The Ethics of 'Dream Pets'
Seeing as my name is Dreamer, I figured I knew all there was to know about dreams. I mean, nightmares are bad, dreams are really just an expression of our brains, all of that cool stuff. However, when I accidentally stumbled into the Neopian Pound board (I had been aiming for the Neopian Writers board, I promise) a few years ago, I discovered a new type of dream.
For those of you who don't frequent the Pound board and/or live under a rock out in the middle of nowhere (aka Tyrannia), a 'dream pet' is a Neopet with a certain combination of attributes that a user finds desirable. Basically, it's a pet that you really really want really badly. We've all imagined that cheerful Plushie Aisha, that pet with the name 'Bob', or that epic warrior Lupe with finely honed Battledome stats. Well, now, they have a name for it.
Most people view 'dream pets' as a pet of a certain color/species combination. Some 'dream pets' are more common than others. For example, Faerie Xweetoks, Plushie Kacheeks, and Maraquan Draiks, just to name a few. More people would choose a Faerie Xweetok over, say, a Camouflage Chia. Why? For a number of reasons. Either that pet is aesthetically more appealing, or has more character potential, or just looks better on your user lookup.
But is this practice really ethical?
Take a peek into the Neopian Pound board (commonly referred to as 'the PC') and you'll find all sorts of boards labeled 'dream pet giveaway' or something similar. A 'dream pet giveaway' is when the board operator has a pet that they wish to adopt out to a random user without the typical applicant process. However, their goal is to give a user their 'dream pet', so if a user posts their 'dream pet' and if the pet being given away is of that species/color combination, the user who guessed the combination wins themselves a brand-spanking-new pet! Gosh golly gee!
So, if you visit a 'dream pet giveaway', you'll usually find the same color/species combos being posted again and again. Faerie Xweetok. Royal Peophin. Mutant Acara. Plushie Aisha, any Draik or Krawk, Darigan Kougra. Yeah, you get it.
But what if the pet being given away is a less popular color and species, like (just pulling random examples out of a hat here) a Spotted Mynci or Striped Grarrl? Do those pets not deserve a home just because their color is not as 'desirable'? Are they considered 'worthless'?
To find out, I asked a few PC'ers as to why these pets are considered 'worthless' and received a few shocking answers. For example, one of the users I surveyed, whom we shall call 'Pineapple', claims that if you have a pet that has been zapped a strange color by the lab ray, such as Orange or Snow, the only purpose of that pet is to be traded for a pet you do like. Problem is, nobody else likes that Snow Aisha or Orange Koi! So these pets are not given lookups, characters, or even fresh Faerie food, and are often left to rot on 'side accounts' until further notice.
In summary, these unpopular pets are viewed as basically meaningless unless they can be traded for a dream pet. But whose dream pet are they? Are they just doomed to be unwanted until they are zapped a new color or somebody finally accepts them regardless of appearance?
If you are still unconvinced that the practice of 'dream pets' is not as wonderful as people claim it is, let us look at the other side of the spectrum. What about those highly desirable color/species combos, like the Halloween Uni and Chocolate Draik? Are their lives all fine and dandy just because they are pretty? I interviewed my darling Maraquan Draik, Aelarai (henceforth referred to as Ellie), to delve deeper into this subject. Pun intended.
Dream: Good afternoon, Aelarai. I'm very pleased to have you here today.
Ellie: What are you talking about? This is my room.
Dream: Tell me, how did you become a 'dream pet'?
Ellie: Well, it's all a bit fuzzy, but for the first two and half months of my life, I was endlessly traded. I had been hatched and painted Maraquan with a Faerie Fountain Quest solely for the purpose of being traded for a female Royalboy Draik. From there, I was always swapped, shipped to new owners who always squealed over how jealous everyone would be of their new Maraquan Draik. They said I was a 'dreamie' and would stay forever. But as soon as the month was up, off I went in exchange for a unconverted Mutant Usul or Malevolent Sentient Plushie Poogle. This is the longest I've ever stayed in one place. Two months, actually. About half of my life.
D: That must have been quite scarring, to not know if you'd be waking up the same bed every day for a solid week. How does it feel to have been created solely because others admired your color and would make you 'valuable' (I really need to stop using air quotes)?
E: Meh, you get used to it. Mine is a story just like thousands of other 'dream pets'. When I was a little Draik, I once tried to drink a Green Ogrin Morphing Potion my old owner Raven brought home from restocking, so I wouldn't be valuable 'trading fodder' and I could just be normal. I wanted so badly to be a permanent pet. After the first three cycles I accepted the constant changing of hands. In conclusion, just because you are the dream pet of thousands of people doesn't always guarantee a happy ending. I'm very fortunate to have found mine.
D: *idiotic grin* I'm very glad you feel that way. I'm also glad you agreed to this interview!
Time for my conclusion. I say that having 'dream pets' can be a good thing; after all, it drives you to go after your goals. But try to look past the pretty painted exterior at the shining personality underneath, and accept that just because your Mutant Bruce isn't showered with compliments everywhere you go, doesn't mean that Bruce isn't worthy of love.