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Clicks & Clucks: archaeology and ethics inform upon human-chicken relationships in video games

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Tyr Fothergill

on 7 March 2016

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Transcript of Clicks & Clucks: archaeology and ethics inform upon human-chicken relationships in video games

Chickens are often found in
virtual safe spaces.

Women are still sometimes
responsible for chicken-keeping.

Various quests require you to
save, round up, or herd chickens.
Questions
How are the ways in which chickens are portrayed
in video games linked to perceptions of chickens
in the past?

What does our obsession with and representation
of chickens in video games say about our society?

Is it right to represent chickens (and other domestic animals) in video games as objects of brutalisation?


Chickens in past human life
Chickens were associated with the divine,
the afterlife, and ritual practice.
The Chicken
(
Gallus gallus
)
In terms of evolution and biology, chickens are considered to be quite primitive.




They were domesticated in south-east Asia, probably in more than one place, and spread across the globe.
Their habits and appearance stand out and have been a matter of human interest for millennia.
Chickens and violence
Chickens and masculinity
Chickens in video games
What chickens in video games tell us
Chickens are often the targets of violent actions in video games:
Kicking
Punching
Shooting
Crushing
Other abuse
The context is sometimes competitive or intended to be humorous.
Human-chicken interactions in video games reinforce toxic stereotypes of masculinity
Attitudes to chickens in video games are not in step with modern animal welfare ideals.
There is a disconnect between how chickens look and how they are portrayed in (even hyper-realistic) video games.
Chickens can be represented ethically in video games.
Chickens and magic
Chickens as product
Chickens, their flesh and their eggs are important sources of "life" or "health" for players in a
wide range of games.
Chickens and domesticity
Chickens were associated with magic,
divine, 'heroic', and 'evil':

Chicken meat, eggs, and feathers are used in various crafting systems.
Chickens (and chicken-like birds) are raised or used for everything from fighting and riding to egg production.
Clicks & Clucks:
archaeology and ethics inform upon
human-chicken relationships
in video games

Chickens were used in blood sport
Chicken products:
not just meat and eggs!
As magic-using sorcerors
or necromancers
As demons
As undead bosses or minions
As heroes with "super powers"
As gods in game pantheons
Dude look like a ...hen?
In some games, designers portray chickens accurately.
Most of the time, they don't.
Sometimes unintentionally comical: hen's head on man's
body, "manly" hen pet, etc.
Demonstrates separation between designers of digital worlds
and animals which they intend to portray
Potential to perpetuate lack of understanding
Cock-throwing
Cockfighting
Chickens were "women's work" and a
symbol of domesticity.
Characters carry out macho or aggressive actions whilst in chicken form

Violence against chickens is perpetrated
by male (or presumed to be male) protagonists or PCs.

Such actions are also
carried out by
male chicken 'heroes' of games.


We found 59 video games ranging in date from the early 1980s to 2015 that had chicken-related aspects.




We found that thematic attitudes toward chickens in the past were also reflected in video games, but with interesting twists.
Chickens were linked with
bravery, humour, cowardice
Jokes, bravery, and cowardice
Dr B. Tyr Fothergill
Dr Catherine Flick
Full transcript