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 satirize 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]