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Every game needs a pet-the-dog mechanic

But that doesn’t mean literally petting the dog

“Can You Pet the Dog?” is one of the most wholesome memes in gaming. Players see a dog in a game, and they want to pet it. Simple!

Nothing has spread the “Can You Pet the Dog?” meme more than the Twitter account of the same name. Tristan Cooper created the account after playing The Division 2, a game that originally had lots of dogs, but no way of petting them.

“You can’t help the dogs,” he said. “They just run away from you. You can shoot them, but you can’t do anything else. And I found that like, pretty disturbing.” So he decided to celebrate games that let you lovingly interact with dogs by highlighting them on Twitter. The account now has over 450,000 followers, and Tristan recently curated a Humble Bundle for games with pettable dogs.

But despite the fan fervor for pettable pups, it’s harder than it looks to get that pooch prompt.

Take Cerberus, the good and pettable dog in Hades. After a grueling fight in the underworld, Zagreus can give one of Cerberus’ three heads a good scratch. Although the affectionate animation is brief, it still took a developer time and energy to complete. With only a single animator at Supergiant Games, that means for Cerberus to be pettable, some other animation doesn’t get made.

“We could, in theory have 10 or however many different Cerberus petting animations,” said Greg Kasavin, creative director at Supergiant Games, “but it would come at the direct expense of other stuff in the game.”

Watch the video above to hear about the technical difficulties — and emotional rewards — of the petting-the-dog mechanic.

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