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06 August 2009 @ 10:30 pm
The Hoard Potato: Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters  
I announced today, to my FurryMUCK clique, that I didn't want to see any more trailers for Monster Hunter 3. The game doesn't just annoy me: it actively pisses me off, and worse, it makes me think badly not only of gamers in general but of Japanese culture, in wide, bigoted swaths.

The game is beautifully animated, and the eponymous monsters of the title are magnificently designed. Every trailer looks like a wonderful Discovery Channel nature documentary of a world that never was, full of dinosaurs and dragons and even more exotic creatures -- right up until you get to the gameplay, which involves killing things and dismembering them for their body parts to make cheesy, tawdry consumer goods kewl weapons and armor and magic items.

It's jarring.

The generation that grew up on Cute And Fuzzy Cockfighting Seizure Monsters has graduated to Heroic Head-Bashing Harp Seal Hunters. Look at these marvelous creatures! The loving detail that went into their creation! The magnificent, balletic fluidity of their motion! LET'S HIT THEM WITH CLUBS!

This is a game that comes from one of the last whaling nations on Earth. I'm sorry -- this is that "wide, bigoted swath" I mentioned -- but I can't help but see a connection.

This doesn't piss me off as a guy who pretends to be a dragon online. This pisses me off as an Environmental Scientist, and a human being raised with some semblance of decency and empathy toward the natural world.

I don't put much credence into combat games as "murder simulators", but I do think the prevalent attitude these games have that animals serve no purpose other than to exploit, enslave or slaughter provides a bad example.

I wish I could believe that this was meant ironically, or as a commentary on the exploitation of the natural world. The unambitious modeling and jerky animation of the player avatars certainly suggests that; they're raw, brutish intrusions on the elegantly savage ballet of the "monsters". A decade of Happy Cartoony Cockfighting Games For Little Children makes that hard, though.

And after all that self-righteous ranting to my homies about how terrible it is to brainwash kiddies into seeing the slaughter and exploitation of magnificent animals as something fun and exciting, I announced that I was gonna go grab a burger before work.
And then, at work, I was chatting with two of my regular customers, and one of them said, "you really need to get a PSP. Do you have any consoles at all? There's this game..."
"Funny thing, that", said I...

I feel: annoyedirked
silussa on August 7th, 2009 06:14 am (UTC)
I've always found the disconnect between what we advocate and what our games advocate a bit jarring. ("we" in the societal sense)
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on August 7th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC)
I have a similar struggle with the Splinter Cell games. They're about an illegal NSA black-on-black organization that goes around killing brown people. But, damn, I like playing these games. Even though I know they're a symptom of America's obsession with state sponsored murder in the name of foreign policy, and the idiotic belief a military-intelligence elite should not be restricted by morality or law. But . . . fun games. Oh, no, hehe.
SilverClawbfdragon on August 7th, 2009 07:17 am (UTC)
It's hard for me to decide on this one because I know I'm a bit more sensitive then the usual to the idea of killing dragons and the like, and indeed, monster hunger makes me rather uncomfortable.

However, you brought up the burger you were eating as a joke, but like any animal product that we deal with every day, it's not in essence much different then what whalers might be doing. A cow is slaughtered, then divided up and it's pieces used. Much of it for some low quality fast-food meal. I have to wonder if the seas were brimming with whales, would people see slaughtering them be any different then a cow? Indeed, they didn't in any way until their numbers started becoming scarce. I'm not a vegan, mind you, I don't object to meat or meat eaters. I just think that there is a huge lack of moderation, and a big disconnect between what's behind that brown circular food between the bun and the lettuce.

So my personal disdain of the idea of butchering dragons aside, I think at the core the idea of the game is less disturbing to me then what is really going on behind the slick fast-food marketing where meat is breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Your Obedient Serpent: eco-rantathelind on August 7th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Which is exactly why I brought up the burger: not as a "joke", but as a self-examination of my own habits.
silussa on August 7th, 2009 07:25 am (UTC)
It's cheap, and people don't have to confront where it comes from. I'm certain that if either changed, the demand for meat would drop off noticeably. Referring to it as "dead flesh", for instance (which is pretty much how a vegetarian DOES think of it) is a major turnoff for folks.

As for whales....at one time they were, and they did. Then they got rare and expensive...and they found alternatives.

The same will probably happen with meat one day; the entire world can't eat like the US does now. The ecosystem simply won't support it sustainably.

Apologies; I appear to have gotten onto a rant which was not intended.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on August 7th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)
I certainly believe that meat should be more expensive, taking into account its environmental effects. But that should be true of everything and meat is hardly the only, or even worse, offender (tho' it's high on the list).

But, uh, no, having to slaughter your own animals does not, in fact, reduce meat consumption. I say this with considerable historical perspective. Farmsteads, manor houses, colonia - people who lived close enough to the land to raise and slaughter their own animals - as well as hunter-gatherer societies were not detracted by either the mess or pain suffered by the animal in slaughter or hunt.
Grauph. - silussa on August 7th, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - wy on August 8th, 2009 06:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
Pakapaka on August 7th, 2009 08:06 am (UTC)
I think it's part of the basic disconnect of games.

I mean, you know this one; the designer ideally wants to give the player characters this amazing experience. A DM spends hours making props and writing out detailed, often beautifully imaginative worlds, or a company will hire amazing concept artists, skilled animators, talented composers all to make sure the player has this immersive experience. Then the players will show up.

In a tabletop game, players can and will go anywhere. But options are more limited with computer games, and killing stuff to get boss gear is the straightforward option to set up. It's like having Tolkien set up all of Middle Earth for the sole purpose of having the Fellowship wade through orcs in Moria.
Your Obedient Serpent: tell it like it ISathelind on August 7th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
And this is why I don't play computer games.
Grauph. - cpxbrex on August 8th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - athelind on August 8th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - cpxbrex on August 8th, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Wywy on August 7th, 2009 08:17 am (UTC)
I'll disagree. :P

As long as the harvest of baby seals is done in a sustainable manner, and care is taken to ensure that there are no population effects, I don't have a problem with clubbing the little beasties upside the head. it's a bit more sustainable than bullets, after all. I don't buy into this charismatic megafauna squee. They're cute, sure, but they're even cuter when I know that the harvest is being done sustainably, and that the entire critter is being used. Baby seal shampoo, anyone?

I'm an omnivore. And a dragon. Look. Critters are food. Sometimes we kill them ourselves. The best you can do is to do it in a manner that is sustainable, so that we will have cute, tasty noms in the future, and treat it in a manner consistent with your own internal morals prior to doing so. Oh, and enjoy every tasty last bit, hopefully prepared with the greatest of care.

Frankly, I'm slightly dissapointed that y'all don't see this.
Your Obedient Serpent: Howitzerathelind on August 7th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Great! Now rationalize cockfighting.
Grauph. - wy on August 7th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - (Anonymous) on August 8th, 2009 09:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - silussa on August 7th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Tombfyretombfyre on August 7th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I tend to frown upon the battle-monster hunting and slaughter games too. Hell, even Pokemon and Digimon didn't have you roaming around KILLING them all to gut them for weapon components. Blargh. I've always asked myself what I would do if I were in the games actual situation.

The answer would be likely observing and wanting to pet the wonderfully detailed critters, not add their gall bladders to my collection.
Corsethgalis on August 7th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
I really, really liked Shadow of the Collosus. I dunno if you've played it, but this is exactly what you do - go about this big pretty world, find these amazing, incredible beasts, and arbitrarily kill them. Some of them can't even fight back and you can only get hurt by falling.

And all the while, you constantly get this feeling in your gut that this is all so very, very wrong and you're violating something sacred by just being there.

Some folks felt the game needed "normal enemies so it didn't feel so empty" but that's sorta the point. They're not enemies, and the only hostile thing in the game is you.
The Red Alchemistjirris_midvale on August 7th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
You forgot the twist ending - it was basically all a set-up from an ancient evil on some idiot kid. And no one is really too happy you killed all the giant monsters.

Road to hell being paved with good intentions is kind of the theme of the game.
Grauph. - athelind on August 7th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - jirris_midvale on August 8th, 2009 06:39 am (UTC) (Expand)
Grauph. - rikoshi on August 8th, 2009 09:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
The Red Alchemist: Jack Chickjirris_midvale on August 7th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
The only thing I can point out in a devil's advocate way here is this:

Most games in a fantasy setting do have the 'find this monster, kill it, and bring me stuff'. I'm not just talking about WoW here, but even DnD. I mean, what is a dungeon crawl besides an intrusion into an environment free of man, killing everything inside, and taking the choice bits home? Sure, the dragon is 'evil', but you're still going in there to fuck up his shit and later take his blood to an alchemist for eleventy billion gold.

Monster Hunter basically is a hyper-streamlined version of this. Find a monster, kill it, take its stuff, repeat.

Someone else mentioned Shadow of the Collosus elsewhere on this thread and it's an awesome treatment of ye olde treasure hunter meme. You go around killing these amazing and inspiring monsters because some shadowy dude made a deal to bring back a dead chick for you.

In the end it's revealed what a stupendous fuck up this is, and the girl is more offended that you killed the gaurdians than she is happy you brought her back.

It makes you feel fucking awful and question the sort of 'kill quests' you get in just about every fantasy game ever.

Your Obedient Serpent: grognardathelind on August 7th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
Most games in a fantasy setting do have the 'find this monster, kill it, and bring me stuff'.

This had occurred to me, actually.

You will note that, whenever the subject matter comes up, I complain that the "dungeon fantasy" genre lost most of its appeal for me decades ago. I think you just hit on a big part of the reason why.

Perfect icon for "playing Devil's Advocate", BTW.

Edited at 2009-08-07 11:42 pm (UTC)
Grauph. - jirris_midvale on August 8th, 2009 06:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
Stalbonstalbon on August 7th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
I highly suggest you go and find the trailers for 'The Cove', which is a documentary/real-life thriller of sorts regarding the Japanese whaling industry. It's slated to come to theatres soon. As for the game in question, I've never played it. I saw the first one, realized what it was about, and knew that it didn't really appeal to me.
SilverClawbfdragon on August 8th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Actually, one thing that I think bothers me more then the Monster Hunter game is one of the middle Harry Potter movies, where a major scene revolved around a game with wyverns that essentially amounted to bear-bating. At least Monster Hunter sounds like they make -some- use of their query. In Harry Potter they were simply killed for sport.
Rikoshi Kisaragirikoshi on August 8th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
You know, MY big problem with Monster Hunter 3 is that I think it's just plain shitty game design. It's very "Japanese" in that the core gameplay literally revolves around doing the same thing, over and over and over and over, with no variance, just so that you can get better at doing the exact same thing. It's basically "Addictive Cycle: The Game."


But then, since I do work in the game industry, I guess my opinion is bound to be a bit skewed from yours. :)
Your Obedient Serpent: grognardathelind on August 8th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, The Grind is ANOTHER big reason why I don't play computer games.*

It's just not the one that leaps out and SMACKS me when I watch these trailers.

*And yeah, I know that not all computer games suffer from it. But most adventure games are either Grinds or, as cpxbrex puts it above, "ridin' the railroad" -- if not both.