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The impact of owner age on companionship with virtual pets

By Shaun W. Lawson and Thomas Chesney

Abstract

This paper focuses on issues of interaction with a particular type of mobile information system – virtual pets. It examines the impact of owner age on companionship with virtual pets, and tests the hypothesis that younger virtual pet owners will experience closer companionship with their virtual pet than older owners. This is in response to the marketing stance adopted by virtual pet manufacturers who clearly target younger people as the main consumers of their products. The hypothesis was tested using survey data and companionship was measured using the Comfort from Companion Animals Scale. Support was found for the hypothesis at all definitions of young: there is a highly significant difference between the companionship offered by a virtual pet to young people than that offered to older people. Although this finding generally indicates that virtual pets offer more, in terms of emotional-engagement, to younger people than older people we suggest that much more research in this area is needed in order to better understand the phenomenal commercial success of virtual pets. In addition, there is an abundance of literature examining the benefits of owning real pets. It is possible that a virtual pet might be able to deliver some of these, and given our result, it is likely that virtual pets will be more likely to bring these benefits to young people rather than to old peopl

Topics: G440 Human-computer Interaction
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lincoln.ac.uk:1211

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