Arthur Morgan embarks on a hunting expedition along the banks of the Upper Montana River to gather the supplies needed to feed the entire Van Der Linde gang. He spots the ideal prey: a white-tailed deer, head down, drinking water from the edge of the river. He unsaddles his trusty horse, equips his bow, and catches several arrows upon landing. It initiates hunt mode, stealthily stalking its prey downwind, until it reaches an optimal distance, slipping into cover behind a tree.
Arthur carefully draws an arrow from his quiver, nocks it on his bow, and slowly applies tension to the bowstring. It focuses on a clean kill, nailing the heart of the white-tailed deer. He lets go of his bowstring. The arrow whistles through the air. Suddenly, something startles the deer, causing the arrow to miss the heart, instead plunging into the lungs. We hear the painful and heartbreaking growls of the injured deer. Arthur plods forward, drawing his knife. He takes the animal out of its misery with compassion. The Van Der Linde gang will be well fed for a few days. However, as a gamer, this hunting activity made me re-evaluate my views on the relationship between video games and nature.
Even as a child, I always had an affinity with animals and nature. Much of that came from learning about dinosaurs. Who wouldn’t be surprised to know that gigantic reptiles roamed the Earth millions of years ago? I have always known that animals are an integral part of the world and must be protected.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was groundbreaking for me because it was the first open-world game where animals and the ecosystem felt real. The graphical realism allowed me to experience nature without the limitations of my disability: the main appeal for me was exploring and enjoying my own experience with the game outside of the main narrative. I’ve spent hours stalking animals, dying in wolf pack ambushes, foolishly falling into the jaws of a crocodile, or standing on the edge of a cliff, trying to locate a bald eagle elusive white. All with the aim of finally completing the exhaustive compendium.
The negative aspect of this realism for me was the graphic act of butchering the animals. It just looked and felt too real. The amount of detail in the skinning process has become unpleasant to watch, especially with larger animals, due to the increased duration of the process. In the first Red Dead Redemption, I didn’t have a problem with hunting activities because the graphics weren’t powerful enough to replicate anything close to the real thing. Red Dead 2 meant I couldn’t look away.
Elsewhere, The Last Of Us Part 2 also affected me when dogs were introduced as enemies. I always tried to sneak around them, but inevitably ended up having to kill some due to clumsy stealth. When this first happened, I had to pause the game to process feelings of guilt and responsibility for my actions. Why should I feel responsible for my actions? It’s just a game, right? With the realism of this fidelity, however, it’s hard to justify that your actions are just in a game. real emotions: empathy and an aversion to causing that pain again.
Fortunately, I recently played Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, such a wholesome game about celebrating the natural world and highlighting the message of caring and respecting the planet. As young protagonist Alba, you are given a camera to take photos of the birds you discover while exploring a small open world. It was such a joy to play, as I felt connected with the birds. In other games, I would just see birds as useful feathers to create arrows! This highlighted an internal dilemma I have with how nature is portrayed in games. Inevitably, open-world games have to restrict how players can interact with the world. This is why most interactions with animals revolve around hunting, turning nature into a commodity to be exploited for our benefit.
However, a big change is happening. Think about that wish so many players have in games with canine companions: I want to pet the dog! Is it spreading further? Far Cry 6 let you bond with several pet amigos, and one of the cutest choices was Chorizo the dachshund with wheels for his hind legs. It’s impossible not to want to pet him or call him a nice guy after he helps you ambush Anton Castillo’s soldiers.
The highly anticipated Bethesda Starfield game is an ambitious space RPG with 1000 colony worlds to explore. The gameplay reveal showed us the mysterious rocky moon Kreet, with different alien creatures in the environment. This got me wondering if your character would be able to scan or understand creatures, if you could choose a xenobiologist background. That would increase immersion and investment in different planetary ecologies instead of generically viewing all creatures as enemies or commodities, wouldn’t it?
Then there’s something like Stray. What a fantastic concept. You explore a decaying cybercity through the eyes of a cat while unraveling an ancient mystery. Stray offers the player a unique four-legged perspective of environmental navigation and the ability to perceive and interact with the world as a feline. I think more games should have animal protagonists. It gives us the chance to celebrate animals through play, and the added empathy only enhances our appreciation for nature. Stray’s approach makes sense. Animals bring us so much joy both in the real world and in the game worlds, so more games should focus on deeper interactions with animals, instead of just looking at them through the lens of animal activities. hunt.