That is a really interesting take on it all, WadeDogs. I'll try to respond as succinctly as possible with my own thoughts xD
Sim games, have not been around for all that long (not taking into account arguments about where the inspiration comes from...I mean you could go back to chess if you wanted to xD). Neopets, which probably put pet sites "on the map", was opened in 1999, which makes it almost 11 years old (it opened in Nov). The oldest sim I have heard mentioned is Ludus Equinus, which is now down, but it must have been around in 2003 because the owner (Li) was mentioned in Furry Paws' original FAQs (I know because I wrote the new ones, spending lots of quality time with the old lol). From what I understand, FP gained a lot of its popularity because Li put a link for it up during LE downtime. FP is most widely attributed as the sim that heightened the interest in the genre, and is arguably the one that launches the most new sim games out of its player base. Most of the sims I can think of off the top of my head were started by people who originally played Furry Paws, and the FP Other Games board is one of the best places to track new and upcoming games.
I hang around VPL and VPC quite a bit, and most of what I have gathered from that community is that they still consider pet sims to be the same as pet sites -- most of them don't distinguish between the two. I actually found a topic once where a player said something along the lines of "whatever sim people want to say, they're still pet sites" xD Considering the sheer size of the pet site community compared to that of sims, it becomes understandable why it's hard to find any information distinguishing the two.
Which would lead to the question of if they are indeed correct and sims are just part of pet sites. From the few topics I put up recently about how people define a sim vs. a site, what I gathered was that most people consider the difference to be this:
A sim is a game where the player is simulating an action (ie raising dogs), or "pretending to do something". It usually involves breeding, and is more competition based. A couple people have described it as sort of a "techno RPG" (thanks Restless XD)
A pet site is a game that usually focuses on pet and item collection. Usually pets are made up creatures, and do not breed. (There is a small genre of pet breeding sites such as Wajas, which is still a little fuzzy on a classification. Most users seem to agree that Wajas is a pet site and not a sim).
The difference is subtle, most certainly, and hard to define, but personally I would say that the two are more like cousins than one stemming from the other. Sim games have become too large to be considered a little off shoot of pet sites anymore.
So what, I believe, this all comes down to, is what the virtual pet site community has that we don't.
- They have a common base. Sites like VPL and VPC provide a common location that all of those involved in the genre can go. Sims have never had that (until now ^___^).
- They have "RL" status -- you can say to someone who doesn't play these games "It's like Neopets", and they'll probably know what you're talking about. You can't say "It's like Furry Paws" and get the same reaction.
But we do have some things that pet sites seem to be lacking a bit (noting that this whole post is generalizations xD):
- We have people willing to work together toward this common goal. From what I've seen, pet sites tend to be battle-driven (bad joke ftw!). Sometimes I feel like I need some combat boots to go into VPL.
- We have a broader spectrum of games. Pet sites seem to be very similar in basic structure across the board. Sim games up until this point have been much the same, but many (especially recently) are really starting to branch out and try new things.
SOO, the point to this really long post!
I don't think it's the terminology that's the problem. I think it's those two things we are lacking. As long as pet sites overpower the smaller sim game realm, and as long as we lack that common base, yes it is going to be difficult to find us. If we can fix that problem by creating this kind of strong common forum, and trying to break down the fears that some owners have with speaking publicly about their games, I think that sim games becoming a genre on equal footing with pet sites is just around the corner.