Chickens: The most HATED animal in video games?

Cucco doodle doo doo

We've identified Street Fighter II as an early proponent of poultry persecution, but the finger of blame points squarely at Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise as the real perpetrator that popularised the culture of chicken cruelty evident in games today.

Above: An artist's impression of the moment that Link hangs from the legs of the Flying Rooster in the GameBoy game, Link's Awakening. A rooster is a male chicken

Ever since their first appearance in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the cucco - Hyrule's own version of the chicken - has had to endure almost 20 years of humiliation. Link can pick them up and throw them. He can grab on to their legs and exploit their limited power of flight. He can even attack them repeatedly to trigger a Hitchcockian show of unified avian aggression.

This last point may have been intended to empower the cucco or even deter players from battering them, but it merely succeeded in encouraging players to go at the little buggers with a boomerang until they went psycho. Whether deliberate or not, it inadvertently promoted the mistreatment of chickens in games and shone a green light to developers that this kind of bestial barbarity was acceptable. Amusing even.

Urge to kill rising

Fast forward to now and the situation is as out of control as a horny rooster in a hen house with a bucketful of Rohypnol seed at his disposal. The action of killing and being inhumanely unnecessary to chickens has become so embedded in the psyche of gamers that whenever one is spotted, it is murdered - or attempted to be murdered - at the first opportunity.

Who, for example, passed Resident Evil 4's farm or Resi 5's villages without succumbing to the overwhelming compulsion to pointlessly execute at least one of the free-roaming chickens? Shit, forget waiting around for a golden egg, we shot and/or stabbed any beady-eyed wingtard that happened to strut within killing range. It was quite the feathery massacre.

Further proof of our desensitization is apparent in spicy shooters Total Overdose and Chilli Con Carnage. Both games offer the bonus of extended combo time for killing chickens. Are we going to sacrifice a big-ass score, or sacrifice a few pee-brained peckers? It's a moral dilemma. But it's one that - in the dusty heat of a killing spree - isn't even considered. The chicken gets it. Always.

And, with the introduction of Trophies and Achievements, trying to resist the dark path of the compassionless chicken culler is becoming increasingly challenging. Rewards are given for kicking chickens (Fable II - The Chicken Kicker), blowing them up with dynamite (Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood - Arkansas Fried Rooster) and just plain old killing them dead as quick as we can (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Colonel Sanderson).

Above: Modern Warfare 2 posed the question -why shoot terrorists when there are caged chickens that need to die?

Next: A cock joke...