For the woman who wants to be in control: Fancy a ‘pet man’?

AFP, The Straits Times, Monday 26 February 2001

A Taiwanese Internet game reduces men to virtual pets, and both men and women find breaking free of traditional gender roles appealing.

TAIPEI—An Internet game which turns men into virtual pets has made 14-month-old ( popular with Taiwanese women looking for fun by toppling traditions.

The game was designed to reverse traditional gender roles in Chinese society by giving women more control and power in their relationships with the opposite sex, said chief executive Harry Shiue.

It allows female players to choose one or more men as their personal pets. They can terminate a relationship any time by killing the pet.

Meanwhile, the adopted men need to strive to win the affection and trust of their masters in order to stay alive and well.

The game is a big hit because it fulfils many women's fantasies by giving them a chance to do things that they are afraid to do in real life, said Mr Shiue.

The Chinese-language portal has drawn some 200,000 members since its debut eight months ago, compared with 30,000 members before the game was launched, and its daily page views have tripled to 700,000.

Members are mostly between 16 and 30 years old, and 40 per cent are men.

Ms Chang Hui-ya, a 29-year-old saleswoman, has two pets on the site. She said the game allowed her to talk and share secrets with other men without making her real boyfriend jealous.

I feel comfortable telling him anything, even things that I normally don't share with my boyfriend,said Ms Chang, referring to one man-petshe has kept for about four months.

It's easier for me to open up to him, knowing he will never find out who I am nor contact me outside of the site unless I want him to, she said.

A growing number of men are also eager to become virtual pets.

Some men simply find it amusing while others enjoy the freedom of expressing their weakness, sensitivity and a need for attention without feeling embarrassed, said Mr Shiue.

One of the site's male members, 30-year-old Chang Fak-wei, said he enjoyed seeking emotional comfort as a pet.

I can whine about my problems to my master and not have to worry about being laughed at, he said.

She has been very generous in offering her sympathy and solace whenever I am in a bad mood. expects to introduce a new version of the game for cell phone users next month and will also add a feature allowing pets to buy real gifts for their masters, such as flowers and cosmetics, Mr Shiue said.