We live in a glorious time where video games are bigger and more mainstream than ever, allowing us to live out elaborate fantasies and experience worlds never thought possible. But for all that games have done to allow us some sort of morality choice during play, very few actually celebrate, or even encourage, living a vegetarian lifestyle.
Have you sat down and thought about your favorite game characters for a bit and seen if they line up with your own beliefs? Sure, we all want to be the hero (and maybe the villain every now and again), but do we have any characters that are really cyphers for our own personalities and beliefs? Let’s take Mario as a simple example. He’s as harmless as they come in terms of family appeal, and while he does spend a lot of times eating mushrooms, leaves, flowers, and other mostly organic foods, he’s known to love a good spaghetti and meatballs when he’s not saving the princess. Link from The Legend of Zelda seems like a pretty gown to earth kind of character, but when you think about it has runs around slaughtering the native creatures around the area and stealing their hearts to regain health. It looks all cartoony and innocent, but bottom line, he feeds on the hearts of his enemies.
Things only get worse the further you look back, as the standard healing item in games tended to be meat. In Castlevania, Simon Belmot would regularly find whole roasted chickens inside of walls and somehow get healed from devouring them (vegetarian or not, eating random meat found in an old wall is not a wise decision).
How did we let things get so far out of our control? Games regularly send us off on adventures that require us to kill animals to proceed. How many Final Fantasy titles have you played where all forms of wildlife approach you, only to be blasted with Firaga? The game tasks you with tromping through obscure forests, their natural habitats, then rewards you with chump change for hacking them apart.
Oddly enough, some of the best examples of “vegetarian friendly” games tend to be ones where there either isn’t a story at all, like Tetris, or ones that you wouldn’t even think of as video games, such as Farmville. Somehow we’ve hit a point where Farmville is standing as a positive example of an animal-friendly world whereas Call of Duty regularly has you snapping dogs’ necks. Things get even more complicated if you’re vegan, leaving you with pretty much Pong or maybe Nintendogs. And Tetris. Thankfully we always have Tetris (that L block is totally vegan, as if it wasn’t obvious).
Surprisingly, probably the most positive example of a game character living a vegetarian lifestyle is Super Meat Boy, a platformer considered “Nintendo Hard” by the best gamers where you run around as a chunk of meat trying to get his girlfriend back. Yes, you’re playing as meat, but everything is out to destroy you, leaving meat the pitiable victim of this harsh world.
Is that the best we can do? A technicality? Are there no vegetarian game designers out there wanting to give us a high-quality game with a character that embodies our lifestyle? For now, it seems we are alone in this video game world.