Do you love nature? I know that I do. And in our hectic, day to day lives, we hardly ever seem to have the time to commune with nature the way we want to. Sometimes the only exposure to the natural world we get is the occasional pigeon that alights on our windowsill in the middle of a work day.
One of the things I try to do is bring a little bit of nature into other aspects of my life, and while we don’t exactly have virtual reality holodeck-style technology yet, there are certain things you can do that can make you feel a bit closer to the outdoors – even as you remain safely inside in the air conditioning.
I play an online-based video game called TheHunter (see credit at bottom of article). As you might imagine, it’s a hunting simulator, with a wide selection of weapons available. There are multiple levels of membership, as this is technically a subscription game – however, it’s much cheaper than most other subscription based games out there – at $14.99 for three months instead of one month like games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic (until recently) and World of Warcraft for the same amount.
At the free membership level, you are only allowed to hunt Mule Deer, and you’re given only a small caliber rifle to do so with, and a simple “bleat” call to attract the deer. Attempting to shoot any other animal (as, within the same zone where the Mule Deer are, there are also Pheasants, Coyote, and Wild Hogs) will result in an error and no bullet actually firing. You also have a pair of binoculars that zoom in to a respectable distance, and a camera used to take trophy photos – though you can use it to take shots of anything you like by equipping it (default, that’s done by hitting the number 4 on your keyboard. Three is your deer call, two is your secondary weapon slot, and 1 is your primary weapon slot).
The controls are fairly simple, with WASD for moving, the aforementioned number keys for using items, ctrl to move into a crouch, and then again to move into a belly crawl, and shift (also twice if you’re crawling) to stand back up. Caps Lock functions as a run/walk toggle. But if you want to see animals, I suggest never running.
The sounds in the game are also absolutely beautiful and accurate. The first time I heard a coyote howl, it sent chills up my spine. The graphics, already visually stunning, when coupled with the audio, give an immersive experience that could only be made better by burning a pine scented or mountain air scented candle, or maybe oil, in order to give yourself the full sensory effect.
Of course, I’m fully aware that there are people out there who HATE hunting with a passion, and would never kill an animal – even a virtual one. That’s ok! There’s still reason for you to play this game. See, you don’t have to shoot the animals with a gun. The camera works just fine. I have many times used this game as a nature walk – strolled through the huge, expansive environments with my camera at the ready, following tracks to find an animal (the wonderful thing about doing this is that you aren’t limited to the Mule Deer – you can take pictures of any animal you encounter for free!), then sitting quietly and just photographing it. If you’re still, and lucky with the wind direction, the animals can get amazingly close to you and make for some beautiful shots!
The different subscription levels all come with one thing in common – a license to hunt all of the animals in the game. You still have to buy most of the weapons (if you want them – if you’re just a “nature walk” player, a base subscription is all you need to wander all the zones and take pictures of everything from Red Deer to Elk to even Black Bears!), and any more calls or supplies that you want, but at five hundred EM$ (the game’s currency) for five dollars, one EM$ is essentially worth one cent, and most of the weapons are therefore less than (or equal to) about five dollars. The lures and stuff are much cheaper, making doing the nature walk a much less expensive version of the game.
When you start a hunt, you also pick not only the location (two lodges to start from in each zone) but the time of day as well. So if you’d like to take some beautiful pictures of a sunrise or a sunset over mountains, you can pick the time. I’ve even picked a time – knowing about how long it takes me to walk to wherever I wanted to photograph – so that the sun would be at the perfect angle for the image I wanted to take when I got there.
The Hunter is an absolutely gorgeous game. Whether you’re in it for the trophies or the photos, the scenery or the animals, I highly recommend it to nature lovers everywhere – experience the outdoors without having to leave your air conditioning.
My allergies certainly thank the game’s creators.
[image credits: TheHunter]