Video Games For Vegans
Vegans and video games aren’t really two things you’d expect to see in the same sentence, but there are loads of vegan gamers out there. And what game genre would be perfect for vegans? Farming! Growing crops, taking care of animals, sustaining a living off the grid. So, what games meet these criteria? Just keep reading, and you’ll find out, as this list will give you some dreadfully delightful games any vegan in your life is bound to love.
People refrain from consuming animal products for various reasons: from ethical to health-related, as well as ecological, spiritual, religious, and even socio-economic. And in fact, according to the British Vegan Society, the demand for meatless food increased in 2017 by 987%, and within five years between 2012 and 2017, Google searches about veganism increased four times. Current interest in veganism is almost three times more popular than those on a vegetarian and gluten-free diet. Even though not long before, it seemed like only a few people would choose to adopt such a radical diet/lifestyle.
This trend towards living life without animal products is also slowly permeating the world of video games. From narrative adventure games to merciless survival epics where the challenge comes from simply staying alive and pushing forward, killing wildlife is a key part of the experience.
That said, games like Mutazione or The Forest reward the player with an appropriate trophy or achievement for completing each respective story without eating any meat or animal products (even though both games represent extremely different genres). Some games, such as Abzû, leave much more room for interpretation.
The game from Giant Squid Studios is, first and foremost, an excellent exploration of nature in which the player spends most of their time exploring and observing an underwater world surrounded by a plethora of sea creatures. The game is characterized by its calming atmosphere. It doesn't rush the player at all, allowing us, at our own pace, to look on in amazement at the virtual ocean wildlife all around us, admiring nature in all its glory.
Ultimately, Abzû attempts to convey one message: man is puny. Wildlife and nature are stunning, but they can also be terrifying. The game manages to spark interest in and build respect for the environment as a whole. And frankly, regardless of whether we eat meat or not, we all can experience this peaceful adventure and enjoy the feeling of spending time in these nature-inspired surroundings.
The Vegan Lifestyle
In Animal is Man, author and physician Bronisław Malinowski chronicles his experience of living on the periphery of Europe during the 19th century. Although born into a wealthy family, he decided to adopt a vegan diet when he realized the high social status of an aristocrat who possessed extensive food resources but chose to “hide from the eyes of his fellow men” by devouring his weekly animal-based diet. Malinowski explains that he chose this extreme lifestyle “in deference to my fellow man.”
Like Malinowski, I've found that most people I encounter have good intentions when they choose a vegetarian or vegan diet. Some have been inspired by ethical arguments by well-known figures such as Malinowski, while others are curious about the idea.
Veganism in gaming is a relatively new trend, and it really exploded in the mid-2000s. And by veganism, we mean the philosophical principles that oppose the use of animal products, particularly meat, dairy and eggs. Basically, you don’t eat things that ever existed on the planet. And although there are many reasons why people choose this lifestyle, it does seem like these guidelines have a lot of appeals.
Playing a game set in the future and in the far future often seems really appealing. You’re more likely to find foods that aren’t laden with the common Western and Asian ingredients, like dairy products and pork, leading to healthier eating choices.
It would seem that even if there were no zombie apocalypse or any other incident that would lead the masses to wipe themselves off the planet and their games, some of the biggest gaming studios would probably choose to go veg.
By creating a healthy version of themselves (or their game worlds), players would be effectively preventing themselves from contributing to species extinction, affecting animal welfare and even forcing the actions of governments and international bodies to change the way they treat animals.
This simple strategy has had some success already, with gaming outlets worldwide making the conscious decision to go vegan. Kotaku made headlines this year when it went completely vegan, dropping the main source of meat and dairy products from its diet.
Why So Many People Are Adopting Veganism
We think we know why many people choose to go vegan but actually don't. In fact, from interviews and research, we found that many people don't realize why they choose to live in this way. And this was true even amongst our friends and relatives who have previously avoided meat and animal products.
After all, eating in a culture that celebrates the killing of animals is hard. So while millions of people choose to eat more ethically, the general perception is that being vegan is hard.
As humans, we're natural hunters who have historically killed animals for food. We're also attracted to excitement and adventure and thrive on the exhilaration of new experiences. So these might not seem to be reasons for taking the diet plunge.
Many of the reasons people adopt a vegan diet are based on personal taste, and some people, like me, tend to choose a more extreme version of the diet since it suits their lifestyle better. But what's really driving the trend for this diet is how ubiquitous animal products are in our daily lives and the beauty and comfort they provide.
As a result, only a small percentage of people adopt a vegan diet on a conscious, research-based level; most of them, however, take things into their own hands, largely because they aren't willing to be sheepish about their choices and in the same way as when they decided to move away from meat-eating.
The benefits of a vegan lifestyle are significant. Vegan diets are almost always low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fibre, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Vegan diets are also rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. It is by no means a perfect diet, as animal products can also be high in vitamin B12 and vitamin D. It is a highly calorie-dense diet; however, it is still more nutritionally dense than its meat-based counterpart.
Veganism In The Worlds Of Video Games
To truly get a sense of what life as a vegan feels like in this industry, we will explore what games are available right now. But to be able to discover games, we need criteria. Games should: Be entertaining, Take players on an emotional journey, Be based on an interesting world, and Have interesting and dynamic characters.
We will start with these games, which have one or more of the above qualities, which is a good indication that the game will work as an introduction to or tutorial of veganism.
Some games, like Volgarr The Viking, are well known for offering an in-depth look at the potential of a vegan lifestyle.
Many games, especially narratively-driven experiences, provide an opportunity to embody a more compassionate perspective. Such games feature characters that do not adhere to the widely-accepted social standards. This has not always been the case, and the diversity of non-vegan characters in games has grown and diversified in the last few years.
Most of these non-vegans are put into uncomfortable situations. They may be an anti-government activist, a journalist, a protester, a citizen journalist, a merchant, a gardener, a rock star, or a would-be astronaut. Though these characters may start as fully moral and ethical, they may not necessarily remain so through their experiences in the game.
Sure, many games feature animals in their storyline and, to some extent, the game character, but the animal often appears in the background or as a new type of in-game currency. Games featuring fictional animal characters and filled with animals, such as Animal Crossing, are, of course, more intriguing and less violent than games that do not.
Still, some might argue that, as compelling as such games can be, they do not, in any way, challenge the viewer to think about animal rights in the real world. However, many non-animated, game-based games are equally empowering and require players to confront issues like killing, commodification and class oppression.
Purpose Of Vegan Video Games
There are already some vegan-friendly games available. But they are either quite obscure or still underdeveloped.
We all play games for a variety of reasons. For some, it's a great way to work through conflicts. For others, it's a way to escape from daily worries. Or, for some, it's a distraction from a miserable reality.
Some games are more than just ‘pleasurable distractions.' While many are purely a diversion, others are designed from the ground up to induce an emotional response or teach an important life lesson. As games have developed, the world they create has become more realistic, and many people find it difficult to disconnect from it. Game developers are therefore increasingly aware of how to design games that are not only enjoyable but also encourage a more compassionate society.
Vegan Video Game Recommendations
An ecosystem of vegan video games has popped up over the past few years, with games like Detroit: Become Human, and Life is Strange 2 appearing on the horizon. But now, it's time to take a step back and really focus on the ones you should try.
The Escapists (2015). You're probably familiar with the popular British prison break title, but The Escapists represents a special sandbox type. Here, the idea is to escape from a virtual prison, and you'll have plenty of ways to do so, be it by completing tasks, working with prisoners, or simply just relying on your wits. And if you really want to go all-in, you can play online and collaborate with others to be the last person standing.
One game that sticks out is Spelunky, where it's not uncommon to find odd ingredients like crickets and slugs in a fish stew, snakes instead of chickens for eggs, and even rats for cooking meat.
Another interesting title is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which features the base recipe for milk: almond, coconut, or soy milk. And who would have thought mushrooms and yeast could even be used as milk substitutes?
But perhaps one of the most in-depth vegan game recommendations is R-Type Dimensions, where animal products appear for reasons beyond the scope of the typical substitution. There's also Ikaruga, a game about 3D fighter jets, where fish are replaced with freeze-dried tofu.
Difference Between Vegan Video Games From Regular Video Games
Unlike standard games where characters, weapons and even classes can be obtained by simply purchasing the console version of a game for the lowest price, many of these vegan game characters need to be made from the ground up with non-animal parts. This can include technical systems like the internal organs of animals. Examples of this include one level in Beyond Good and Evil. Players encounter a mission where they must harvest cells from a murdered penguin and grow them to grow another penguin, like an immortal soldier.
Video games like these may not exactly represent the reality for many vegan players and instead choose to stick to the promise of the genre: novelty over substance.
Unlike regular video games, which use animals and animal products (such as leather, fur, and leather accessories) as game props or as “figments of fiction,” vegan video games usually focus on animals as living, breathing animals in real life.
Animal rights organizations and ethically-minded individuals are a driving force behind this evolution. For example, PETA was responsible for the top-rated indie game Bionic Commando Limbo. Nintendo (creators of the famous Donkey Kong) recently released Super Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
Advantages Of Vegan Video Games
The general perception is that video games are a predominantly masculine pastime. And yet, the popularity of the animal rights movement and video games over the last few years has proved some nice and positive elements in these interactive media. What’s more, the online presence of the vegan movement in video games is increasing.
Besides the fan pages that offer moral advice, regular discussion threads have already started appearing online. The expansion of the vegan video game scene is only natural since the market and audience for animal rights and animal welfare in video games is slowly growing.
Of course, there are challenges with all video games – writing, censorship, market saturation, ill-informed game critics, whatever. But fortunately, most of the above-mentioned problems don't apply to game designers, who have the latitude to create whatever they like.
Just consider that Mario's creator Shigeru Miyamoto is vegan, and so is David Cage, the creator of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls.
In this sense, video games for vegans are ideal – the power to explore a complete and compelling world without having to worry about caring for the living creatures that create this world. Still, there are limitations in terms of the experience.
Disadvantages Of Vegan Video Games
As many people already know, veganism (or vegetarianism) is an extremely restrictive diet that demands complete abstinence from animal products and one that mandates serious discipline: one that values pure, plant-based foods and rejects anything not vegan. To enjoy vegan video games, they have to avoid consuming anything not in the “vegan diet.” That’s not always easy, especially when the rest of your diet is usually quite healthy.
Not all vegetables are available as vegan substitutes.
Even if you follow this diet in real life, there are times when your taste buds take over, and you may end up eating meat. Or when travelling abroad, you’re bound to end up eating meat (it’s hard to avoid for someone who likes their food).
While there are many advantages of a vegan diet, it does not always mean that one can enjoy playing video games – or any other sort of video or multimedia content, for that matter. The same challenge of sustaining one's interest in a video game would not work for a vegan unless the game in question is fairly one-dimensional and straightforward.
A video game's main mechanic usually comes in the form of battling through levels and gaining rewards. Even though a vegetarian could often feast their eyes on these, they would have to accept that when the game is in their hands, the same meals in the player's dining area are automatically replaced by meat. The same goes for the trophies.
Everything Is A Choice
Game developers have recognized this, and there is a concerted effort to create games that aren't merely escapist, where the experience isn't necessarily that enjoyable if you're not a participant. This has been recently shown by the likes of the critically-acclaimed Spelunky and Oxenfree.
Both featured a non-violent narrative that evokes a sense of community between gamers. On top of this, the non-violence of the narrative is reflected through a clear and easy-to-understand morality system. The difficulty of completing a mission in Spelunky hinges on how many friends the player has on their Facebook.
For most people, the decision to adopt a vegan diet, or vegetarian, or even to go for a vegan-but-not-a-vegetarian lifestyle is accompanied by questions about how this will affect their own personal relationship to video games.
Will they miss out on character items and weapons? Will they need to invest in games' virtual currencies to complete their collection? Will they miss the action of being so immersed in a world now that animal-based violence is outlawed?
While those are all valid questions, as much as I'd like to think there isn't any real difference between animal-based violence and animal-inspired violence in games, I have to confess I miss things from time to time. I miss having Diablo and Borderlands characters as companions, for instance.
And if we can think about it in that way, it becomes obvious that most of the major protagonists in video games, except for maybe the cutesy Puss in Boots and the friendly Dog, are vegetarian, and one way or another, their diet has to be important to their survival.
Our moral status doesn’t come from the consumption of animal products – and from the biological fact that we are meat-eaters, whether or not we want to become from the fact that we are conscious. Even if we want to eat animals, our conscious choice is probably not the choice we would make. Therefore, it’s the conscious choice that matters, and therefore it’s the animal products we choose to consume, not the animal.
In response to strong growth in veganism, many developers have approached the subject with care and nuance. They create games that make complex issues accessible to an audience that might be new to veganism.
They also illustrate how progressive topics can be approached from both an academic perspective and through imaginative creativity. In fact, many games have used various parts of their development to educate and advance a conversation around important issues, while others are simply entertaining.
It is liberating to play a video game that has made a complex issue accessible to so many people. If we play games, we can educate, raise awareness and help others realize that there are many different ways of thinking and living.
Humans have a habit of defining themselves by the groups they’re in. This tendency often leads to segregation, as different groups are afraid of what the other group might think of them. Whether it’s due to an unconsciously selfish desire to seem superior, to maintain connections with a smaller group, or just because they’re afraid of losing a certain privilege, many people still like to keep a separation between themselves and other people.
However, some people are brave enough to break out of this socialization and stand out from the crowd rather than play into it.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about the Video Games For Vegans. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
Want To Learn How To Create Delicious, Cruelty-Free, Healthy AND 100% Vegan Meals? Try These Awesome Vegan Cooking Courses With A Free 7-DAY MEMBERSHIP
Your Opinion Is Important To Me
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about the Video Games For Vegans in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.