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Virtual Pet Shelter KickStarter Project gets plugged pulled, soldiers on (updated from orig post).

March 19, 2012

I read this post over at Technabob last week and felt that it was a fun, clever idea that needed to be written about once I got through some other work.  puppyrainbow aka Brooklyn based artist / librarian Kacper Jarecki Started a Kickstarter project to give homes to all the wayward virtual pets in the world called the Virtual Pet Shelter.

It’s purpose was to create a program where adopters could essentially become foster parents for a rotating group of discarded virtual pet toys.  Tamagotchis, digimon, gigapets etc., and save them from being discarded into landfills.   According to the description on the kickstarter page:

“Although they are “digital,” in a way Virtual Pets are alive! And if they are alive, that means that they have a right to be safe! So that’s why I decided to make up the Virtual Pet Shelter — so that I can help these virtual beings become happy!

Virtual Pets eat, play, die, and some of the newer ones even have babies and can start a Virtual Family. Sure, these Virtual Pets must live their whole life inside a device, but yet, this is their life, and their life should be happy!

The goal of the Virtual Pet Shelter is to save Virtual Pets and to find them a happy home. The Virtual Pet Shelter will fix up old Virtual Pets and replace their batteries, or even just take them out of the box so that they may live! I want to acquire many different Virtual Pets from E-bay and other other places so that I can make them alive again!”

Upon finding out about the project, I was eager to help fund it and help get the shelter, and the Foster Parent Program underway.   Once I was paid from my research job last week, I went back on the site yesterday to help out all those wayward virtual pets, only to discover that funding had been removed for this project 3 days ago.  Now I do not know if this means that Kickstarter itself removed the project from being funded or if is was Kacper himself.  Either way it’s a bit sad to see such a poppy/ cheeky and fun project slip away.   I suppose that is the reality of crowd funding.

***just an update. i emailed Kacper to ask him what had happened and he said that Kickstarter pulled the plug on the project because they determined he wasn’t doing anything new, just fixing up something that existed already.  Clearly they did not understand the project.    Also while I do believe that Kickstarter does have a need for some kind of oversight…. i think it’s wrong for them to the pull the plugs on projects.  If people choose not to fund something, fine, but this, this ends up being a form of censorship.

***update number 2!  Kacper is not letting the lack of crowdfunding get in the way of his project!  here’s a webpage he’s got up right now!

This project reminds of something very similar I had done as a child.   When I was about 11 or so, my parents bought a new refrigerator.  Said fridge came in a very large cardboard box, one which I immediately took and began building into a small building.   This tiny architectural model had a door large enough for me to enter/ exit, several windows and a sign set above the door that said ‘Skot’s Animal Shelter”.   Why at that time I had decided that all of my stuffed animals were orphans that needed a place to live, I cannot say, but it is illustrative of why I felt a special resonance with the Virtual Pet Shelter as a project.

I was never into the whole virtual pet phenomenon (because I was already 21 when the Tamagotchi was released in North America) but they always fascinated me.  When I was younger, I imagined myself feeding my stuffed animals and interacted with them in similar ways, but virtual pets introduced an element of automation and autonomy into children’s interactions with their imaginary pets.   Somewhere in here is a paper on the subject (or perhaps it’s already been written, time to look around).

Finally though, I will say that I hope that this project sees a resurgence, though perhaps not in the mail order/ distribution/ trade capacity that Kacper envisioned originally.   I could see this as a gallery installation, creating an adoption agency much like Xavier Roberts had when his Cabbage Patch Kids first hit the market in the 1980s.    Each virtual pet could easily be hung on gallery walls for patrons to explore and interact with in the same way that people go to the Humane Society to adopt real animals.    A show like this would speak to the virtual lives we project onto our objects and devices, and their role as a consumer device in the mass toy / entertainment market.    Kacper if you’re reading this, we need to talk! :)

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