I've come to realize that these virtual pet games were my first introduction to the internet. Many of these games fostered creative communities that built forums, fansites, and mods for their favorite games. I'd read Neopets pet profiles with beautiful poetry, explore web-rings full of rainbow cats, and loving memoirs of deceased tamagotchis.
When I was 8 years old, I wanted to make such a website, too.
I've been thinking a lot about virtual pets lately. Growing up, I fancied myself something of a "virtual pet collector"...meaning that I played every virtual pet game I could get my hands on.
But, recently, digital critters have wiggled back into my life again--through a carefully put together archive of resources and a well-spoken Youtube Deep-Dive...and I've been sent down a rabbit hole of caring for imaginary creatures again!
As time went on, these lovingly-crafted websites made with html tables and pixel gifs slowly disappeared, as the presence of a polished and sterile of the Web 2.0 took over...and my memory grew hazy.
I've hunted down some of my old favorite sites...and some new ones, too! Surprisingly, some of these games still have dedicated fan-bases, that have have learned how to make them run on modern computers and are continuing to make new content for them with mods.
But my favorite thing are still the websites that people make. Shrines to their virtual families, downloads of their creations, etc...So here's a garden of links of some of the most memorable virtual pet fansites I've come across in my journeys!
A very old fansite dedicated to virtual pet toys, such as tamagotchi, furby, and the "Aibo" robot dog. This site introduced me to tamagotchi when I was very little! I especially love how the creator weaved their personal life into their site...I like reading their "tamagotchi logs" the most!
A fansite for the "Petz" game series. I absolutely adore the design--the cursor is actually the hand cursor from the games! This person has created some beautiful and creative mods for the games...it left me feeling inspired to learn how to make mods myself.
I actually remember repeatedly visiting this site as a kid! A fansite for the "Creatures" games. I think it's so sweet how this person writes little stories about the day-to-day lives of their norns (the alien-like species you care for in the game).
An archive of a huuuuge collection of mods and tutorials for the Petz games, created by a single person. There is so much info here that it's overwhelming. But there's pages of gift art, awards, and warm notes from friends...I get the impression that this person was very kind and truly loved animals, real or virtual.
If only I could tell my child self, that decades later, she'll still dream of rainbow catz...