I rescued dozens, possibly hundreds, of pets from certain death the other night.
But before you call me a hero, or saint, you should know I only did it on Facebook, and only in a video game.
Pet Rescue Saga is the popular new puzzle game, downloaded more than 150 million times and playable on Facebook and through apps. It’s free, at first, but then, like a drug dealer who has handed out samples to get new clients hooked, it starts charging you to play more, or play more effectively, or to reach greater highs.
The game comes from King.com, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, which is similar and reportedly equally addictive.
When invitations to play Pet Rescue Saga first started showing up on my Facebook page, I wrongly assumed — given most of my Facebook friends are die-hard, do-gooding animal lovers — that it was a game that somehow was related to, or benefited, animal welfare causes.
It’s not, and it doesn’t.
There might be some unintentional similarities to the real world of animal rescue, such as walls being put up in front of you, and things piling up faster than you can handle them. But “Pet Rescue Saga” isn’t about rescuing pets in the animal welfare sense of the word. It’s mainly about busting blocks, and then more blocks, and then more blocks, by clicking on them to ensure that the “adorable” little pets atop them don’t get squished.
Given video games have a reputation for catering to our basest instincts — chopping off heads, running people over in cars and the like – I had hopes, especially when Facebook friends kept inviting me to play, that this one might actually be about a noble pursuit, or might even be educational.
No such luck. What it teaches us about pet rescue is that we can save animals by matching two or more blocks of the same color.
Still, I ended up spending an hour playing it on Facebook, which annoyingly notified me to “share” every time I passed some friend’s record, before it got to the point where further play would require an investment of money. (That — having to fork up some money — generally prevents and/or cures any addictions to which I might fall victim.)
There are hundreds of levels of the game, and the higher you go (or the more you spend) the more tools you get to “save pets” – like sizzling rockets, hammers and exploding bombs.
In playing it, one becomes so focused on the blocks that he forgets about the animals. The endangered animals really seem a well-contrived afterthought, as if the gamemakers thought putting pets in need of rescue atop the stacks of blocks — as opposed to pots of gold or damsels in distress – might give it some relevance, or, pet rescue being a popular cause, add to its popularity.
“Wait! Don’t forget about the animals! ” says a review of the game on gamezebo.com. “Some levels of Pet Rescue Saga have dogs, pigs, and pigeons trapped on stacks of blocks, or wedged in columns. When you successfully clear away blocks, said animals drop safely to the ground. However, since many levels of Pet Rescue Saga scroll vertically, the animals on tall columns are in constant danger of getting squished on the top of the screen. Nothing ruins your day like the anguished squeal of a piglet.”
Squishing aside, it’s nice to see a game that’s seemingly about rescuing and saving, as opposed to killing and maiming.
It would be much nicer to see a game that was really about rescuing and saving animals, or that really taught compassion, or at least tried to.
I’m not necessarily saying the makers and marketers of the game are trying to capitalize on tender-hearted pet lovers, or that they mislead people to think the game might have some legitimate connection to the actual world of animal rescue.
But, after playing the game, I did start receiving emails from the gamemaker — far too many emails — with subject lines like: “Pets in danger. Help them now!” Clicking on the link in the email took me directly to the game’s Facebook app.
I don’t keep up much anymore with the latest developments in video games. So I don’t know if phony altruism is the latest video game trend: Bust up the blocks and find a cure for cancer. Bust up the blocks to feed the starving children.
Maybe there are some truly altruistic video games out there. The Game Show Network came close to that last month when it introduced Pet Pals Slots, a limited-edition game on Facebook. It earmarked a portion of money made from gameplay in November — up to $30,000 — to go to Best Friends Animal Society, providing food, medical care and shelter for animals at the organization’s Utah sanctuary. In other words, while playing a mostly mindless game, those who played Pet Pals Slots, at least in a way, were saving pets.
Video games, with exceptions, are rarely educational, and I don’t really expect them to serve as our moral compass. (More often they seem aimed at sending that compass haywire.)
And of course they’re not obligated to share the wealth they make with any deserving causes they borrow their themes from.
But how cool would it be to see — in addition to less squishing — more of that?
Posted by John Woestendiek January 9th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rescue, animal welfare, animals, app, blocks, bombs, candy crush, cause, contributions, crushed, dogs, donations, exploit, exploiting, facebook, game, games, hammers, king, levels, mission, money, pet, pet rescue, pet rescue saga, pets, philanthropy, pigs, profits, reality, rescue, rockets, share, video
Ex-Boyfriend, the Baltimore-based apparel and accessory company that regularly donates 5 percent of its profits to area animal welfare groups, is hoping to pour more money into the cause in the month ahead.
Until April 17, the company will be donating 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of its line of keychain/bottle openers to local shelters and rescue organizations.
Ex-Boyfriend established the Sadie Fund after the death of company owner Matt Snow’s cat in 2008, donating 5 percent of net profits to animal advocacy groups.
In honor of April being Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, Snow says, the company will donate 100% of the profits generated by the sale of its new keychain bottle openers. The openers feature a selection of our designs, cost $6.50 and will be shipped for free through April 17th.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accessories, animal welfare, apparel, baltimore, chow guevera, cute critters, dj kitty, ex-boyfriend, fuzz aldrin, groucho barks, keychain bottle openers, matt snow, neil arfstrong, news, pirate kitty, profits, rescue, sadie fund, shelters
The leaders of New Jersey dogfighting rings could be charged under the same anti-racketeering laws used to prosecute mobsters and face sentences of up to 20 years under a bill proposed by two state senators.
Under the bill, organizers of dogfighting networks could be prosecuted under the state’s anti-racketeering (RICO) statute, and profits or property gained from dogfighting could be seized, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Oregon, Utah and Virginia have similar laws. If the legislation pases, New Jersey would be the fourth state in the country to use RICO statutes, commonly used in organized crime cases, to prosecute dogfighters.
“You can judge a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable,” said Sen. Jeff Van Drew, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. “Those that abuse animals in this way, in this severe way, are often individuals that go on to commit heinous acts against adults and children.”
Under current New Jersey law, dogfighting carries a penalty of three to five years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
While penalties would remain the same for people who own or train fighting dogs, or host dog fights, those who finance and organize them would face five to 10 years in prison, or even twice that if the organizer was convicted of a violent offense or gun crime in connection with dogfighting.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anti-racketeering, bill, dog fighters, dog fighting, dogfighters, dogfighting, dogs, jeff van drew, law, legislation, new jersey, organized crime, pets, profits, property, proposed, rico, seize, seizure
Sometimes the news media is just soooo cynical.
Case in point: Pfizer, the drug company, is extolling the benefits of taking the family dog along when traveling for the holidays. The holidays are stressful times, Pfizer notes. Dogs can help relieve stress. Why leave a beloved member of the family behind?
In an email worthy of Hallmark that was sent to various news media outlets, Pfizer makes note as well of the “tough economic times” and how “the unconditional love from your dog can go a long way toward helping your family manage that extra stress.”
How thoughtful. Imagine, a multi-national corporate giant like that being so full of holiday spirit that they are thinking about us little people/dog owners when they could be obsessing, Scrooge-like, about profits.
Pfizer even launched a Twitter feed called “Dog On Board” to “help families talk about including their dog in their family holiday.”
Leave it to the Wall Street Journal, in the newspaper’s ”Health Blog,” to suggest Pfizer might have an ulterior motive when it suggests you pack your dog along in the car or airplane when you make your holiday trip.
Pfizer sells Cerenia, a drug that prevents motion sickness and vomiting in dogs.
But is that so terrible? So what if Pfizer stands to profit more if more dogs are going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, preferably by winding roads?
Lest that make you — like all the cynical news media and bloggers — question Pfizer’s sincerity and compassion, allow me to remind you that Pfizer is the same company that offered this summer to give away more than 70 of its most widely prescribed human drugs, including Lipitor, Zoloft and Viagra, for up to a year to people who have lost jobs since Jan. 1 and have been taking the drug for three months or more.
Of course, there were cynics when they did that, too — those who speculated the company was doing it for a tax write-off, to gain favor in Washington, or to ensure that those who are hooked on Pfizer’s fine products, maintain their, shall we say, allegiance.
While the news media and bloggers are having a field day with what they see as Pfizer’s awkwardly see-through attempt to drum up business, I, for one, salute the drug company – not just for bringing relief to the estimated one in seven dogs who get carsick, and not just for ensuring that an unemployed man can get, if not a job or health care, at least a boner, but for being able to fool so many of the people so much of the time.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advertising, animals, campaign, carsick, carsickness, cerenia, companies, company, dog on board, dogs, drug, drugs, holidays, humor, marketing, motion sickness, pets, pfizer, profits, public relations, satire, stress, thanksgiving, travel, twitter, vacation, viagra, vomiting
In February, for instance, the state negotiated a settlement with a Verona breeder who didn’t meet state standards. She was instructed to close her kennel. The state then arranged for her dogs to be sold by Southwest Auction Service in Wheaton. All the proceeds, minus state licensing fees, went to the kennel owner.
The state claims that since January, it has transferred more than 1,300 abused and neglected dogs from unlicensed breeders to shelters such as the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis. But other dogs are sold at auction to other breeders — a practice critics say is unhealthy and allows bad breeders to profit from the sale of their own confiscated or surrendered dogs.
Missouri Agriculture Director Jon Hagler said the policy is under review, according to an Associated Press article.
Missouri, which has come under fire for being the “puppy mill” capital of America, recently initiated Operation Bark Alert, allowing people to report unlicensed breeders directly to Hagler by e-mail. So far, he has received 100 reports of suspicious breeders that include licensed facilities, he said.
(Photo: Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 11th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal welfare, animals, auction, auctioned, auctions, breeders, confiscated, dog, dogs, humane society, missouri, neglect, operation bark alert, pets, policy, profits, puppy mills, rescue, review, sales, seized, selling, shelters, sold, surrendered
The maker of the Michael Vick chew toy for dogs — or one of them, anyway — has been sued by the state attorney general’s office, which alleges the company claimed animal charities would benefit from the toy’s sale, but never donated a cent.
Attorney General Bill McCollum filed a lawsuit alleging toy seller Jaime Salcedo and his Jacksonville, Florida, company, Showbiz Promotions LLC, misled consumers with claims that proceeds from the dog toys would go to animal shelters
The company also produced a doll modeled after Caylee Anthony, a 2-year-old Florida girl whose mother is awaiting trial on charges of murdering her and hiding her body in the woods. The company said profits from the sale of the dolls would benefit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
McCollum said the company donated only $10 to the children’s group and none to animal shelters, according to a Reuters report.
“Any company that intentionally misleads innocent consumers to believe they are contributing to worthy charitable causes is absolutely reprehensible,” McCollum said in a news release. “It is disgusting that a company would exploit a tragic situation for personal gain.”
He said the state began investigating the Internet sales company last year after receiving more than 200 complaints about the dog chew toys.
Showbiz Promotions suspended sales of the Caylee doll in January because of public outrage.
When I last wrote about the toy, two companies were making them — the guys who came up with the idea had split up and gone their separate, but similar ways. Darren Usher was producing what he called The Official Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy, while Salcedo operated Vickdogchewtoy.com.
Here’s the ad still running on the latter website:
Posted by John Woestendiek April 10th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal, attorney general, causes, caylee anthony, chew toy, deception, dog, florida, jaime salcedo, lawsuit, michael vick, proceeds, profits, showbiz promotions, toy
The New York Daily News reports that jailed dog-fighter Michael Vick is looking for a book deal.
According to the newspaper, the former Atlanta Falcons star has a literary agent, Scott Waxman, founder of the Waxman Literary Agency, who is shopping a proposal for a Vick memoir.
Waxman didn’t return the newspaper’s calls, but the article raises the possibility that Vick could use the book as an opportunity to “demonstrate sufficient remorse” for his actions, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said would be required before allowing Vick to return to professional football would even be considered.
Too, if it were to sell well, a book could help Vick, who is now in bankruptcy proceedings, crawl out of the financial hole his conviction left him in .
The Daily News article says that, since his victims were dogs, it is ”unlikely” that Vick’s book would be subject to the “Son of Sam Law” — though I don’t see why not. The law, designed to keep criminals from profiting from their crimes through book deals, authorizes the state to seize profits and use it to compensate the criminal’s victims. Seizing any profits from a Vick book, and passing them along to animal welfare organizations, strikes me as a perfect exercise of the law.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 29th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: book, book deal, daily news, dogfighting, law, literary agency, michael vick, profits, publisher, publishing, son of sam, vick, victims, waxman
As the Berlin Zoo continued to make money off of Knut (pronounced kuh-NOOT), another zoo decided this year it deserved a piece of the action.
Tierpark Neumuenster animal park filed a lawsuit against the Berlin Zoo, saying that, in exchange for loaning Knut’s father, Lars, to the Berlin Zoo for breeding purposes, it deserved some of the profits the Berlin Zoo was raking in. Originally, the Berlin Zoo had promised the first surviving cub to them, the Neumuenster zoo claimed in the lawsuit.
While it wasn’t seeking Knut, the Neumuenster zoo argued it was entitled to some of the revenue. The lawsuit was later dropped and an out-of-court settlement reportedly reached.
By the time of this news report, Knut wasn’t so little anymore. He was up to 243 pounds — no longer exactly cuddly, but still drawing visitors.
A couple of months after it, Knut’s caretaker, Thomas Doerflein, who had bottle fed Knut as a cub and slept beside him at night, died, at 44, of a heart attack.
In effect, he was Knut’s daddy. Between his death, and the money-grubbing, Knut’s story was getting a little less heartwarming, but Knut himself remained fat, happy and secure in his home at the zoo.
Well, at least fat and happy.
We start with a happy song, for it was, mostly, a happy time — the Berlin Zoo had seen the birth of its first polar bear to survive infancy in 30 years.
Even though the cub was rejected by its mother, and had to be rescued with a fish net, and kept in an incubator for 44 days, and nursed through infancy by a loving human caretaker around the clock, Germany, and the world, thrilled to the sight of Knut. He was white and fluffy and cute. And little.
Some experts said it was a mistake to go to all the trouble — that zookeepers should let him die. But humans rallied in his support. A group of children protested at the zoo, holding up placards reading “Knut Must Live” and “We Love Knut.” The zoo was bombarded with emails, asking for the cub’s life to be spared.
The zoo took heed, and vowed to never harm Knut.
Born in late 2006, Knut was introduced to the world in March, 2007, at which time the Berlin Zoo — noting his public appeal — registered Knut as a trademark.
As Knut’s popularity soared, so did the zoo’s stock — and its attendance figures.
Other companies profited from Knut as well, by developing themed products — from ringtones to cuddly toys.
A toy company called Steiff produced several Knut-based plush toys, promising the money raised from the sale would be used to renovate the polar bear enclosure at the zoo. A candy company released “Cuddly Knut,” a raspberry-flavored gummy bear and pledged to donate a percentage of proceeds to the zoo as well.
There were happy songs written about Newt, like the one you’re hearing now, and Knut has also been the subject of books and movies. He appeared in March 2007 on the cover of the German Vanity Fair magazine, and lent his name to environmental causes, such as stopping global warming, which is threatening to send polar bears into extinction.
For cute little Knut, everything appeared headed to happily ever after.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 1st, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: attendance, berlin zoo, birth, cute, germany, infancy, knut, little, polar bear, popularity, products, profits, zoos