Playing computer games is incredibly fun. But shining a light on some of our favorite titles shows that the environment often doesn't fare too well in video games.
Have you ever wondered what games allow you to wreak the most havoc on non-player flora and fauna? Have you considered what would happen if some of your favorite franchises were applied to the real world and how the science would play out?
If so, we have you covered. The following titles and franchises cover both old and new games, as well as well-known and lesser-known examples from gaming. Each of these games allows you to potentially devastate the local environment (or the entire ecosystem) in different ways. All would certainly constitute a very serious "crime against nature" if it ever occurred in the real world. Please note that this list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
What game allows you to do the most damage to the in-game environment?
Before we begin, it should be noted that, of course, these are just computer games and not reality. As such, this list is for fun and is not intended to be taken too seriously.
To be abundantly clear, we aren't indicating, in any way, that these games encourage individuals to actually attack the environment in real life (or even convince people that doing so is a good thing). That's not how video games work or influence us.
1. Pokémon might harbor a dark and environmentally devastating secret
Pokémon (short for "pocket monsters") is one of the world's most popular and best-loved computer games of all time. The game's creators, Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori were inspired by childhood experiences of exploring forests and finding bugs and tadpoles. The series became an instant success when it appeared in digital form in the late-1990s on the GameBoy.
Since then, the series has grown into something of a monolith in the gaming industry, inspiring spin-off games (like the trading card game), cartoons, the Pokémon Go app, and even feature-length films.
Ostensibly a game about befriending and "growing" with your Pokémon, this sugar-coated veneer might well be hiding a very dark secret. Casting a skeptical eye over the concept of the game, you quickly realize that most in-game characters appear to take great pleasure in capturing wild animals.
In fact, in most cases, you'll need to either physically weaken them, send the poor creatures to sleep, or paralyze them, etc, in order to effectively kidnap them.
Everyone appears to be at it, with the worst culprits calling themselves "Pokémon Trainers". These lads and lasses spend their days (often beginning around the age of 10) wandering around in the wild fighting and capturing wild animals as a kind of sport.
What's worse, they may already "own" a particular Pokémon they meet in the wild and decide to render it unconscious to "train" their Pokémon pets. Goodness knows how vulnerable these animals could be to predation in such a prone state.
If we assume that most "Trainers" have something called a "Pokedex" this could mean that anyone above the age of 10 in the game could have a stockpile of hundreds of Pokémon (most of which they will never release again). For your information, the current Pokedex stands at around 898 (at the time of writing).
Imagine a world where most people over the age of 10 developed a liking for capturing hundreds of animals willy nilly.
Pokémon trainers are not picky either. They capture Pokémon from every trophic level of the Pokémon ecosystem. They will even pick off ultra-rare, presumably endangered species called "Legendary Pokémon".
The capture of Ghost-type Pokémon, however, is something of a grey area. Since these are the spirits of already dead Pokémon, this might be a more acceptable practice. To make things worse, even some Pokémon appear to be in on the racket. MewTwo, for example, famously had its own collection of Pokémon.
To make things worse, "Trainers" often partake in "Battles" that pit their captured creatures against an opponent's in mortal combat. While a defeated Pokémon is not "killed", such disregard for a pet's wellbeing really has to be questioned.
Since we can not be sure of the population of humans across all islands in all the games of the series, we can't really begin to estimate how many Pokémon are currently held in a form of captivity. But, it must be an enormous figure.
Quite how the local Pokémon population is sustainable under these pressures is anyone's guess.
2. "Monster Hunter" shows shockingly little consideration for the local ecosystem
"Monster Hunter" is another incredibly popular game series. First released on the PS2 in the mid-2000s, this game series has grown into another of the biggest computer game series in the world.
Today, it is one of Capcom's most valuable assets and its second-best-selling video game franchises.
Unlike Pokémon, the "Monster Hunter" series makes no secret of its true nature. If you are unfamiliar with it, the game basically revolves around players taking on the role of a "hunter".
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to run around the local wilderness engaging in hand-to-hand combat (or using a crossbow or bow) with wild beasts — often to the death. This can be either on your own or as a party of up to four other hunters.
Once you've dispatched your prey, you get the chance to "carve" its corpse to harvest parts. Depending on the quest, you do also have the option of seriously wounding a "monster" to enable you to capture it. Its fate is never really disclosed, but presumably, it is not to the creature's benefit.
Whether you kill or capture, hunters are rewarded with money and some parts of the creature (like scales, hides, teeth, heads, etc). Using these (and some other materials like metal or bone) you can make, or improve, your own stockpile of armaments and armor to greatly increase your ability to kill more animals. While this sounds like fair game (pun intended), this kind of hunting practice is incredibly wasteful, as you are about to find out.
This usually requires hunters to kill 10-20 (sometimes more) of the same animal to extract a single uncommon "piece" of it. Quite why this would be the case is anyone's guess as presumably, killing one large beast should provide you with all the materials required for your needs.
This is bad enough, but oftentimes you will encounter various species of monsters on a particular hunt. Usually, players will engage in the wholesale slaughter of all creatures in a particular area (either out of necessity or for pure pleasure) often leaving the corpses unharvested.
While this might be great for scavengers (and is admittedly a lot of fun), it is hardly a sustainable practice. On the plus side, you do get some friendly cat (felyne) companions to help you on your bloodthirsty quest to rid nature of, well, nature.
3. "Rust" effectively allows you to kill or destroy anything in your path
"Rust" was first released in 2013 and has since grown to become a very popular multiplayer game. Developed by Facepunch Studios, this cross-platform game plunges players into a fight for their lives.
If you are not familiar with the game, you'll get the general idea from its tagline. "Everything wants you to die. You need to find food, shelter, and weapons to prevent it."
Players need to gather (or steal) all the stuff they need to first survive, and then ultimately thrive in the game. To this end, players are forced to constantly manage their hunger, thirst, and general health levels.
If they don't, just like in real life, their player will meet an untimely demise. When the game starts, players are only armed with a rock and a torch and need to use their wits to first stay alive and then build up their tools and weapons to carve out a more sustainable, long-term, survival strategy.
From the materials gathered, players are able to craft new things later in the game, and ultimately need to build bases and form or join clans in order to survive. Players can also get their hands on existing advanced tech, like firearms, hinting at the world being set after some great societal collapse.
Raiding is a massive component of the gameplay, and so, having enough players in your clan to put up a worthwhile defense is an essential task to complete. While nature is a constant threat in the game (namely wild animals like bears and wolves), the main threat to players is other players.
On the surface, this sounds relatively benign for the local ecosystem, but as the game progresses, players gain access to weapons and tools that effectively allow them to lay siege to nature. For example, you can slaughter animals and deforest an area in short order.
There is also the persistent threat from highly radioactive regions of the game world. While it is not explained whether or not "Rust" is set in a post-apocalyptic world, it is clear something very bad has happened in the not-too-distant past.
4. "Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction" is proof positive of how bad an invasive species can be
This lesser-known title in the highly popular "Alien" and "Predator" series of games, "Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction" is another game in which you can completely destroy a planet's ecosystem. First released in 2003, this real-time strategy game was developed by Zono and Electronic Arts (EA) for release on the Playstation 2 and Xbox.
If you are not familiar with it, this game offers three single-player campaigns for each main species in the game: humans, aliens (xenomorphs), and predators ("Yautja"). Each storyline has its own unique objectives, units, and gameplay, that draw in elements from most of the official canon of the films, comics, and books.
The game is set on a planet called LV-742, a distant planet used by the predator species as a hunting ground for a local Alien hive. Human colonists stumble across the planet and quickly become embroiled in a literal battle for survival between two highly aggressive alien species.
Unlike other similar games, this title has fairly limited base-building requirements, resource gathering, etc. It puts far more emphasis on unit management and actual combat. If you've never played it, it really is a lot of fun — especially if you love the franchise.
All well and good, but the main story and mechanics of the game would, in reality, be a true testament to how destructive an invasive species really could be. This poor unfortunate planet, and its native creatures, must deal with not one, but three, incredibly aggressive (and in some cases technologically sophisticated) invading species.
For once, humans are the least of their worries. If you choose to take up the mantle of controlling the xenomorphs or the predators, part of the game requires you to either slay any animal you find for trophies or use them as unwilling surrogates for new Aliens.
While each invasive species does go head to head with the others in a zero-sum game of domination, the real victims of the planet are its hapless native animals.
The xenomorph species in particular is not picky on what animals its uses to gestate its young. And, given enough time, could conceivably render any viable native creatures extinct. The same could be said for the predators, who are not too picky about what they hunt for sport.
Needless to say, such a scenario would spell the end for any large animals on such a planet. It is anyone's guess what implications that would have for the ecosystem in the long run.
5. The things you can do in "Minecraft" could be really bad in reality
"Minecraft", in case you are unaware, is a hugely popular sandbox video game created by the highly talented people at Mojang Studios. Originally coded in Java, it was first unveiled to the world in 2009 but wasn't officially released for a few more years.
The game can now be played on many platforms and is one of the world's best-selling games of all time. Within the game, players have near limitless options with what they can do with the procedurally generated 3D world.
Depending on the mode of the game you are playing, options for gameplay could include fighting for survival on your own or with other players, and either working together or fighting against each other, on the same map.
The best part about the game is your ability to manipulate and alter the environment in any way you wish. You could, for example, completely change the landscape — if you have the patience to.
Any flora and fauna in the game are also yours to deal with as you please. Depending on your gaming style, this could lead to you, and other players, going on a whole scale slaughter of all living things in your local vicinity.
The same is true for any forests that are unlucky enough to be in your path. Not ideal from an environmentalist's perspective.
By digging, chopping, and hacking your way block by block through any surface of the pixellated blocky environment you can build anything you want. This has led to some truly incredible structures in-game by some very diligent players.
With some planning, you can even build very sophisticated pieces of in-game engineering, including completely automated factories or farms.
But that's the good news.
From the environment's perspective in "Minecraft", your near-godlike ability to destroy anything is far from ideal. By completely clearing forests in a matter of hours, or destroying any living thing within reach, a player's "effect" on the environment is devastating.
It is great fun though.
6. You can literally destroy planets in "Solar Smash"
While the aforementioned games are pretty bad for their in-game environments, there is another game that renders them all, quite literally, impotent. May we introduce "Solar Smash".
If you've never heard of this game before, it actually allows you to completely destroy an entire planet (and any life it happens to harbor) with the tap of a finger. The options you have at hand are staggering.
For example, you can drag continents around with your finger, or unleash the full force of nature with asteroid impacts or celestial body collisions — all while waiting for a train or bus to arrive.
If this sounds of interest, "Solar Smash", developed by Paradyme Games, is free to play and is one of the most popular game apps of all time.
In the game, you have a variety of incredibly powerful means of destroying planets are your fingertips. These include, but are not limited to, launching asteroids, creating black holes, or colliding moon-sized objects at a target planet, and many more.
You can also mix things up with planet-destroying technology, or employ the services of titanic alien lifeforms whose sole purpose is to completely annihilate a planet. For maximum enjoyment, you can also manipulate time to watch events in slow-motion or double time.
All the fun of the fare.
Needless to say, such activities would be potential mass extinction events on the poor unfortunate planet in real life. Depending on what you do, your activities can also completely wipe a planet off the map — Deathstar-style.
Needless to say, very few other games even come close to that kind of destructive power on demand. For such a relatively simple game, this is quite a compliment.
7. Sid Meier's "Civilization" can be pretty devastating for the planet too
One of the best series of games ever made, the "Civilization" franchise, depending on your gaming style, can be very destructive for in-game nature.
If you are a gamer and are not familiar with this series of games, you really should reconsider your priorities in life. The game is not only great fun but can prove to be very educational with regard to major milestones in human history.
But, for the uninitiated, the "Civilization" series of games is a turn-based strategy game that takes players on a journey through the entire known history of human civilization. To date, there are six main games in the series, many of which have a series of expansion packs and spin-offs.
The first iteration, called simply "Civilization", was developed by MicroProse in 1991 and quickly became a best-seller around the world. As home computer technology and graphics have improved over the years, the game has been reinvented several times offering players a more immersive and frankly beautiful gaming experience over time.
The premise of the game is relatively simple. You start out as the ruler of a small tribe of people in the long ago days of prehistory. From there it is your task to guide your people to establish their first cities, and then either dominate the world or survive the constant pressure of other civilizations interfering with yours.
A large component of the game is securing vital resources like timber, coal, oil, gold, etc. to enable your civilization to build stuff. Whether that be buildings, military units, or for trade.
As your civilization and cities grow in size and population, the pressure to either secure or exploit natural resources grows enormously — often needing you to conquer other lands. You will also find yourself leveling entire forests, or completely altering natural habitats for the benefit of your people.
Later in the game, you get to research and build some of the most potent weapons mankind has ever known (or is yet to know) — like nukes or giant killer robots. Depending on your gaming style, you can either use these as a deterrent or unleash literally hellfire on your enemies from a distance.
While many elements of the game are analogous to the actual history of humankind, the scale of devastation you could conceivably wreak on the planet in-game is terrifying. Especially if you inadvertently trigger a wholescale nuclear war.
However, later in the game you can develop "renewable" technologies and allow your workers to clean up pollution and even nuclear fallout. So. it's not all that bad (or is it?).
And that environmentally-destroying gaming fans is your lot for today. These are but some of the worst culprits in the gaming world when it comes to being able to, potentially, fatally damage the environment and ecosystem in-game.
Obviously, each of the titles above is pure fantasy, but it is interesting food for thought we think you'll agree.