Sunday, May 4, 2008

Howrse as a Reflection on Real Horse Breeders

So I've been playing as "edaselro" on this free (kind of) web browser game called Howrse for a little while. Despite the fact that it is a truly terrible game with little to no effort put into making it, you know, good, I keep playing it because it's such an interesting psychological study into the minds of would-be horse breeders. First, a little background on this game and how it runs. You begin with a lump of money and your very own horse or pony to train, take care of, compete with, and, eventually, breed. Of course, you can't really compete in this game unless you spend an exorbitant amount of real money to buy "passes" that in turn buy special items that give huge boosts to your horse's stats. As there are a very large number of children on this site with their parents' credit card numbers, and, inexcusably, a number of adults with nothing better to spend thousands of dollars on than a poorly-made browser game, this site makes a killing with very little effort. That so very many users are this dumb is perhaps indicative of the kind of person who is drawn to horse breeding in real life, but I digress.

The game also has certain interesting features like rare, hard to breed unicorns and a "Safe Haven" which will pay YOU to take away horses you don't want anymore. Forever. So with a functional slaughterhouse in place, I think we have all the dynamics necessary for a simulation of the real-world amateur horse breeding operations which are, sadly, so abundant.

The unicorns provide the most interesting study, I think. You have to breed two unicorn parents and exactly the right time in the game for a 1 in 6 chance of getting a unicorn baby. This is rather similar to people breeding for color in real life, although breeding a color isn't quite so difficult (although perhaps it seems that way if you don't know anything about genetics). The result? In real life, lots of horses will come out that aren't the color you're after, and because you are breeding for color without any regard to conformation, skill, soundness, or anything else that's actually important, you have a bunch of worthless horses that, far more often than not, end up in a slaughterhouse. And in the game? Its auctions are flooded with "no horn" unicorns that are basically useless, as there's no such thing as a "recessive horn" in this game. They are all labelled, "PLEASE BUY! This or Safe Haven!!! :(" and they have no skills to speak of. You would think in the confines of a video game, where you are playing with lots and lots of fake money and time is sped up dramatically, you'd eventually figure out that this wasn't working, and maybe you should at least be breeding GOOD unicorn parents together and be making a profit on the babies no matter how they came out. The problem is, just like in real life, people want a novelty and will pay for it, even if it sucks in all other regards. It turns out to be very profitable to breed trash in hopes of getting that useless horn (or color).

And then there's the Safe Haven. There are many users in this game who will flame you to kingdom come if you even suggest that the Safe Haven is a slaughterhouse. Their conscience won't allow for it, even for a horse made of ones and zeros. You would think that this would carry over into real life, when real lives were at stake, and yet thousands end up in the slaughterhouse every year. What gives? I think it's a combination of the fact that selling a horse for slaughter (like sending it to the Safe Haven) pays you (money is the ultimate motivating factor), and that sending a horse through the auctions and telling yourself that they are just going to end up in a "Safe Haven" allows a certain degree of denial. In that sense, maybe including the Safe Haven in the Howrse game isn't just a retarded way to bail out stupid, irresponsible breeders. Perhaps it's in fact a very astute observation on their part...



Anonymous said...

How rude!
Safe haven a slaughter house?
No way! Its a safe place to put your horses when they are too old, or have no use.
I mean think about it. Its safe its a haven, wow that sounds terrible doesnt it. I mean grow up
Its not real, its not a slaughter house, so why worry?

Also, Im not sure exactly what you mean about the unicorns. Theres nothing wrong with them. Also, a foal with unicorn parents are called Unicorn rejects

I dont see how this can reflect behaviour of real horse owners. Please, if you do not like Howrse, just dont complain lots of people around the world love playing Howrse, including me, and articles such as this get on our nerves.


11.00100100001111110110... said...

In reply to sumeyya-

Why would the "safe haven" pay to get your old worthless horses if it was not a virtual representation of a slaughterhouse. If there were people kind and rich enough to do that then the safe haven, or some form of the safe haven would exist in real life. You are obviously one of the people the writer of the origional message was refering to who will not accept that the safe haven is a slaughterhouse. Why care so much about arrangements of pixels anyway?

humble said...

I see what you getting at when you say there are a lot of people that waste their money on passes and that if you don't buy passes then you cannot compete. however, I don't buy passes and breed connemaras that are in high demand and my stallions coverings usually go for about 1200. i haven't bought passes.This proves you can break through the pass barrier with effort.

I disagree when you say it reflects breeders in real life. Howrse is made of PIXELS and real horses are much different. Do you not understand this? there is a lot of difference.

and finially , a little note on the safe haven. If it was a 'slaughterhouse' then how come you can still stroke horses that have been put it there. surely they would have been deleted.
I think you need to relax a little, these are pixels, no feelings. end of story.

Inna said...

I play on howrse and I have only bought one pass while I was there. I still consider myself a successful breeder. And the Safe Haven if NOT a slaughter house. Ugghh, the nerve of you people.

Bliss25 said...

I think you need to get a sense of perspective. It's a game. You can't fairly judge people by the games they choose to play. People like the game and have fun. If you don't enjoy it, then play something else.

It's not a real life representation of horse breeding as any sensible person would quickly realise. It doesn't claim to be and the option to breed unicorns and create pegasus is a way to show this.

A safe haven and a slaughter house are 2 very different things and it is made clear in the game that any horses placed in the safe haven will live out the rest of their virtual lives in a safe place and won't be made into glue or dog food. Remember that this is a game for people of all ages and is designed this way so as not to upset any children that may be playing.

I play the game regularly and have never brought a pass. I don't think you need to spend money to enjoy the game. If this game is bothering you so much, i suggest you avoid it from now on and let the people who enjoy it continue to play without the negative comments of people like yourself.

ardlamont said...

I think you just need to find a new game to play -- or perhaps you need to find "Howrse Logic For Dummies" at your local bookstore. It explains how competitions work -- armed with that information, you should be able to compete rather well without ever buying a pass.

As one of the pass-buying adults you so charmingly and freely ridicule, I think you and logic aren't very close friends. How is paying for entertainment, in the form of a browser game, any different from paying for entertainment in the form of a movie ticket? A book? A DVD? It isn't. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I wouldn't sully my uterus with a child, and this is (after books & movies) my chosen form of entertainment. It's not really up to you to decide how I spend my entertainment dollar. =)

In any case... Real horse breeders do far more damage. The misbegotten products of *their* breeding programs can actually suffer. Pixelponies? Not so much.

Kelly said...

ugg this disgusts me. ardlamont is so correct. pixelponies are NOR injured, just go to my forum and read all my REAL LIFE rescue stories, this does NOT Happen to our pixel ponies. This is how WE entertain OUR selves, who said you were able to control how we spent OUR money? I didn't. The safe haven is not a Slaughter House, are completly nuts? Its like a rescue center. HELLO? horses WANT to go there.....

steve said...

You do not need to buy passes to have great horses i breed high started thoroughbreds and i do breed unicorns but i keep all the foals born with nor horn.

Mary said...

lol. you're obviously extremely arrogant, rude, and OBNOXIOUS. Howrse is a GREAT game. there's always different things to do, and the Howrse team always updates things to keep people busy. You can excel without spending one dollar on a pass. I haven't spend a dime and I'm already flying through the game. You obviously have no idea how to play the game. People like you make me LAUGH.

jeenz duarte said...

Uhm, an SPCA is like a safe heaven, but considering you cannot buy these horses from the safe haven, this could be considered a slaughter house... Anyway, I don't totally disagree with this writer, but I think that Howrse is a good game, and it is time consuming for those times you can't actually ride your real horse due to it being lame after jumping the paddock fencing... for the millionth time. All in all, I think Howrse is great, and it helps kids form a passion for horses, these kids may even start riding... It's also great for people who can't afford horses, but still have a passion for them. It gives them a sense of fufillment. Hell, a real horse costs about R 4000/ +- $ 408,49 a month in stabling, then you still have to ride it every day and care for it. This can be quite tedious if you have to study and work too. Therefore this is a great way to have a horse without having all the responsibility that you cannot carry. Besides, you can play it at midnight, if you ride your horse at that time, he/she may end up bucking you off and going back to the barn. Horses need their beauty rest too. ;)

Maddie Davis said...

I really think howrse is all these things, I hate the game. I feel howrse depends on the black market and passes, and the admins and moderators can be unreasonable. Some people have been banned for multiple accounts when really they have a sibling on howrse and the staff does not listen. My sister's account was hacked and her thirty passes were stolen and howrse did not help anything. They responded with "there are no hackers on howrse." Since then I have hated the game, players be warned.