Play this Lovely Game About Petting Pups at a Party

'Pet the Pup at the Party' lovingly distills the sensation of relieving social anxiety by finding a dog.

by Jordan Mallory
Aug 18 2017, 5:00pm

All images courtesy gray2scale

Finding a dog at a party is one of those weirdly universal experiences that people with anxiety disorders share. Even if you're not typically a dog person, the presence of a dog provides solutions to some of the surface-level anxiety triggers involved in social gatherings. No need to worry about what you'll say to strangers—say things to the dog instead! The dog will never judge you for saying the wrong thing, or end up being a weird flat earth truther that corners you all night.

Pet the Pup at the Party drizzles a candy coating on this breed of social anxiety, but not in a way that's dismissive or patronizing. The cartoon people at this low-poly party kinda look like jerks I've avoided at real parties, and the countdown timer is an effective way of transliterating the sort of slow, mounting anxiety that situations like this tend to cause.

Finding (and petting!) a dog extends the timer, which stands in for the momentary relief that animals can provide in tense moments. There are 52 different puppos in Pet the Pup at the Party, which is more than any party I've ever been to, with corresponding stats and facts to be unlocked in the pup gallery as you go.

A couple years ago, my then-girlfriend and I were living in California. We couldn't make it back home to Texas for Thanksgiving, so we drove a couple hours to visit some of her relatives, who she'd spend Thanksgiving with in years prior. I have severe social anxiety and I'd never met this branch of her family, but she assured me they were delightful people.

This was true, of course. Our hosts were lovely and the meal was delicious, but the day was also characterized by the intense, frantic preparations that accompany any large family gathering. There were loud children, probably-uncles yelling at football and a soundtrack of constant, changing background noise that intruded on every conversation. There was also a very sweet, helpful dog.

She was probably 12 or so, I've forgotten by now—I think her name was Cassie. This beautiful old Irish setter stuck to my side for the whole visit, and no matter how stressed I got, she was always there for a pet or a scratch. Pet the Pup at the Party is an extremely loose, jovial abstraction of those moments, where something consistent and reliable can exert calm over chaos and impart relief, if briefly—dogs like being pet. Go pet a dog at a party, it'll make you feel better.

Pet the Pup at the Party is available on itch for however much you'd like to pay for it, in both Mac and PC flavors.