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Call of the Wild West

Call of the Wild West

Grin and Bear it…


I decided to take the pacifist approach. If only I’d known how fuzzyhead98 would react.

He clambered toward me amid the scarred canyons of Perdido. He wore an American Army uniform. You can’t smell on the PS3, but if you could he would have smelled like disloyalty. He dismounted his horse and ran about a bit. I stopped trying to make friends with a skunk and said hello. He replied by shooting my horse.

“You know, you shouldn’t do that. That’s animal cruelty.”

In RDR there is something majorly insulting in the killing of someone’s horse. It’s an inconsistency. Players kill each other casually with throwing knives and shotguns. They slaughter fleeing stags, boars, buffalo, rabbits, beaver. But to kill someone’s mount just feels like terrible form old chap. Most people don’t do it. However, if your horse dies you can whistle and a respawn will appear over the horizon pretty much instantly. I whistled.

I tried to relay to fuzzyhead98 the argument philosopher Peter Singer uses – all animals should be equal in suffering. Animals (human and non-human) should therefore not be treated according to their capacity for rationality or intelligence. Animals should be treated according to their capacity for suffering. Distinctions we draw between humans and “beasts” are merely arbitrary. In most Western (not this kind of Western) societies we do not harm or kill a severely brain-damaged person, even if they have the mental capacity of a chimpanzee. But we’ll gladly slaughter any animal that we deem stupid and tasty enough.

It looked like I would have to use books after all. I quoted Singer.

“Once we ask why it should be that all humans – including infants, mental defectives, psychopaths, Hitler, Stalin, and the rest – have some kind of dignity or worth that no elephant, pig, or chimpanzee can ever achieve, we see that this question is as difficult to answer as our original request for some relevant fact that justifies the inequality of humans and other animals.”

It was only after fuzzyhead98 knifed my third steed that I got the distinct feeling Singer’s point was not getting through. This must be what animal rights protesters feel like all the time. Nobody wants to know.

Still, he can’t have been satisfied. Which was probably the reason he knifed me too. It was probably the reason he kept stabbing my cadaver. That, or because of all the malicious philosophy that was spilling out my gut.

Knife to meet you

Arguments don’t have one side. I drew my knife when I got to America over Frontera Bridge. I was going to need it for all the glorious hunting I’d be doing as an animal rights de-activist. Actually, that makes it sound like I went around killing hippies. I’ll stick with “hunter.” I was going to be a hunter. The second phase.

The rules: firstly, only kill wild animals – predators or prey but no humans. Secondly, try to kill them as naturally as possibly – using primitive weapons (sadly this means no help from other animals, so no horse-riding again). Thirdly, a true hunter kills legendary game – I must kill a cougar, a wolf and a bear.

I’d gotten to the North without any more hassle from other players. I ran into a pair of wolves once, who savaged me when I tried to convince them to make me a Mexican Mowgli. Apart from that I’d stumbled across a goat, a few skunks and a couple of White-tail deer that didn’t want to play. If that was the wildlife when I was friendly I can’t imagine they’d be much more accommodating to someone charging at them with a blade, eyes full of hunt-lust.

I first noticed something was wrong when there were no birds in the sky. Behind me the Silent Stead was just that. There should have been vultures circling, crows cackling like beaked toddlers with a nasty streak. Ahead of me, in Rattlesnake Hollow, there should have been Rattlesnakes, but there was only Hollow. I whistled for my horse, just to make sure he was still around at least. But he never came. Rockstar’s recent DLC update had given everyone glitches and the models for both animals and humans weren’t showing up. The other players were still there but only as dots on the radar, ghostly voices and heavy breathing, their character models having long gone invisible. As lovely as the scenery is in RDR, as beautiful as the scarlet sunrises over the sandstone monoliths of Diez Coronas are, I was supposed to be looking for wildlife. I did not want to play a game about geography.

I trekked on regardless through the eerie, empty wilderness. Where have all the millions gone? There were no mustangs in Cholla Springs, no mule deer in Hennigan’s Stead. There were no Bison on the Great Plains.

But there were bugs everywhere.

It was a digital extinction.


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    “We hunt out of necessity, and not for sport” – need only when you are dying of hunger. And if the house has the money – go to the supermarket!

  • >> Or do you put a round in their belly to make sure they get the message? In doing this would I be breaking the first rule? Since humans are animals too, and I can’t kill any animals even when attacked?

    What if it is a human shooting you? You will not shot back, according to the same rule?

    Animals activists, as you are one in the game, however should probably not be too conscious about hurting animals for matters of self-preservation. Which include being on the verge of getting killed by a bear, having the need to dress leather, or needing to feed yourself.

    - What use will you be animals preservation and human consciousness, if you get killed by a pack of coyotes?
    - Nylon hasn’t been invented yet, cotton is very expensive and other fabrics are used mostly by the rich or as underwear. You’ll have to wear leather if you don’t want to die of cold or wearing wild west pajamas while trying to convince people of animals preservation.
    - You are carnivorous. Omnivorous. But you aren’t herbivorous. That’s humans. And especially humans in the Wild West. But even if you don’t want to project into the game a wild west persona, you will still feel uncomfortable about the fact it’s implicit your game character eats meat. Unless, of course, you stop with the “don’t kill animals under any circumstance” and get real.

  • That was fantastic fun to read, thank you.

  • Thanks.

  • >>Unless, of course, you stop with the “don’t kill animals under any circumstance” >>and get real.

    Get real in a computer game? No way! ;)

  • Brilliant writing. Very enjoyable read.

  • Great story. Mr Mad Man, you made my day ! Thank you.

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