Handheld Games: Can Virtual Pets Make a Difference?

Handheld Games: Can Virtual Pets Make a Difference?

Yueh-Feng Lily Tsai (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and David Kaufman (Simon Fraser University, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-731-2.ch019
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Abstract

Children who care for real pet animals have shown higher levels of empathy and positive attitudes toward the humane treatment of animals. However, only a limited number of studies have examined whether caring for a virtual pet would have similar associations. This study investigated the question of whether a handheld virtual pet videogame can improve children’s empathy and humane attitudes. The results showed that after playing Nintendogs® for three weeks, participants showed higher levels of empathy on the Bryant Empathy Index, and had higher levels of humane attitudes on the Intermediate Attitude Scale, compared to their scores before they played.
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Literature Review

Empathy encompasses a broad range of concepts. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary states that empathy is “the power of identifying oneself mentally with and so fully comprehending a person or object of contemplation” (Barber, 1998). In general, the process of empathy includes the empathizer and the empathized. The empathized often refers to another human being, but it can also refer to other objects such as art (Lipps in Goldstein & Michaels, 1985) and animals (Buber, 1948).

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