Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Killing Animals in Video Games

So, Cameron Kunzelman has two short articles out in Five Out of Ten. I purchased the issue for $5.60 (£3.50), and you should too. There is even profit sharing.* He has two articles, one on second gaming (which I will try to get to later), and the other playing Minecraft while vegetarian.

I actually first played Minecraft because of Cameron. He nagged and insisted, and really, it wasn't so hard to convince me I should play video games rather than do my work. Like Cameron, when I play video games (not often) I usually play as a vegetarian/vegan. In most video games that means not eating meat that occurs/drops as premade. It does not usually mean avoiding hunting or domesticating. In Minecraft (at least when I last played, some two years ago), in order to eat meat, you had to hunt and kill animals, that squealed when you hit them. This is Cameron's comments about the one time he decided he'd rather kill the virtual pig than die (also virtually):

I hit it once. It squealed and snorted and tried to run. I chased it. I hit it with a shovel and it tried to run, panicked, and didn’t make it very far. I hit it until it tipped over and pieces of meat flew out of its body.
I’m haunted by it. I’ve killed hundreds of AI humans in video games. I have executed civilians. I have ended civilizations. I’ve cleared out a fictional Dubai of all living beings. I’ve made a wasteland of digital worlds and preemptively struck with nuclear weapons.

Cameron has some theories about why one is perhaps different than the other for him. You have to read it to find out, but here is why it is for me in Minecraft. For those who have never played, Minecraft is the ultimate sandbox game, you mine stuff and you craft it, and you decide what you want to do in the game. Want to build a floating library made out of glass and towers and light and hanging gardens? You can do it. Want to build a replica of the land from The Game of Thrones? You can do it. You get the idea. Minecraft is also weirdly evil. Monsters come out at dark, unless you have light and walls and swords. Look, I am loath to link, but this Penny Arcade comic covers it all quickly and humorously. One, two. Everything in Minecraft is pure resource. Everything is meant to be manipulated, transformed, used. And if you don't make light and walls, the monsters will get you. Using animals in this context always bothered me, because the idea that animals are pure resource is exactly the thing I am always fighting against. Or maybe it is just part of the whole techne tou bios of veganism I have talked about elsewhere.

*Look, I understand it is a weird and roundabout way to give money to someone. It would drive economists insane. That is, honestly, a good enough reason to do it. Buy Five Out of Ten to give Cameron a dollar, and you drive an economist insane. Good call!