I’ve never been that into video games. I had an Atari growing up – which gives away my age – but I’ve always preferred reading or watching movies to playing games on a console. So, Playstations and Xboxes hold little interest for me (although I must confess to a certain fascination for the movement-sensitive technology that lets you Wii in the middle of your living room).
In any case, computer gaming has never been a passion. Accordingly, I don’t have a strong opinion about the relative evils that some have said are caused by the use and abuse of these often violent games. But all that changed when I came across a particularly reprehensible game in a video arcade that made my blood run cold.
It’s called Big Game Hunter, and it’s one of those first-person shooter games where you hold a big plastic gun and shoot at targets on the screen. Only thing is that, with this one, the targets are deer grazing peacefully in a forest. Then, when you start firing, the virtual animals dart away and you get points for all the animals you shoot.
As I watched a young couple on a date shooting away at the poor deers, I was quietly horrified. It was so barbaric – using the wanton slaughter of innocent animals as a form of entertainment. The childish laughs and chuckles from the shooters only made me more angry. Soon, I wanted to go over and pull the plug, before lecturing the would-be hunters on their lack of empathy etc.
Then I stopped myself and thought about it a little bit more. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction if they were shooting at humans. I’ve come to accept that gunning down crooks, junkies, Nazi’s or cops are a normal part of computer gaming, and don’t bat an eyelid at games such as Wolfenstein or Grand Theft Auto that seem to encourage virulently anti-social behaviour against members of our own species. So why did I get so worked-up about a game that recreates a perfectly legal sport like big game hunting?
Well, I’ve never been a fan on hunting in any form – I’m too much of a bleeding-heart eco-softie. But I still think that it is somehow wrong to reduce hunting to a form of mindless entertainment for impressionable minds. Murder is one thing, but hunting as a prelude to heavy-petting is something else.
To be fair, the game dictated that you could only shoot male deer, and you lost points every time you gunned down a doe. But that still doesn’t make it all right. IMHO.
[Originally posted 26/07/2008]