Can't Pull The Trigger On A Virtual Buffalo

On the topic of shooting animals in Red Dead Redemption, one player of Rockstar's big Western writes to Kotaku about his resistance to killing virtual bison.

I'll excerpt from Austin Ivansmith's blog post, which he pointed me to after he saw our post about the animals players kill the most in Red Dead. Austin noticed that I wrote that I couldn't bring myself to shoot the game's buffalo. (There's an Achievement for shooting them all, cheekily entitled Manifest Destiny by the designers at Rockstar who never miss a moment to satirise American culture.)

Here's part of his post, following a bit about how he could bring himself to kill human characters in the game:

But with the buffalo, there is no real benefit. They are simply animals wandering a section of the game world. So in a way I suppose there is a combination of guilt and discomfort, performing an act with overarching social implications. Knowing that the thing you are going to do will set a chain of events creating years of despair and completely ruining the lives of millions of people. It is different than simply killing an individual character in the game which is a carbon copy of a seemingly endless supply of the same character.

I have no problem killing an individual character in a game, usually because I have no idea who this person is or how they exist in the world. But I suppose if I saw a flash into this characters life the moment I pointed a gun at them I would feel different. Imagine it: you aim your pistol at their head, then the screen flashes to white. You are given a glimpse of them at home, providing for their family, playing with their children, and other happy things. Then you are brought back to the game with the crosshairs on their head. Do you continue and kill this character, or are you second guessing?

Read the whole post. And explain your buffalo-killing ways.

Extinction Within A Game? [Game Design Rant and Rave blog]

PIC via Flickr


    One could argue that part of playing such a game is to put yourself in the mindset of the character, who in this case would not think twice about killing buffalo.

    Many games, Heavy Rain for example often put you in a position that you wouldn't wish on anyone in real life. In that case, you have two options - carry on as the character and make your move, or stop playing.

    While it's true that you are only manipulating polygons, and changing variables in code by killing in games, when you've finished playing a game - the only thing that matters is how it made you feel.

    This is probably why I can only ever bring myself to play through the "Good" side of moral choice gaming e.g. KOTR , Fable , Infamous e.t.c.

      "One could argue that part of playing such a game is to put yourself in the mindset of the character, who in this case would not think twice about killing buffalo."

      That's a good point. Taking on the mindset of the character is pretty much the only way I could swallow the sometimes rather outrageous acts you perform in Saints Row, for example...

      I'm also one of those people who can only really handle the "good guy" side of a storyline, I find it too difficult to play the "bad guy" in most games since it usually amounts to "lol steal lunch money and call people bad names" without any sort of serious base for the character to build on.

    I can, perhaps, understand the vague interest of this story but still... I can't help but feel this is the most pointless thing I have ever read on the internet, and I briefly looked at twitter.

      Agree. Seriously, kill the buffalo's and if you feel like you can't go on without them, start a new game.

    I find is fascinating the way video games that present moral and amoral paths to gamers get different reactions out of different people. I had absolutely no qualms about killing off the Buffalo myself but I played the game through in a totally moral way.

    My Marston is honor bound to help the innocent and punish the wicked. I even go to the extra trouble of hogtieing all criminals. This is totally different to the way I played GTA4 in which I was an amoral bastard who would steal and murder and chance he got.

    I think it has to do with the fact that in RDR, the way you play the game affects how people treat you. The more honour you have actually affects your interactions with NPCs. This doesn't happen in GTA4.

    I had the same pause Austin had with the Buffalo when playing Bioshock. I was totally unable to harvest the little sisters and was shocked to discover that some of my friends had. Sorry Roger but a medium that can tie you into ethical knots like this IS ART.

    Reminds me of that Austin Powers movie where every time he takes out one of the nameless henchmen it cuts away to a brief little scene of the guy's wife telling his kid that daddy won't be coming home, or his mates sitting around waiting for him to turn up etc etc :)

    "Knowing that the thing you are going to do will set a chain of events creating years of despair and completely ruining the lives of millions of people" - except it won't. If I jumped in a time machine and went back to the real old west I might feel that way. Hell, if they represented that in the game I might think twice about it. But in the game, there are no real consequences to shooting the buffalo. The only reason I HAVEN'T shot them all is that I don't care enough about trophies / achievements to bother going out of my way like that to get them.

    Yeah, I understand where he's coming from and agree with him. I HATE playing games where you have to kill dogs (Modern Warfare), and I always avoid killing fauna in games unless it's necessary.

    I even have trouble killing the Sheegoths in Metroid Prime.

    In the end... its a game, its not real. I've got no problems wiping out the entire bison population in Red Dead Redemption.

    I'll shoot everything and anything, if my horse is annoying me in Red Dead, I'll shoot it, becasue i just don't care. That horse isn't real, i've got no connection to it, so why should i feel bad about shooting it?

    One word.... Achievement

    This reminds me of an interesting discussion that took place on the Star Trek Online forums. There was a thread about Klingons (during the time of the game the "bad guy aliens" for those unfamiliar with Star Trek), and people using the racial slur "Klinks" when talking about them. Some people took offence to it, others took the position that they're not real so it's not racism, etc.

    It makes me wonder why we tolerate some things and not others. For example, there are many games where you can freely murder innocent people. But what if, say, Fable 3 had a rape button? It's not really rape, they're just polygons, so there's no problem with your character raping another, right? Obviously people would be up in arms about it. But why, when murder, racism etc against pretend people is perfectly acceptable?

      great point. I had never thought about that.

      I can't shoot any of the animals in rdr unless they attack me.

      Because rape is a sex crime, and for whatever reason our socity is much more uptight about sex than it is about violence. So sexual violence is seen as the worst kind of violence.

      In addition, there ARE circumstances in which killing other people is deemed acceptable by society (war, self-defence, etc). I'm not aware of ANY circumstances in which society considers rape to be acceptable.

        Murder isn't acceptable among society anyway. Even if it was 'self defence' one must still prove their innocence in court.

        We don't just say, 'Oh you poor thing, run free!'

        Yeah sexual violence is probably considered the worse kind. It's disgusting and a very desperate act by ferals. But Mr Waffles point is just that, a very solid and strong point.
        No sort of violence is tolerated or accepted in real life when we see it in games. I for one wouldn't WANT to act out rape in a game anyway... but his point is just that when we accept (or the classification board, developers, publishers, consumers) other acts of violence which people are prosecuted for in reality. Its draws the question of why killing people in games violence etc... is entertaining and fun.

        To your comment about no society that considers rape acceptable. Pretty much any society that allows a rapist to walk free 5, 10 or whatever amount of years after being convicted.
        Rape for me - like a lot of people is probably the worse. Cause i think, seriously get a life. A mass murderer is obviously very bad and all that, but rape is just disgusting, tops the disgusting bar by all means. Some people are killed after being raped, some are raped after being killed. Most likely majority survive and live with it for the rest of their lives.
        Rape is something I believe should be given the highest penalty, death or life sentence.

        That last part is purely my opinion. I'm sure though a lot will agree that rapists should be prosecuted in a more harsh way. Rapists, sexual predators, pedophilia... they all fall in the same category for me; death sentence. I don't take kindly to 'psychology' reports with rapists and pedophiles. We as humans have a choice in life with the decisions we make no matter how messed up we are... anyway i'm ranting on!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now