A big part of the problem is the sound design. We’re spending time immersed in state of the art worlds and in a lot of ways, they’ve frankly gone too far. I don’t need to know the size of my horse’s testicles. I don’t need to see a goat sh*tting on the hillside. And I don’t need dogs to make an “I’m badly hurt” noise when they get hit with my broadsword. While developers may include a scream or blood soaked gurgle when you end a human NPC’s life, the pitiable yelp that you can mistake for your pet getting hurt is simply too visceral.
Some of modern gaming is embracing animal friends in new and exciting ways, there’s a whole Twitter account “Can You Pet The Dog?” dedicated to sussing out in which games you can scritch man’s best friend. There are wholesome games like Animal Crossing with no combat at all that let you befriend and even give cool t-shirts to animal pals. More of this, less of a wolf’s dying gasps as it writhes on the ground with one HP left waiting for you to deal the final blow.
Far Cry 6 has a slew of awesome and wacky animal companions that fight alongside you in your quest to free your homeland. Two of those are good boy pups and I couldn’t use either of them the whole game. In battles they’d get hit with bullets and yelp and make sad puppy noises. It was, as they say, a Major Bummer. So instead of getting to play around with their unique abilities and battle styles, I got stuck with a rock and roll chicken side kick. (Which I’ll admit, was also very cool.)