A “breedist dogmagogue” has taken over the dog park and convinced its residents that the only way to a happy society is breed homogeny.
That’s the (extremely satirical) premise of Dogness, developed by Paolo Pedercini. It’s is a game about making your dog park the most pure, “perfect” park it can be, by expelling everything that doesn’t fit one ideal of dog.
Each dog that enters the park is slightly different, and has a different percentage attached to it, gauging how closely it matches the perfect dog-ideal. Drop one dog on top of another to make them mate and pop out a new dog. Since your goal is to create a pen full of the same-looking dog, the closer you get to the “perfect” 100 percent pure dog, the weirder things become. If the pairs you mate are too similar, you’ll end up with a pen full of glitchy inbred pups.
To get closer to 100 percent, you can fling undesirable dogs over the park wall—probably the most enjoyable part of the game, for me. They fly really far!
Even Pedercini admits that a 100 percent perfect dog park might not be possible. “Although it's possible to achieve some good dogness score (I can usually achieve around 70 percent) it's ultimately a pointless exercise that involves an arbitrary abuse of power and likely to produce a good amount of stunted inbred dogs.”
This week, Pedercini says he’s launching Dogness along with another dog-based game, a city-building board game that you can play on an actual dog at a party. Both games are released for a canine-themes show at Likelike, a Pittsburgh DIY game space he runs.
Pedercini told me in an email that in Dogness, he was looking into the work of Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and inventor of eugenics. He noticed that around the same time as Galton was establishing his dangerous, racist theories, Kennel Clubs and an obsession with purebred dogs became fashionable. Eugenics and dog breeding share the same language and misconceptions, Pedercini noted—the term “mongrel” was applied to both dogs and humans, and in the golden age of eugenics in America, there were “fitter family” contests similar to dog shows.
“So yes, it's a silly game with brightly colored dogs jumping around,” he said, “but I was going for something a bit more complex and open than an allegory with a ‘message.’”