On the other hand, hunting and fishing video games like "The Strike" and "The Hunt" from Bass Pro Shops could threaten real hunting and fishing while pretending to promote them. In the fishing game,
The player starts out as a rookie looking to climb the ranks against competitive pros, collecting sponsors, boats and prize money that players can use to upgrade their equipment as they progress. Each tournament features a Sports Ticker to keep you updated on how the competition is doing. [from a news release]See anything in there about species knowledge, about conservation, about habitat, about ethics? No, me neither. It's all about things.
And as a Nintendo Wii "hunter,"
The player also has to stay alert for one-of-kind Legendary animals as well as Dangerous predators hunting you. Each level also allows the player to hunt a real life record-setting King of Bucks™.Real hunting is not a "tournament." And the "King of Bucks" is not something you find in real life.
The new Career Mode offers more realistic hunting challenges set in a Last Man Standing tournament structure.
When you go hunting and you kill a rabbit, for example, you have ended the life of a living creature with whom you share the earth.
Its heart stops pumping, its brain stops buzzing, its essence goes to wherever a rabbit's essence goes. It was not a creation of pixels and electrons—it was alive the same as you are.
So eat it with respect and understanding.
Why would a game like The Hunt, to pick that one, threaten hunting?
• If it were realistic, it would show you that there are more places with no deer than with trophy bucks. But to keep game play moving, you have to find a pixel-deer quickly. Real hunters might walk or watch or sit in a stand all day and see nothing. Can't have that!
Of course, when you "see nothing," there is a lot to see. Real birds, for example. All the processes of nature—a coyote hunting mice while you watch him through binoculars.
Consequently, someone who plays the game and then goes hunting—unless it is on a well-stocked commercial game farm—will probably feel cheated. How come they have to wait for hours for the action to start???
They will end up more interested in the video version of hunting than in real hunting—until another game comes out that they like better.
• There is no emotional investment in place. If I hunt an area for deer, I want to see it protected. I don't want to come back next year and find an oil well or an illegal off-road motorcycle track or anything else incompatible with the deer's existence as a species. Pixel-hunters probably could not tell you plants deer eat in their area.
• They may end up confusing living, sentient animals with "targets." Bang! And your score goes up. They will never have to confront their direct, personal, bloody-handed involvement in processes of life and death. Instead, they just see what is on the screen.
They will never have to think things through: Should I take that shot? If I miss, will the bullet sail off toward the ranch house? If I kill an elk in this canyon, how will get I get it out?
• They will not understand that the work only starts when the animal is down. Field-dressing, transporting, butchering, cooking, and eating—those are all part of the hunting experience too.
• They will not be participating in the inevitable politics around hunting and fishing: habitat protection, gun rights, public input on wildlife management—all vital.
• Their hearts may race when the play the game, but they will never experience love—love of a place, love of wild animals (yes, even though we kill some of them), love just being "out there."
Put down the Wii controller, pick up a real fishing rod or gun. And if it's off-season, the membership fees at a lot of shooting ranges (around here, at least) are less than the cost of the game.