Dragon’s Dogma 2 cooking features “real meat” – does that mean vegans shouldn’t play it?

By admin Mar8,2024

Dragon’s Dogma series director Hideaki Itsuno has announced that the meat you can cook over campfires in Dragon’s Dogma 2 is, in fact, “real meat”. There’s been a certain amount of PlayStation-instigated speculation about whether the meat is CGI-generated, following the last round of Dragon’s Dogma 2 previews. Speaking to Japanese site 4Gamer, as translated by Automaton, Itsuno revealed that the game’s scenes of sizzling flesh are derived from live action film of steaks being grilled – partly for the sake of authenticity, and partly to save money versus creating computer models of meat products. You can cook several types of meat in Dragon’s Dogma, each of which has its own cutscene, and a number of Dragon’s Dogmatists are already performatively salivating at the prospect on social media.

The fact that, technically, a bunch of animals died to create Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a reminder that meat production and consumption are pervasive phenomena that extend well beyond the act of eating. Meat byproducts appear in or are used to create all kinds of crazy things, and carnism shapes culture in vast and complex ways. Gelatin derived from animal protein is used to coat paper, bind match stick heads and test the passage of bullets through bodies. The ESA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft is coated in burned cow bones to help it endure the sun’s radiation. Strictly speaking, it’s impossible to be a vegan and spend paper money in the UK, because our banknotes contain animal fat. And now, you could argue, it’s impossible to be vegan and play Dragon’s Dogma 2. Hmm.

A Mystic Spearhead character striking a chimera's head in Dragon's Dogma 2.
Image credit: Capcom

Speaking of performativeness, it’s at this point that I must yet again whip off my hood, arrange my features into a diabolical rictus, and announce that I am, in fact, one of those perfidious vegans. “Lord have mercy!” you gasp, reeling back from the screen and defensively stuffing a handful of pork scratchings into your mouth, while making a sign to avert evil spirits (assuming you’re not also vegan). Be calm, friend! I am not going to give you cooties or lecture you about your dietary preferences. What I’m going to do is talk briefly about the ways in which representations of meat in videogames suggest a degree of anxiety about modern meat production, whether you’re vegan or no – a desire to shut down the abattoir and rediscover the act of hunting and butchering animals in the wilds.

For all meat’s ubiquity, modern meat production can seem intangible. Thousands of chickens, cows, sheep, pigs and fish are slaughtered every second, but for many of us, this happens behind walls, fences and laws against filming inside slaughterhouses; as such, it can’t really be detected in the product that ends up in a supermarket freezer. Relatively few people in affluent countries like the USA or UK are directly involved with the deaths of the creatures they consume, and the process of turning animal corpses into sellable meat is itself a curious kind of “artmaking” that keeps the carnage at a distance. It’s the transformation of suffering, mutilated bodies into something shiny, bleached, hairless, predictably proportioned and devoid of signs of trauma, not really “animal tissue” at all.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that there’s a steady appetite for ways of preparing and eating meat that make the act of meat production feel “real” again. These are the varieties of bucolic animal agriculture you see represented on supermarket boxes or labels. Making allowances for cultural differences between Japanese game developers and white English folk like myself, I think Dragon’s Dogma 2 is one of many survival games or survival-ish RPGs that channel nostalgia for a quasi-fantastical era when the production of meat was more immediate, “honest” and homely, an opportunity for tribal intimacy around a crackling blaze hung with freshly killed deer. If meat production today relies on separation and alienation – not just from the beasts, but from the often exploited humans who work in slaughterhouses – then escapist fictions like these are both a way of maintaining that distance and symptoms of a desire to overcome it.

Anyway, I’m rambling while I try to unpick my feelings about the revelation that Dragon’s Dogma 2 is a meatier experience than we generally mean when we call a game “meaty”. If you find this stuff interesting, I recommend Tom Tyler’s book Game, which explores “the complex and often contradictory ways in which players of video games have been invited to encounter, understand, and engage animals”.

By admin

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