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Since the dawn of time a man’s best friend has been his dog. From heroic guardians of the home to supervisors of the blind, western society has given many vital roles to our canine friends, resulting in a universal love for the furry creatures. Recently however, it would appear that it’s not only the real world where dogs are playing such an integral part. In the virtual world, two of the biggest titles yet to hit the gaming community have both announced the inclusion of dogs as characters in their respective games. Named Riley and Chop, the latter will be a customisable pet in Grand Theft Auto V, whilst the former will appear as your protagonist’s playable sidekick in Call Of Duty: Ghosts. With two generation defining titles, one seeing out the old and the other bringing in the new, giving our four-legged buddies some time in the spotlight, two questions remain: are dogs the new video game trend and is it staying and coming with us into the next generation of consoles? Let’s look at the evidence.
First of all, dogs in video games aren’t exactly a new concept, even if it does appear to be an ever-growing one. Over the years there have been a number of doggy appearances in the gaming world, some more notable than others. Dating back nearly 30 years ago, one of the first arrivals in video games for our canine brethren’s was in the SNES game Duck Hunt. Released in the 80’s, Dunk Hunt’s ‘Laughing Dog’ was a cocky little bugger that many of you undoubtedly wanted to kill but there’s no denying his annoying presence as one of the first dogs in the virtual world. Fast forward a few more years into the 90s and we saw even more noteworthy dog appearances in video games including the ever-popular Mega Man sidekick Rush, who first appeared in the hit MM game, Mega Man 3, Sam, the anthropomorphic police detective from the 1993 title Sam and Max Hit The Road, and of course the lovable rapping dog, Parappa The Rapper.
It wasn’t until the 2000’s however that the dog trend seemed to hit its peak. From simulated hounds such as Angelo and Interceptor in the Final Fantasy series and your personal friend in Fable 2, developers gave us a whole host of doggy sidekicks to protect, utilize and launch into mid-air. Some were ferocious sidekicks (Shadow from Dead To Rights), some were brief encounters (Dog Meat from Fallout 3) and some of were lead characters that destroyed more pottery than Voldermort (Amaterasu, who is technically a wolf yes but stop being so pedantic, from Okami) but their existence cannot be refuted. By the very end of the 2000’s and into the beginning of the twenty-tens though, the fad seemed to wear off as developers turned their attentions to other avenues. That was until this year where the dog trend appears to be back with a big-title hitting vengeance.
Regarding our first question then the answer is technically no, this isn’t really a new craze or gimmick or whatever you want to call it as dogs have appeared in video games since the 80s, albeit rather sporadically. Whether or not it is here to stay this time is a tougher question to answer. Most likely this subject will be easier to contemplate once COD: Ghosts and Grand Theft Auto V are released as developers may look to these titles to see if the inclusion of dogs works in the current climate and if it does, then perhaps dogs will be used as a staple character in the next gaming generation. Only time though can tell us whether or not this seemingly ever-increasing dog trend will take hold and become an core video game inclusion but with the above big-guns adding some serious fuel to the newly ignited fire, it does seem like a real possibility, especially if the public responds well to the doggy additions within these future, let’s face it, heavily purchased games. Whatever happens though, Naughty Dog please doesn’t include dogs in your future titles; our heartstrings can’t take much more tugging.