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The Top 7... Things you can do with birds in games

2. Harness their movement for transportation

As seen in: Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, The Secret of Monkey Island, Banjo-Kazooie

As long as there have been games and birds, there has been bird-riding. And because video game bird-riding dates back to the very early days of games, it should come as no surprise that some of the first proponents of said act were medieval fantasy types. You know, because of history and stuff. 1982’s Joust saw armoured knights doing sky-bound battle on giant birds. In The Legend of Zelda, A Link to the Past, a flute-wielding elfin type got to use a bird as a quick-travel taxi around the kingdom. There is, however, one fatal flaw in the logic of the giant-birds-as-transportation system.

If a wild bird is big enough to carry the weight of a man through the sky, it is big enough to f*ck a man up for trying to tame it.

No wonder early bird-flight was all carried out by people carrying big swords and shields. That shit is dangerous. In fact traditional video game flying-beasie-flight still is. While not strictly puristic bird-users, the fact that the biggest current proponents of said art are high-level World of Warcraft characters proves this. Less capable characters have opted for safer dilutions of bird-based-transportation. Monkey Island’s Guybrush will only use a rubber chicken, and even then only as a zip-line. Banjo only ever flies with trusted, non-feral friend Kazooie, and has recently turned his favours to motor vehicles. Mario refuses to even use an entire bird, instead mutilating the dangerous avian critters and utilising their body parts in his fantastical wardrobe of the macabre.

Of course, birds are the early transport method of choice within a host of Final Fantasy games, but have you ever wondered why they’re always dropped the second another option comes along? It’s not that they can’t fly (the passive-aggressive sods probably can, and just choose not to bother), it’s that they’re too frigging dangerous. There’s only so much extra gil and equipment you can expect one of those things to carry before it eats your lungs. And it will.

1. Kill them

As seen in: Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Duck Hunt

Games, ultimately, are a reflection on real human life. They’re made by humans, so how could they not be? And what, realistically, do we as a species do with birds more than anything else? Kill them and eat them, that’s what. Of course, in games food isn’t usually the reason for killing birds. But doing so always provides some sort of reward, however abstract. In Grand Theft Auto IV, shooting pigeons increases your completion percentage and unlocks a helicopter. Swiftly killing chickens in Modern Warfare 2 bags an Achievement or Trophy. And isn’t such digital sustenance simply a subconscious metaphor for the human process of eating? Games know that bird killing is of existential significance.

Japan’s Hideo Kojima knows this too, and as a result Metal Gear Solids 2 and 3 are one big metaphor for man’s continued moral struggle with his bird-killing instincts. MGS2 allowed you to shoot seagulls at will, but dealt out a hefty reprimand via codec if you did. There was also a parrot that could call an alert if fired upon. After thrashing out all of this existential angst, old Koj eventually came to accept bird killing, turning it into a key part of the food-based survival mechanics in Metal Gear Solid 3. Many are distracted by the MGS series’ lengthy deconstructions of the dehumanised, expendable and ultimately anachronistic nature of the once proud warrior archetype, but those people are mistaken. Chicken dinner angst is the real point.

Don’t believe this is as big a gaming deal as we say it is? Consider Resident Evils 4 and 5, both of which allow you to shoot one whole hell of a lot of chickens. The result of said killing? Eggs of varying colours, which act as both sustenance and weaponry. The mythical gold egg will provide a 100% health boost if eaten, and the rotten variety is a lethal thrown projectile. What does this mean? That even amongst such nightmarish inhumanity and untellable horror, Leon, Chris and Sheva never forget the redemptive power of bird-killing, or lose appreciation of its deadly consequences. Metaphor. It’s powerful stuff.

Also, Duck Hunt was awesome and the dog was a prick. We are legally obligated to mention that.

March 7th, 2011

In life we eat them out of buckets. In games we love to murder themdead

The bird's the word. It's also a wanker

Be careful what you eat, you may be digesting the saviour of the universe