oxm opin­ions

Steve protests the on­go­ing mas­sacre of vir­tual fauna

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Steve writes for City A.M when he isn’t chew­ing on tasty, ten­der plants.

If we hu­mans are known for any­thing in the ga­lac­tic scheme of things, it’s hunt­ing and gath­er­ing. Hunt­ing and gath­er­ing is what we’ve done for pretty much the en­tire time we’ve been around. If all of hu­man his­tory were com­pressed into a sin­gle day, we’d be col­lect­ing black­ber­ries and beat­ing woolly mam­moths to death with pointy rocks un­til 11:59pm, and then Elon Musk would up and in­vent a self­land­ing rocket ship at mid­night. To any out­side alien ob­servers, it would be like watch­ing a bor­der col­lie en­thu­si­as­ti­cally rolling around in its own ex­cre­ment for hours, be­fore sud­denly leap­ing to its feet and bark­ing out some cal­cu­lus.

Our fos­silised cave­man psy­chol­ogy runs deep, and leaves an in­deli­ble mark on ev­ery as­pect of our cul­ture. So it’s only nat­u­ral that hunt­ing and gath­er­ing are the two pri­mary ob­jec­tives of most of the games that we make and play. Lara Croft hunts down tombs to gather up their chal­ices. The guy from Doom hunts demons and gath­ers new types of shot­gun. The car from Out­Run hunts down che­quered flags and gath­ers blonde women.

We can in­vent as many iPhones and De­liv­eroos as we like, but hu­mans can­not es­cape this most bar­barous of our prim­i­tive in­stincts. Af­ter all, this is why the of­fi­cial slo­gan of hu­mankind is “If it can’t be hunted, or at the very least gath­ered, well then I guess we’re just wast­ing our time here”.

The prob­lem

Hunt­ing ap­pears as an op­tional sid­e­quest in almost ev­ery open world game there is, and is manda­tory in some oth­ers. In Far Cry, you can ram your jeep into a rhinoceros and then use its skin to craft a wal­let that can hold more than £4,000. In Red Dead Redemption you can tram­ple a coy­ote to death and then sell its pelt so you can af­ford larger horses with more lus­cious manes and ex­tra legs. And most re­cently, Mon­ster Hunter: World

“Play­ers could be given the chance to ac­ti­vate a ve­gan mode”

en­cour­ages teams of friends to track down and vi­o­lently mur­der an­i­mals in or­der to ob­tain a new type of hat. It’s the ideal game for groups of pals who don’t have the nerve to sneak into a farmer’s field at night to cleave a real cow in half us­ing an old rake. Cowards.

But isn’t it time we put the sense­less slaugh­ter of these in­no­cent make­be­lieve an­i­mals be­hind us? Doesn’t our in­sa­tiable blood­lust be­tray an un­re­solved beef with the an­i­mal king­dom? And is it eth­i­cally sound to har­vest dozens of ze­bra hooves in or­der to trade them in for a spe­cial hoof-saw that lets you har­vest ze­bra hooves more ef­fi­ciently?

Prob­a­bly. But no mat­ter how you feel about the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of cru­elty to­wards vir­tual beasts, there are some ways we can im­prove upon this in­creas­ingly worn out hunt­ing trope. In fact, here’s one now. I think you’ll find it quite ter­ri­ble.

The so­lu­tion

When start­ing a new game in Mon­ster

Hunter: World, play­ers could be given the choice to ac­ti­vate a spe­cial ve­gan mode, which sub­sti­tutes all of the mon­sters for fun and tasty, meat-free al­ter­na­tives. So in­stead of stab­bing a Bar­roth to death, for ex­am­ple, you would fight and de­feat a vast, tum­bling nut roast, avoid­ing its parsnip-charge at­tacks and deftly coun­ter­ing its area-of-ef­fect gravy moves. Smaller mon­sters could be re­placed with those Quorn scotch eggs that I have been known to eat an en­tire packet of in un­der 15 min­utes.

Or if that’s no good, how about we pro­gram the fauna of these open worlds to feel a de­bil­i­tat­ing sense of full-body eu­pho­ria when­ever they’re im­paled on a spike or crushed by a big ham­mer, so that they groan with digi­tised plea­sure, never break­ing eye con­tact as they gid­dily suf­fo­cate on their own en­trails? Wood­land crea­tures would writhe around at your feet, beg­ging to be flayed alive and turned into a cool set of paul­drons.

I can’t say for sure that my ver­sion of Mon­ster Hunter would be an im­prove­ment, but it would cer­tainly be very awk­ward to play with your mother in the room.

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