nintendogs' success, and now, A Shiba Story's. Likewise, there's also a great ethical factor behind these pet simulation games. Oftentimes, parents adopt pets without considering if they will get along with the family, or if the family has enough time to care for the pet. But pet simulation games can help show kids the responsibility behind pets on a scaled-down level.
Nintendogs became popular for the same reason that people started filling their homes with plants or playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons during quarantine. Caring for something, whether that be fostering a living creature or helping a virtual island thrive, is addicting. Nintendogs was one of the first popular simulators for casual gamers, and based on comments on A Shiba Story's trailer, it looks like parents plan to gift the game to their kids, which could not only similarly influence their gameplay habits but could succeed with a younger crowd the same way Minecraft and Animal Crossing are popular with kids.
But perhaps Nintendogs' charm came from its POV perspective. Essentially, the virtual pet looked directly at the player, therefore making it feel like the interactions were real and, maybe, even the pet themselves. Being sentient of the player is exactly why so many people became attached to the characters in Undertale, who speak directly to the one sitting behind the screen, ever aware of their presence. Nintendogs is far less sinister and much more wholesome, but the feeling from an in-game dog knowing of the player's presence while their personality grows is the same.
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