Old Friends Dog Game interview: Eternally touching the hearts of players
Spend any amount of time on Facebook and you'll likely have heard of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. The non-profit organization based in Tennessee is exactly what the name implies, a forever foster home for senior dogs. These dogs have captured the hearts of millions over the years, and the sanctuary's motto, "Where love never grows old," rings true time and time again.
Anyone familiar with rescuing animals will know that senior dogs are often looked over in favor of younger puppies. Seniors tend to experience medical issues and disabilities in their older age, leading to higher rates of euthanasia in shelters. That, and some families don't want to adopt a dog that only has a few short years left. But these dogs deserve love and wonderful homes too. They're not worthless just because they're not as young as they used to be.
Developer Runaway Play was so inspired by the sanctuary and its story that it created a game based on Old Friends. I had the chance the interview Runaway Play CEO Zoe Hobson ahead of Old Friends Dog Game's mobile release. If you'd like to support Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary and its mission, we encourage you to donate through its website.
Android Central: What inspired you to develop the Old Friends Dog Game? Does it take any inspiration from Nintendogs?
Zoe Hobson: Old Friends is inspired by the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary as well as our continued focus to develop games that are based on nature. While Nintendogs is a great game and one we've all enjoyed playing, it wasn't a direct inspiration for this game.
The concept for Old Friends originated from Runaway's creative director, Emma Johannson, and narrative director, Lisa Blakie. Emma and Lisa were long-time fans and supporters of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary and frequently bought merchandise to support their fundraisers and followed all their updates on social media. With their lead, we drew inspiration from the amazing people and dog residents at the real-life sanctuary — each of the dogs in the game is based on real dog residents at the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. We feel that the concept of Old Friends is not only a dream game for Runaway but it also fits our vision of bringing to market relaxing nature-inspired games.
What are your hopes for the game after it launches? It's clear you want to build awareness for senior dog adoption. How do you hope this game will help?
Hobson: It's really important to us that this game is a wonderful game in and of itself — a lot of fun for users to play while building their own sanctuary and caring for their dog residents. The most important message we want to share with players is that senior dogs are wonderful companions; that's why we decided to make this game about friendship. Having each of the dogs in the game based on real dog residents of the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary means that players who are getting to know these loveable characters are able to learn more about senior dogs and empathize with them. In fact, getting to know each individual dog is a key element in the game, from their favorite food to the type of toy they prefer playing with.
Additionally, we aim to raise awareness for the sanctuary. This goal of raising awareness has been incorporated into design decisions within the game, marketing planning, and launch planning. Our goal was to create a game where players are able to create real emotional connections not only with the characters and dogs they are looking after but also the real-life sanctuary their playing is helping to support. We have already heard from the sanctuary that those that have played the beta version of the game from the Google Play Store have approached the sanctuary offering to help and have even applied for jobs!
What specific activities will players be able to do? How many hours on average do you think players will spend in it?
Hobson: The Old Friends game gives players the ability to experience what it's like to run a real dog sanctuary. Activities include caring for and building trust with the dog residents, baking treats for them and discovering which are their favorite, decorating the sanctuary and building furniture, cleaning the sanctuary, posting the dog residents on an in-game social media platform, and completing mini-games to unlock new prizes. Additionally, the game is designed with a "pick-a-path" narration style that is based on the real backstories of the real dogs from the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.
The point of the game isn't about how many hours players can clock in, but the regular daily interactions with the dog residents, virtual neighbors, and in-game "Dog Blog." The game is more of a holistic experience rather than having a particular objective to achieve or hours to log. Since this is a fun and highly interactive game, full of many maintenance tasks to ensure the upkeep of your sanctuary and the happiness of the dog residents, players can put in as much or as little time into playing as they wish and still have a very meaningful experience either way.
I know that over the course of development, some dogs have passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Do you have any plans to memorialize these dogs in any way?
Hobson: While we haven't directly made reference to the Rainbow Bridge within the game, some of the dog residents that have influenced the furry characters in the game have sadly crossed the bridge since we started production and chose the core cast. The game is set in a reality where all the dogs are alive and present, and we like to view it as those dogs are able to live eternally in the game and continue to touch the hearts of all that play.
Will you continue to update the game after it launches to include new dogs that have been welcomed to the sanctuary?
Hobson: Updates for the game will continue after the launch, including regular events like our September Bake-Off event. More dogs from the sanctuary will be added as well as exciting new items to win and collect! We have fun updates planned for Halloween and the holiday season.
Will profits for the game benefit the actual sanctuary?
Hobson: Yes. While the most direct way to benefit the Sanctuary is to donate directly to them, we also plan to use some of the profits from the game to sponsor a different dog each month at the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. Sponsoring a dog involves paying all their costs for a full year's care. We have already begun this pre-launch by sponsoring an incredible resident of the sanctuary called Mack, who incidentally is the first dog you meet when you play the game. We have also designed a merchandise range based on the dogs in the game, which will be sold directly by the sanctuary, with all proceeds going straight to them.
If the game becomes popular enough, could you see any potential PC or console ports?
Hobson: While the game is set to be launched on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, we would love to see this game played by as many people as possible and for more to learn about the joys of caring for senior dogs as well as the amazing work they do at the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary. Porting the game to PC or gaming consoles is something we have discussed internally and are actively considering doing in the future.
Is there anything you want to say to people who are considering adopting a senior dog?
Hobson: Senior dogs still have a lot of love to give and are unfortunately often forgotten. We hope through our game and the partnership with the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary, we can bring awareness to the joys and rewarding feelings that come with building a connection and caring for an older dog.
Where love never grows old
Ever since this game was announced, I knew I'd rank it among the best Android games. Anyone who knows me knows I'm a dog lover, and I'm extremely thankful to Runaway Play for giving me the opportunity to interview the team and hopefully raise awareness surrounding senior dog adoption.
*Old Friends Dog Game releases on Android and iOS on Aug. 12, 2021. *
Where love never grows old
Senior dogs deserve love too, and Old Friends Dog Game lets you build up a sanctuary to take care of them, forever cementing the dogs they're based on in your heart. Profits will be used to sponsor a dog at the real-life sanctuary in Tennessee.
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Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.