Yes, you heard me. K-i-l-l-i-n-g.
It’s a funny thing, y’know? In video games, anyway.
Well…actually, I guess it’s not really funny at all, no matter the medium. But the basic idea of it in gaming is so ingrained that it’s something I certainly take for granted. At the heart of most video games, from Mario to WoW, is the idea that you (the good players) must triumph over a terrible evil something. But each path to greatness is fraught with enemies, all of whom must be defeated. Or killed. As a young player, I never thought I was “killing” koopas, metroids, or space invaders; but I was erasing them from existence and I had no qualms about doing so. The goal was to simply beat the game and/or get the highest score. Back then, I don’t remember playing any game that involved killing “real” “living” forms. There was Duck Hunt, and I couldn’t stand it. Besides being bad at aiming, I really disliked the whole idea of shooting ducks. This probably had more to do with my stance towards animals advocacy, but I really was pretty bad at the game. Now, by the time I got to DOOM, Duke Nuke’Em, and Wolfenstein (ugh), well…for me the environments were creepy enough without the addition of the humanoid enemies. However, I still never felt sorry for killing a single demon/monster/robot/zombie because, hey, it had to be done to save the world, right?
Only in very recent times have I played games that involved killing more “real” animals or human enemies, be they terrorists, thieves, or bears out for blood. For whatever strange reason, what brought about this train of thought was Skyrim (now that I’m out of my funk with the game and am making some actual, real progress). During a recent round of play in the wilds of Skyrim, which, on this day, were teeming with animals—bears, wolves, and large cats—my thoughts kept reverting to scenes from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (1997).
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was an early exclusive game, available only for the N64 and Windows. I couldn’t, for the life of me, tell you who Turok was or what his goal in life was beyond killing dinosaurs. I do know that there have been other Turok games since and that they are based on a comic series of the same name. DH was a 1st-person shooter with enemies that ranged from human to dinosaurs. Now I remember not having any problems in the “let’s kill a dinosaur” realm.
I had seen the Jurassic Park movies, so I knew that they were nothing but menaces to society (and they didn’t drink their juice in the hood. Wha…?). 1st person ickiness aside, I actually found Turok’s targeting system to be pretty decent — better than what I remember of DOOM, and that was on a computer.
But then, during one round happy-go-lucky hunting, something happened that I didn’t expect…
I killed a deer.
And I got points for it.
Now, it had been awhile since I’d played a game for points. (Pac Man? Galaga? Street Fighter?) I didn’t play Mario to get the most coins and I have no idea what scores I racked up in Super Metroid. I played because games were fun. And Turok was moderately fun, until that deer and those points. As I continued playing, I found that indeed, Turok awarded players points for killing non-enemies, animals that were just minding their own businesses amongst the dinosaurs.
Not cool, Turok. Not cool.
And here I am, some 15 years later still bother by that and still harboring the memories. I don’t want to get all preachy up in here – I don’t care (much) if you hunt in real life or in video games – that’s your business. In Turok, I couldn’t fathom the “let’s give points for killing non-violent animals” conversation amongst the game’s developers. It seemed so needless and ruthless and mean. I’ll argue that games that reward players for killing innocent characters are ten times as worse as games that don’t, no matter the levels of violence they already contain. I never got an achievement in GTA IV for accidentally killing the most pedestrians (was there one?), and nobody in Fable or Dragon Age: Origins ever liked it when I started hacking up towns and villages.
Are there games like that today, that reward players no matter who they kill?
Maybe I’ve played some without even knowing it.
~~steps off soapbox that she didn’t even realize was there~~
I played through Turok: Dinosuar Hunter, but the experience was marred mainly because I went out of my way to not accidentally shoot animals that weren’t attacking me. Yes, yes, there were a few unnecessary casualties, and each one bothered me. Call me an oversensitive loon, but that’s just how it was. If they had called the game Turok: Hunter of ALL Animals Whether You Like It Or Not, then maybe I’d have a different story to tell. Or probably, none at all.