Steve protests the ongoing massacre of virtual fauna
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”.
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.
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.