On June 25, 2020, Neopica’s sequel to their 2017 game Hunting Simulator will launch on the Xbox One. Hunting Simulator 2 builds on its predecessor with more features and redesigned animal AI.
In vast open areas, players will encounter a diverse array of predators, fowl, big, and small game to hunt, with the new AI providing a more realistic experience. Also, responding to community feedback, Hunting Simulator 2 will feature a hunting dog companion, who can pick up trails and lead you to the best spots to begin your approach. There’s also a tremendous range of weapons, accessories, and apparel, with all of the top real-life brands featured in the game.
The Hunting Simulator game series, and other hunting games of a similar theme, assumedly only really appeal to a particular audience, given how niche and otherwise shunned hunting has become as a hobby. As noted when previewing Hunting Simulator, it can sound a bit brutal to many people. Not to condone hunting now, but there seems to be a space and a much wider audience for these hunting games than one would assume – particularly because it’s digital, and the whole ‘video games cause violence’ myth has been overwhelmingly refuted by the scientific community.
What’s the fascination with hunting games?
In order to explore the topic of hunting games and their popularity, one must approach the argument of hunting from both sides – just to be clear, this isn’t to rationalise or support the activity in the real world.
The rise of humanity has been intrinsically tied to hunting. The increasing spread of Hominins across Africa, Asia, and Europe some 60,000 years ago is widely considered to be a primary factor in the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna. The emerging but diminutive primate evolved superior brain capacity, enabling the creation of hunting tools which, coupled with climate change, led to the extinction of megafauna like Eurasian hippopotamuses, the straight-tusked elephant, cave bear, and Asian antelope, among others.
While humanity gradually moved to being less about survival and more for entertainment, hunting was still prevalent in the times of ancient civilisations. Cultures across the world have upheld the emphasis of man triumphing over beast as being a part of their heritage. The desire to compete against powerful animals was more recently demonstrated by the 1920s and 1930s efforts of Heinz and Lutz Heck, who attempted to back-breed domestic cattle to bring the mighty, but extinct, aurochs back to the forests of Bavaria.
The modern-day human, however, no longer needs to hunt to survive, and we possess a powerful brain that allows for the understanding of death, its consequences, and offers a sense of empathy. But aside from the primal instincts driving an affinity for the hunt, The Guardian details an interview with a hunter who sees hunting as not being about the trigger pull, but about the experience of preparing, seeking, spotting, sneaking, and finally aligning the shot.
Working from this line of thought, not only does human nature historically invite the challenge of hunting, but as it’s about the experience more than the kill, the activity lends itself to a game simulation very well – especially as the final trigger pull doesn’t take a real life in this instance. You don’t have to be sadistic to enjoy a hunting game, and perhaps they can even work well to suppress some peoples’ urges to kill animals for sport. As such, seeing an enhanced sequel in the form of Hunting Simulator 2 perhaps shouldn’t be a surprising release.
Hunting has been popular across all forms of gaming
Whether it’s due to deeply rooted drives or even just peoples’ enjoyment of shooting digital things to show off skill and have fun, hunting games have proven to be popular across almost all formats of gaming.
Hunting doesn’t even need to be a simulation of sorts to gain popularity in the gaming space. The modern board game Deer Season is a 1-4 player board game and is said to capture the essence of the hunt, including waiting for big bucks to appear, and deer being constantly on the move on the board. Then there’s the free online casino game Hunting Season, as another example, which draws from a more traditional style of hunting. With horses and hounds, there’s a hunting mini-game within the main title, as well as a hidden jackpot to emulate a key tense part of the hunt.
The most notable and classic hunting game is, of course, Big Buck Hunter. You would have been hard-pressed to find an arcade that didn’t have a Big Buck Hunter game – or a knockoff – somewhere in the hall a decade ago. Using coloured plastic guns, millions of people would insert some coins and fire away to scatter digital animals to get a high score – and make the most of the three-letter name permitted. It was so popular that Arcade 1 Up is bringing it back in their latest line of classic arcade units.
Be it in the form of a hands-on simulation game or a game in the theme of the activity, hunting is a popular genre to tap into as a theme. However, this doesn’t mean that all hunting game players favour hunting in real-life, as the games can have inherent appeal, and the age-ratings on such games will help to keep the most impressionable minds away.