Finally! Square Enix reveals that the newest entry of Tomb Raider, a series I’ve loved for 18 years now, is making it over to the PS4. With excitement I watch a gameplay video of the new coop mode and all I can see is the player hunting down defenseless animals.
Of course, that’s an exaggeration. There is more to see then just a shooting range for poor ingame wildlife and I will still get the game, when it comes out. But seeing, that an important gameplay-element is hunting animals for food dulled my anticipation for playing Tomb Raider in coop heavily. This topic is a little more serious, than I usually try to be in the internet and there are many different opinions on it. I will obviously write from my own standpoint to that matter and am not trying to persuade anyone into vegetarianism or anything. I just hope that everyone will respect the opinion of each other.
I grew up with shows like Star Trek: TNG and even some anime, that never explicitly told me, that eating meat is something bad, but that made me think about my life and the world more intensely. That made me aware of morals and philosophy. I’ve learned, that just because everyone does something, it’s not automatically right and acceptable for myself. When I still lived in my rural hometown, I saw the meat industry in a slightly different light from today. I saw how the cows lived on grassy fields and everything was fine. But moving into a city, I saw how different the world actually is. My awareness changed drastically when I got older and moved into a big city. The masses of people and consumption of meat changed how I feel about the meat from super markets or the meat in oven-ready meal. We all know videos of mass husbandry. I don’t need to disgust you with that here. I liked meat. I like the rich taste and consistency of a good steak. But over the years I changed my own diet from eating less meat, to eating no animals babies anymore, to eventually not eating any meat anymore, after I learned, that most of the meat we eat actually comes from animals that are only a few weeks old, anyway. And even if they weren’t still so young, every living creature is beautiful, unique and deserves respect.
But let’s get back to entertainment and media. I won’t pull the Anita Sarkeesian here, that the whole gaming medium is generally bad, because there are too few titles where you play as a woman (animal), or women (animals) have no real roles other than just being objectified, or because you kill women (animals). No I really love gaming. not in the occasional gamer sense, where I would now show a picture of myself as a child playing on a SNES in 1994. Games are a really big part of my life. I call myself a hardcore gamer, as I don’t only play casual games, but mostly hard games like the Souls series or quirky Japanese titles, which comes from my other love for animes. But I will still criticize the media I love. Not for creating a bad image of some gender or race. But for exploiting creatures, that can’t speak for themselves.
I don’t like the killing factor anyway, which is hard to get around in video games or animes. Not even if an obviously comical context like in Mortal Kombat. But I love it if a game offers me the option not to kill anybody like Metal Gear Solid does or Deus Ex, for example. I also love a self-reflective hero, who calls himself a killer grieving for every enemy he killed along the way.
Gamers often love to make fun of PETA here and there, but they do have a point. Not because, the game industry is hurting animals or anything, but because of the image it creates for people or the role models you get.
It doesn’t matter if it’s Tomb Raider, The Last of Us or God of War, for some reason, every modern video game needs a hunting scene nowadays. I admit, that they are usually well made and have a sense of respect for the hunted animal, but it still bugs me. It’s not fun for me to hunt a defenseless animal, anyway. The animal itself mostly fades from the spotlight, as those scenes usually just serve to characterize the main protagonists. And most of all, it creates the impression, that the strong hero needs to eat meat. I totally have empathy with people of color and women, who nag about the stereotypical white bold-headed male protagonist at times like that. As I said before, I respect, that people want to eat meat. But I can’t identify with my protagonist as much after I know, that his sight on the world is just so different from my own. I can understand, that to survive in such a lesser civilized world, you need to hunt for food to survive. But that problem doesn’t lie with those games alone.
While I laughed my ass off, when I read “Meat Dimension” in Persona 4, it’s sad, that you don’t find many vegetarian characters in games or anime. Those characters teach me a lot about morals and stuff, but in the next moment, they put another part of a dead body in their mouth. I’ve searched for those characters, but in every forum, I only read one name: Rei Ayanami. And while she’s a great character and everybody loves her, it’s by far not enough, in my opinion.
Maybe it’s just a minor factor, but I think the lack of vegetarian protagonists and model roles leads people into thinking, vegetarians or vegans are freaks or weak, but definitely alien. It creates the image that every vegan or vegetarian has to be an eco-junkie, who risks his own health, lost his sense of reality and morbidly prefers animals over humans. And this reflects in our daily life. I can take a lot of taunts with humor, but many people know how it feels to be constantly teased because of your gender or race. The difference here is, that it is socially accepted to make fun of vegetarians, say they are weak and even try to persuade them to try some meat, because they are “missing something”. There is someone dear to me, who had to live with a father, who is also a hunter, who constantly tried to make her eat meat, but never even tried out vegetarian food.
There are a lot of celebrities, who are vegetarians, like Christian Bale, Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt, Bruce Springsteen, Kate Winslet, Steven Segal and even Chuck Norris or Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name just a few. But I want to use the last segment of this article, to honor some great fictional characters, who are vegetarian: