What happens when your virtual pets die?


GHOSTZ recalls the virtual pet craze of the 1990s: simple digital beings in your care, marching obliquely against unchanging backdrops, whimsical of mood and utterly dependent on your actions. Death was often a part of the virtual pet experience, although according to a (real or imagined?) P.F. Magic info sheet from 1997 cited in the beginning of the game, very few players actively wanted to face the possibility.

GHOSTZ imagines a virtual pet experience about caring for a ghost. This can include offering it a bone from its former form ("DISRESPECTFUL") or punishing it with holy water. The little Twine-based game is driven by actual statistics, although these are hidden from the player, mirroring the emotionally-nuanced nature of our relationships with living things both virtual and real.

It's a simple game made by Dixon Grimdixie for Porpentine's virtual pet-themed PetJam, but what I like about it is the way it's nested in the creator's own warm personal reflections on the era of digital pets and how robust and full of possibility they felt.

Play GHOSTZ for free in your browser here.