Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rained Out & Is there a link between computer games and hunting ethics?

If last weekend’s weather had turned any worse I would have needed a boat!
I was all set for the opening of pheasant season and then the weather turned to bite me where it hurts! There was rain, lots of rain, and it was cold. Sometimes the drops of rain felt like hail stones and not raindrops. Cookie and I put the hunting bag away to wait for better weather. At least next week I can take off in the middle of the week and go south for some pheasant hunting.
One task I did take care of was gun cleaning. My muzzle loader was showing the effects of being in the weather and there was the threat of rust. I scrubbed the barrels clean and worked on all the exposed metal surfaces until it was Marine inspection clean. Part of that cleaning included getting into the area of the hammer that falls on the primer (I have no idea what the technical name for that is). I’ve had some misfire problems with one barrel and I suspected it was residue building up inside that part of the hammer. I don’t know if that was the real problem but I did clean out quite a bit of nasty black stuff so I am hopeful that I solved that problem.
One problem not so easily resolved is that of increasing questionable behavior by younger hunters. Since the season opened I’ve discovered that many high school boys who are hunting unsupervised, if the hunting is slow, have taken to shooting songbirds. I think that every boy who owns a BB gun has taken a shot or two at a sparrow or robin, sometimes even with a shotgun, but after the initial experience and the accompanying guilt the practice usually stops. Is that no longer the case? I know one group of boys that spends a great deal of their free time playing extremely violent games. There is the sound of bullet strikes, moans of the characters being shot and splatters of blood to add realism. But everything is make-believe so it doesn’t count—right?
I’ve gone through several cycles where I’ve maintained the games are bad, and then I’ve decided they are just glorified versions of the role games my generation played as kids. Now I am drifting back to believing that these games, whether it is a WWII (Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, pick your war) game or attacking three-headed monsters, creates an emptiness toward understanding the value of a life. Is it really possible to play hour after hour of on screen mayhem and then go hunting with real guns and switch from no value on life (even though it is digital) to having a value for life? Certainly the hunter kills but not wantonly and not without consideration for why he killing an animal.
There’s a problem here I do not have a solution but it does deserve some serious thought. I would like to learn what others think. glg


The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Such an interesting question.

I too have pendulumed between the two points of view, where i am now is perhaps not where I'll end up, but for my two cents:

My godson (17)is absolutely deadly with a game controler and has played them since he was very small - he is also vegetarian and disapproves of hunting on the grounds of animal cruelty.

I've only ever shot one deer, but in the moments before I pulled the trigger I have never seen life appear so animated or so precious.

I'm not really a gamer myself - I don't own a console, but i have played a fair bit. As the marketers trumpet the life likeness of games they are missing the point, i think games do entrain players to be blood thirsty - when they are playing games. The learning is contextual.
So every new release must be more savage to take its place in the market.

Once the context shifts to a long wait in a cold wood, followed by a seeming eternity watching a deer breathe at close focus, the moment was part of a larger narrative, a personal meditation.

I'm yet to see that sort of behaviour in a game, games MUST deal in bigger and bigger doses of adrenalin to draw players back. One that dealt in meditation, observing micro movements and remorse would perhaps be an acquired taste?

Thanks for the brain food, its a great question

Albert A Rasch said...


Found your blog via NorCalCazadora.

SBW writes so well, that I can't add to what he has said. (Dang it Sten!)

With guidance I think most kids will behave in an ethical manner. There's always the exception, but generally speaking and though they might be faster on the trigger, their ethical thought process doesn't vastly differ from us archaic types.

At least I hope I'm right...

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Tom Sorenson said...

I think it could be blamed on a number of things - for the record, I'm a young(25) hunter myself and I know a lot of other young hunters that are very respectful of their passion and are very ethical hunters. That said - computer games could have something to do with it - but you could look at the lack of mentor in the field as having just as much to do with it, too. A lot of these kids are going into the field because a friend hunts or something - there is no replacement for an adult mentor when it comes to the outdoors, though. And, as we see a lot of unethical practices taking place among some adult hunters, there are getting to be fewer and fewer good adult mentors - but that's not to say there are none left. It's an interesting question - I, for one, think that lack of an outdoor mentor has as much of an impact as anything, though. I'm thankful my Dad and Grandpa where so dedicated in taking me in the woods and letting me learn from them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Galen. I play and hunt (going on my first duck hunt this weekend-won't be shooting any songbirds). The youngsters you mentioned sound like unsupervised jackasses. I think some adults are guilty of this: I've heard volleys during elk season that sounded like people weren't making well-aimed shots.

It may be that too much time playing affects youngsters, but that's a symptom of a larger problem: lack of supervision, lack of guidance, etc.

Finally, when are you going to visit P-town again?

Galen Geer said...

Hi Jason, Might be down in December, not sure yet. M will be down and I'll tell her you asked.

Some truly great points here. I don't have a good answer and I'm not even sure the games are to blame. I do think that Tom really keyed in on a serious problem and that is a lack of mentors to help guide young hunters. That said, Bushwacker makes another interesting observation--that the learning is contextual. My reply question is how much can we actually define in the contextual learning process? I must agree that it does provide a set of limits that exist within the mind, that are defined by the game itself, but my question in reply would be this: does the contextual learning process define itself by the presence of the virtual world within the mind and if this is true is there a possiblity of that virtual world that exists within the mind spilling over to the conscious mind during moments of increased anxiety--the flash of a nongame bird while hunting? (Man, that was a long sentence! Glad my wife didn't see it or I'd get the short sentence lecture--again!) glg

Chas S. Clifton said...

I like computer games, mostly strategy games, but computerized hunting/fishing always seems silly, so I don't do them.

That disclaimer aside, I am still inclined to think that the player brings his/her values to the game, more than the other way around.

It's sort of like the old argument over comic books, isn't it?

Holly Heyser said...

I have little to contribute to this because I neither have children nor play video games.

But, I have a former student who's a big gamer. His dad tried to take him duck hunting, but he hates how slow it is; he likes the nonstop action of video games.

Maybe I do have something to contribute: I'm not sure conditioning to violence is the problem; conditioning people to expect nonstop action may be a much more serious issue, because hunting is a very slow "game."

Anonymous said...

Instant gratification, right? Short attention spans as a result of the learned expectation of the instant payoff. But is this a modern development, or something that's been around for a long time?

I have played a lot of the high-violence video games, particularly the military sims and first-person shooters. Like Holly mentions, it is fast and furious (at its best), and teaches the opposite of patience. But is this a symptom or a cause?

When I was a kid, a bit prior to the video age, my friends and I still sought the same quick feedback experiences. We shot at songbirds, minnows, and crawfish... as well as a whole selection of inanimate things.

We played with fireworks and fire, bb-guns and homemade bows and arrows... you name it. If we could affect our immediate environment, we did so.

Why this confessional?

Because I am pretty sure I'm not unlike a lot of other folks who, as youngsters, were turned loose to our own devices. Yeah, generally, a little adult supervision would've made all the difference in those cases... but not always. I knew some adults who were just as prone to that foolishness as any kid could be.

The biggest question to me is, what is it that lets most of us grow out of this phase, while some people never do?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mr. Geer,

I'd really like to interview you for an article about the cost benefits of hunting - please feel free to contact me at andrea dot dickson at gmail dot com.

Rabid Outdoorsman said...

There is a great book entitled "Everything that is bad is good for you" it highlights how some of the things we see as potential evils in the world (TV, Video games, etc.) could actually be assisting the evolution of our species.

I personally have played potentially to many video games in my life. It has never had any impact on how I perceive non-virtual life or made me feel desensitized . . . that I know of anyway.

For me I am much more concerned with how all this technology makes me feel anxious and "bored" when not available. Good thing deer season is here and I can climb up in my tree stand and escape all the technology . . . err wait . . . didn't I just buy a PSP? :)

Native said...

I would have to agree with Phillip concerning the instant gratification syndrome.
We "all" are subject to this upon occasion and young people without proper adult guidance will often fall victim to the habit of I.G.S.

I remember when I was about 11 years old and had gotten up very early one morning to go hunting with my Dad's brother, Uncle Buddy.
As we had quietly walked through the forest looking for deer sign for about an hour, I was becoming quite bored and I glanced up and saw a Mocking Bird sitting upon a tree limb.

Without thinking, I quickly lifted my shotgun and killed the poor creature.
My uncle, at first became very angry and then just as rapidly, became quietly stern and explained to me that if we do not plan on eating it, that we do not shoot it!

I learned so very much that single day and it can be directly attributed to my dear uncle Buddy's patience with an impetuous youth whom up until then, had been without proper adult supervision.

Playing video games or watching violent T.V. shows do not cause a young person to become desensitized but, not having an adult around to explain the difference between fantasy and real life and it's very real consequences will have ill results every time!

Galen Geer said...

Thanks to all of you for some truly great and thoughtful comments on a problem that has no clear answer and I think it is one we need to keep thinking about. On the experience side of the issue I have very, very little experience with video games. I freely admit that I do not play video games. Okay, I take that back, I will sometimes play Combat Fighter Pilot. On occasion I’ll plug in the joy stick and play fighter pilot when I get bored with writing and the weather is keeping me inside. Other than that one game I just can’t get interested in them. I’ve tried watching my step-son play Call to Duty but I have no desire to play it or any similar game. It may be generational (or military experience), but I can’t say for sure. In trying to understand the relationship between computer games and a Twenty-First Century Hunting and Outdoor Ethic I’ve amassed a full file drawer of information and after all that reading and research I’m no closer to having an understanding of the relationship—if there truly is one.
I do tend to believe there is a lot of evidence to support a strong connection between the needs of instant gratification and the possibility of a carryover into the outdoors. Exactly how that need becomes linked with hunter and outdoor ethics is a mystery to me.
One thing we do know for sure is that when we move into the virtual world through the computer game we begin to establish a series of values and relationships within the virtual world. These values and relationships become more firmly entrenched within the individual’s mind with each trip to that virtual world. If this is true then I am sure that most people are able to maintain a separation between the worlds. If sometimes this wall of separation begins to collapse then is it possible that the ethics that govern one world can be corrupted by other values?