Mike Joffe’s Pet Loris Simulator is at its core an educational game. Such things were products sold to schools heavily in my childhood, things like Number Munchers or Oregon Trail were meant to be fun but also to teach you a lesson. Such is the way of Pet Loris Simulator, a twine game that resembles a virtual pet game like Nintendogsor the like. In it, you receive a pet loris after seeing it being cute in innumerable youtube videos. What happens next is up to you.
Pet Loris Simulator is a very small game that drives its message home with every passage: Lorises are endangered wild animals, and shouldn’t be kept as pets. It’s a game that should come with an animal cruelty warning, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from playing it, as its depictions of systemic violence from poaching and illegal animal trade and the ignorance of owners half a world away is profound in its curt reality check. No matter what you do, you cannot keep your loris alive, because you’ve already made the wrong choice of owning a loris as the premise of the game.
That’s what I think is really interesting about the game: the removal of a win state is indicative of the harm being done by anyone who goes down this path in real life, and thus not only is Pet Loris Simulator educational (I didn’t know anything about a Loris’ poisonous bite, for example), but it equates that education with activism in a way that I think is extremely important. To know is to understand. To understand is to act rightly. Education is what can put an end to cruelty, Pet Loris Simulator argues, and it is certainly a good first step. As far as games-as-activism goes, it is a stand out piece that shows by examples in as fun a way as illegal primate ownership could possibly be.