Protecting video game dogs and the silly lengths I go to


I don’t know how I finished Far Cry 3. Luck and perseverance, I suppose. It’s hard to play when you’d happily take a bullet for a dog, though. The island paradise is full of them, and for some reason they are extremely aggressive. But I refused to harm a hair on their precious little heads.

Dogs are frequently used to evoke empathy in games. Even gloomy Call of Duty has used them to try to make their grim and boring heroes more human. It’s a bit of a trope, which makes it all the more jarring when other games are determined to make you shoot them. I’ve made it my mission to look after them all.

Here are some of things I’ve done to protect awesome puppers:

  • I served myself up as a tasty snack in Far Cry 3.
  • I allowed my Rimworld colonists to starve when I used the last bit of meat to make kibble for a good boy.
  • In GTA V, I created a car fort in the middle of a gunfight to protect a random dog. Then I took selfies with it, before dying.
  • I stood in front of an enemy tank in Metal Gear Solid 5, lest it spot my buddy, D-Dog.
  • In WoW, I forgot all about my friends who were fighting The Lich King because I was too busy taking pictures of my pug scooting across the ground.

Dogs are pure and good — be nice to them.

RPS is out of office today. We asked our friends to write short posts like the one above on subjects of their choosing. Read them all here.


  1. contractcooker says:

    Do you want a cookie?

  2. Kefren says:

    I’m the same in games, but for many species. I couldn’t get past a certain silly point in the recent Tomb Raider reboot. The game was determined to keep Lara stuck in the valley until she shot a deer, even though I knew I’d find human camps with food soon enough, and you can go for a week or so without food if you need to (I think she’d only been awake for a couple of hours). I uninstalled and asked for a refund.

    • Lyrion says:

      So you have no problem shooting pixel humans but you do have a problem shooting a pixel deer?

      • Kefren says:

        As long as the fake humans are trying to kill or mutilate me, I don’t have a problem fake-killing them in defence.
        But I do have an issue with fake-killing beings when it is unnecessary.

        • Turkey says:

          What if a fake animal was fake-threatening someone you fake-loved? Would you take up fake arms in that fake situation?

        • Lyrion says:

          How about if your fake character is starving and the only way to survive is eating the deer? Or how about you are playing a Lion hunting antilopes?

        • Darloth says:

          What if you knew the fake-deer would soon respawn at its team HQ?

          • Kefren says:

            I would sneak in and pretend to steal its fake deer flag with zero fake mammal casualties of course, you taffer. Then spend the prize on fake water arrows and also a slap-up feast at Mrs Miggins fake pie shop.

    • Spuzzell says:

      I’m a vegan, and I find your attitude… odd.

      It’s a game about killing people and your red line is a deer.

      Extremely odd.

      • Kefren says:

        I played the original games mainly for the platforming and exploration. I hadn’t realised they’d decided to fuse the game with an interactive version of Hostel, incorporating a mid-sandwich slice of gore and sadism for flavour.

        Don’t worry, many people find the views of other people to be odd. It doesn’t mean that one is right and one is wrong. It just means we have different values, interests, and ways of applying them.

        • EasyStar says:

          I, for one, approve of your principled hard-line stance.

          I may not have any specific compunctions about murdering pixel-animals, but I am one of those “must choke out all the baddies and leave them in sexy semi-naked piles in the corner” sorts when I play games like Deus Ex or Dishonored. So I’m not really one to judge what is or isn’t “odd” behavior

        • Zap Brannigan says:

          I definitely find your views odd saying you played the original games. See, I did too.

          If you did, you HAD to kill some wolves in the second room you explored, less then 5 minutes into the 1st game. Then right after that it was bats. Matter of fact, Lara went all around the world killing fauna everywhere she went in all the early games. In a later game, she finds a land out of time where the remnants of the dinosaurs have been living for millions of years untouched. You have to kill all of them Lara isn’t even interested in studying them. If it isn’t dead, Lara doesn’t like it.
          In the game you were given pistols with unlimited ammo for a reason. And because the animals couldn’t shoot they were generally the warm up stuff to people and mostly unavoidable.
          Matter of fact there were almost no HUMAN enemies to kill in the first few games.
          By the time Angel of Darkness came out, people jokingly called it “Angel of Death” because now she was killing lots of people instead of animals.

          • dejablue says:

            I played the old Tomb Raider games. Honestly when I was a child I had no problem shooting dogs and wolves because I was afraid of them. Granted I was a child, so I think this is what made them seem threatening. By the time I was playing Resident Evil 4 and Haunting Grounds, I was a pet owner and my heart grew three sizes too big for canines. I honestly can’t stand seeing them come to harm, just because I have to take care of one now. But my hold up seems to stop at dogs and children. I can shoot deer and just about anything else.

            Granted if enemy dogs are in a game I will kill them. I just don’t really enjoy doing so.

      • April March says:

        I don’t think it’s odd at all. People are mostly bastards, but deers are just deers

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    james.hancox says:

    This is of course the only correct way to play games.

  4. Shadow says:

    It never ceases to puzzle me how some people are perfectly okay with mowing down scores of (virtual) human beings yet bend over backwards to save other animals, even aggressive ones.

    We’re terribly desensitized towards our own species.

    • Dogshevik says:

      When one starts speculating about how it has come to that I would strongly advise against trying too hard find conscious decision making and flawlessly executed generation-spanning planning at the root of circumstances like that. Circumstances that can be more directly and with far less assumptions be attributed to blind chance and one-thing-lead-to-another.

      • Merry says:

        Wot? Circumstances like what? I doubt if anyone imagines that there was generation-spanning planning at the heart of our fondness for dogs!

        • Dogshevik says:

          I was refering to the “We’re terribly desensitized towards our own species.” part and the debates revolving around this perception, not the fondness of dogs.
          In retrospect I should have pointed that out unequivocally. My bad.

        • Grizzly says:

          There was defenitely a generation-spanning effort to turn wolves into beings that we would be fond of though.

    • automatic says:

      You should blame this culture overall. It’s natural to shoot back at stuff that shoot at you. Why the majority of games out there put you in that situation is what you should question. Extreme competition, maybe? Ppl shoot and get shot virtually by other ppl everyday. Media sells that as cathartic experience. Other animals have nothing to do with it.

    • Cyber Ferret says:

      That’s because dogs, like small children, are innocent. Adult humans are not. Even a (fictional)killer like Tony Soprano could feel protective towards small children and animals. Dogs aren’t cursed with the human burdens of consciousness and self-determination (if you subscribe to that particular notion). But they still have recognizable faces and adorable doggy smiles!

      If one happens to believe that playing cursor tag with a cluster of colored pixels is actually representative of shooting a thinking human, then it’s fairly easy to rationalize an in-game justification for doing so. It’s much more difficult to imagine how a dog-shaped cluster of pixels “had it coming”. Dogs (unlike what people like to believe about themselves) are only ever what the humans around them have made them into.

      • RuySan says:

        It’s also explained in the Sopranos, in a conversation between Tony’s psychiatrist and one of her peers that psychopats to feel affinity to protect animals and children as a means to justify their lack of empathy towards adult humans. After all, Hitler loved dogs.

        Obviously, this was a fictional tv show and i don’t know if it has basis on real psychology.

        • wackazoa says:

          Hitler also murdered his “beloved” dog…. there was no redemption for that man.

          • Ryos says:

            Its not like that dog was likely to survive when enemy troops got into that bunker.

      • durrbluh says:

        Why is it that people say “children are innocent”? Children are tiny sociopaths, they just don’t have the means to act on their every impulse or urge. Their brains have not yet developed the pathways required for empathy or ethical decisions, they gradually develop into humans over the next two decades.

        • Cyber Ferret says:

          Must we debate the significance of “amoral” vs “immoral” ?

          Children, like dogs are innocent because they haven’t developed the awareness to make moral decisions, as most people believe that adult humans do. Very small children are still operating on an animal level, and haven’t developed their decision making ability to a degree where we would assign culpability.

          Right or wrong, the assumption is that adults have developed enough to make informed decisions on things,or at least are old enough to demonstrate that their inability to do so is the result of a clinical condition, and not just the normal lack of development.

          Does free will exist? Is anyone really responsible for their actions? I don’t know, but the prevailing attitude is that they *are*, and therefore this factors into how we see dogs and small children relative to ourselves.

          • Nauallis says:

            Dogs will never develop the awareness to make moral decisions, because they are dogs. Children might. But morality is hugely subjective.

            Innocence and guilt are entirely personal, and appearing to be either has very little bearing on reality for the entity ascribed to the emotion.

            By all means, keep your bizarre anthropomorphic belief system, but kindly stop assuming that other people believe as blindly as you do.

          • Cyber Ferret says:


            Merriam Webster:

            Definition of innocent

            1 a : free from guilt or sin especially through lack of knowledge of evil : blameless an innocent child

            c : free from legal guilt or fault;

            I employ the term only as it’s generally understood in the English language. If you’d like to engage in more existential definitions, or Philosophy 101 discussions about moral relativity, I’m not your man.

    • Shadow says:

      It’s not blind chance nor “generation-spanning planning”.

      I suppose we’ve been conditioned by 30 years of killing monsters and evil men in videogames. Largely regular animals don’t quite fit in either category, so our minds haven’t quite been dulled to their slaughter. Yet.

      Still, games aside, and this happened to me within a WhatsApp group conversation, we’re used to making jokes about human murder and war (i.e. dark humour), taking it all lightly, but someone makes a joke about a dead dog? Heartless bastard.

      People turn to vegetarianism/veganism because oh poor animals, yet walk past the homeless on their way to work without batting an eye.

      Caring about animals is fine, but I find it jarring when people don’t spare a thought for their own species first.

      “Dogs (unlike what people like to believe about themselves) are only ever what the humans around them have made them into.”

      But it is true humans are also what other humans around them have made them into. I’d say very few people are actually “born bad” instead of a product of their circumstances. One thing’s a deer or a cow, but why ponder this when attacked by a dog, wolf or bear and not when shot at by some gunman?

      • RuySan says:

        People have really strange standards when it comes to jokes. For some reason dead babies, holocaust and pedophilia jokes are less derided upon than dead animals or rape jokes.

        Go figure.

        • PineMaple says:

          More people have personal experience with dead pets and/or rape than things like the Holocaust or pedophilia.

        • Cyber Ferret says:

          I can’t speak to what circles you travel in, but I don’t get many of *any* of those sorts of jokes at all in mine. Remember, the internet is not the world, but it is a place where some of the shittiest humans can gather and receive a disproportionate voice to distort our view of it.

          On point though, it’s easy to dehumanize people, or think of them as assholes who deserve bad things. People, after all, have strong precedent for being assholes who deserve bad things.

          Dogs might eat your body if they were hungry enough–they don’t have a choice, and people assign no morality to it. People believe they have a choice though, and a human eating another human is one of our strongest taboos.

          A dog might rip your throat out if its been trained to by a human, but again we assign no morality. It’s simply another trick like fetch, or play dead.

          Dogs might be an environmental hazard in games, but they are never really the enemy, like other humans can be. Human characters are the enemy because they decide to be, and because they are probably horrible people who slept with your spouse, cheated on their taxes, like to abuse kittens, joined a hate group, voted for Trump, and use their phones during movies.

          • RuySan says:

            Yes, I was talking of the internet in general, since it’s a bigger sample and spans many cultures.

            As for the my personal experience, rape jokes and animal jokes are still more frown upon than the rest. And it depends on the rape joke. Male prison rape jokes are still hilarious for almost everyone it seems.

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            In the case of the internet, most of those “jokes” are made for the specific purpose of agitating other people. So if viewed from that perspective, the people saying those things have calculated that you will be bothered more by “dead whatever” jokes than the other thing.

          • Slazia says:

            It’s funny how we don’t think of humans as environmental hazards, too. The dog has been trained. The human has made a fully informed decision to fight in a war for his / her country and there are no other factors that have forced this human to do so?

            Humans are conditioned and controlled in exactly the same ways as animals.

      • Cyber Ferret says:

        But it is true humans are also what other humans around them have made them into.

        Yes, it wasn’t my intent to debate the merits of nature vs nurture, or the existence of free will. I’ll leave that for the scientists and philosophers. I said that only to acknowledge that consciousness and free will are things that people *do* believe in, and that they influence why we see dogs as innocent, child-like creatures.

        My personal theory is that we see dogs as sort of fuzzy human children. Most people have genetically ingrained protective instincts towards children, and strong social taboos against violence towards them. Dogs, for whatever reasons, seem to be able to trigger those same instincts better than other animals. Dogs are the same relative size as children, also have faces and smiles, and are also completely dependent on humans for their existence and direction. We feel responsible for them, because we are. We arrested their natural evolution years ago when we adopted them to our extended human family.

        • Dogshevik says:

          While some of your observations ring true, I would not see the matter so one-sided. We do see dogs as furry humans and adopt them into our family units. But it takes two for that to work. Dogs have to accept humans as hairless pack members as well.

          I wouldn´t say one side “arrested” the devlopment of the other. (how one would do that before the advent of modern genetics is another matter) Two species of pack-animals adapted to each other and carved out a niche together. And that worked out.

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            Dogs didn’t/don’t have much choice in the matter.

            And yes, their natural evolution was arrested. Most dogs, as they are today, could not survive free from human intervention. We have grossly distorted their nature to suit our whims through centuries of genetic manipulation. Controlled breeding is genetic manipulation.

            This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you ignore all the health defects we’ve inflicted on the various breeds. Their natural evolution developed them into something useful and appealing to humans, and therefore their species will survive, or not, with a much more dominant species. If we ever make it to other worlds, dogs will come with us. Not all other species were so lucky to have developed traits that induce humans to give a shit about them.

          • Dogshevik says:

            While I think I get what you are trying to say in terms of humans influencing and shaping dogs, I think you are overestimating the scale and effectiveness of such efforts. So, you are right, but only in regard to a small minority of dogs.

            The inbred, rat-sized weasel peeking out of a posh lady´s handbag isn´t the average dog. It is the exception.

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            We took wolves, and bred them over centuries for obedience and docility. In addition, we shaped their form for function and aesthetic appeal. They could not compete for long in the wild any longer against other, less docile creatures. How the heck is a dachshund going to compete with a wolf, when being “adorable” is no longer an asset in the absence of humans?

            In addition, a tragic number of dog breeds suffer from severe health defects, bone and joint disorders, and cancers as side effect of ill-advised breeding practices.

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            If your thinking is that dogs that still look more like wolves in size and appearance remain suited for survival away from humans, know that the larger breeds suffer from some of the worst health defects, and would still have to overcome centuries of genetically reinforced survival instinct suppression.

          • Caiman says:

            Dogs were bred for work though, this current fad of fashionable dogs is very much a recent thing and, in the big picture, still a relatively minority one. Most breeds are still extremely capable working dogs, and quite capable of surviving in what’s left of “the wild” either alone or in packs. You don’t have to look far to see evidence of that. If you consider cross-breeding, most dog lines will quickly revert to a more “generalist” dog type, which is why most feral dogs tend to look quite similar. Yes, I think we’ll lose the small rat dogs that can’t breed without medical intervention, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing!

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            Ok, let’s set aside the notion that I’m talking only about novelty dogs, and try to understand I’m speaking on evolutionary terms, and not in terms of any given stray feral dog you see scrounging in the wild (that still survives mainly by scavenging from humans, but remember humans are gone now) who will most likely be dead shortly after you see them (sorry). I’m speaking of the ability to compete for resources, and pass your specific genes onto a new generation among fierce competition free of human assistance.

            Dogs were created by man, not nature. We took wolves, or wolf-like canids, and bred everything out of them that made them fierce survivors–the savagery, the durability, the completely sensible distrust of humans. We did this in exchange for emphasizing more agreeable, obedient, less naturally violent breeds. Animals that did not conform to this standard were not allowed to breed.

            In addition, we took their successful evolutionary form, and modified it in myriad ways for highly *specialized* applications–not for how well that form could adapt to its environment, but for how well they could assist humans at the *specific* task they were bred for.

            It’s *extremely* unlikely that any modern dog breeds, with all their genetic defects (thanks humans!), could survive in the wild against hardened survivors like actual wolves and other predators, long enough to establish a thriving population base for their breed and begin to correct centuries of controlled breeding. They would simply be food for other animals, be crippled by hip dysplasia, or succumb to cancer if they lived long enough.

            That said, in evolutionary terms, it wasn’t a bad trade. The animals that became dogs thrived, got to hitch a ride with humans, pass what genes we let them for centuries, and will as long as humans are around to serve as caretakers. Lots of species aren’t so lucky.

          • Cyber Ferret says:

            Humans do a lot of things for dogs. They do a lot for us too, but we could get along without them if we had to (now anyways–dogs were probably indispensable for earlier humans). In addition to the obvious care and sponsorship of domestic dogs we:

            1)Keep populations of hardened predators under control. In a world without humans, these predator populations would explode from all the easy game provided by domestic animals.

            2)Provide massive buffets of waste for feral dogs to scavenge. Without humans, the meal ticket is over, and though dogs are great helpers for humans who hunt, they have long lost the ability to hunt effectively for sustenance themselves. That’s not something you recover in a few generations.

            In a world without humans, the hardiest dogs might be absorbed into other canid populations, through interbreeding. But it’s unlikely that domestic dogs would stick around and turn into some new species of wild dog without human assistance. Maybe if they were on an island free of other natural predators.

    • Godwhacker says:

      It’s not quite like that. What I murder tends to depend on the game.

      If a game gives me the option to play non-lethally then I’ll almost always take it. If the game is set up for “shoot all the humans, killing animals is optional” then I’ll kill the humans and leave the animals. If the game is set up for “both animals and humans are trying to kill you” then I’ll take them all out.

      On top of that, actual, real, violence still disturbs me, but game violence rarely does. I think most people are able to partition their feelings towards pixels that look like humans from their feelings about actual humans.

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      phuzz says:

      Dogs (or the far superior cats) aren’t evil. Occasionally dangerous maybe, but generally only if they’re protecting their family.
      Humans on the other hand, humans can be fucking awful.

    • Dave Mongoose says:

      I can understand the argument that ‘dogs are innocent’, but one of the example games in the article is GTA V and it would be incredibly difficult to get through that game without killing *any* innocents because with all the car chases and shootouts, bystanders will get hit.

      • Cyber Ferret says:

        Those clusters of people-shaped pixels and simple pathing scripts knew what they were getting into when they agreed to be extras in a Rockstar game. They signed the waiver, decided to participate in an amoral Rockstar sandbox.

        Dog-shaped pixel clusters can’t sign waivers.

      • Shadow says:

        GTA presents one of the more human contexts in gaming, usually quite removed from generic bad soldiers and the standard of many games. Bystanders aside, there’s gang members and policemen who can very well end up on the other side of the barrel. Even in the case of criminals, it raises questions about whether it’s OK to go around like a vigilante dispensing the death penalty with little to no restraint.

    • Nootrac says:

      I don’t think it’s that strange. My theory is:

      We’re evolutionarily hard-wired to recognise and understand the tiniest details of other humans, so we’re extremely sensitive to fake humans that break the illusion somehow (see: the Uncanny Valley theory,) but we don’t have anywhere near the same threshold of familiarity with non-human animals. Your average human NPC is nowhere near convincing enough to make us feel real empathy towards them, but NPC animals have a far lower bar to overcome. We’re less familiar with them, so we’re less sensitive to the subtle things that reveal them to be fake.

      Imagine a videogame dog and a videogame human rendered and animated at the same level of fidelity. Yeah, we’re consciously aware that neither of them are real, but the dog seems far more like a real dog than the human seems like a real human – so the experience of killing the fake dog feels more realistic than killing the fake human.

      It’s not about how severe the pretend atrocity is, just about how realistic it feels. And for some people, killing fake dogs is just slightly too realistic to be fun.

  5. Alien says:

    I got my first dog a year ago (a super cute “Dachshund” [1]).

    Now I can`t harm virtual dogs (even “zombie-dogs”) anymore. Even the “Crystal Lizards” in Demons Souls remind me of my dog (especially when they run away) and I refuse to attack them. It`s a hard game and it got even harder now… :)

    [1] link to

  6. Jim Dandy says:

    Dogs are like a drunk slobbering ‘I love you’ into your ear while they piss themselves. Cats, on the other hand, are a dignified animal.

    • wackazoa says:

      Having grown up with cats, and now having dogs, I can say they are both great in their own ways. Our cats did however RUN our household growing up, whereas my dogs are just happy participants.

    • Caiman says:

      Yes, so dignified when they jump onto the table and stick their anus into your face. Cats are out for themselves and care nothing for your human values.

  7. ByrdWhyrm says:

    I am that way with rabbits in games. This can prove challenging in survival games, where they are often used as a beginner’s food source.

    • wackazoa says:

      I cant “kill” any animal that I have owned or do own. So Dogs, Cats, and Rabbits are no kill for me. Fish are one of the few mainstream pets I haven’t kept, so you know….. fuck fish.

    • teije says:

      Pretty much rules out The Long Dark then doesn’t it. Especially that part about breaking the cute little bunnies necks after you brain them with a stone. (Which I also can’t do, I trap them instead and never see them suffer.)

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    distantlurker says:

    Good boy.

  9. chuckieegg says:

    The first time I played through Deus Ex, I choose all my mods to avoid doing harm to dogs. I could outrun them, spot them first, jump out of the way etc. I didn’t even tranq them.

    I originally tried the same tactic with Greasels. Though I quickly came to hate them and just shot them on sight after that.

    • phlogistic says:

      That’s probably because tranqing dogs killed them in vanilla Deus Ex. I think it was only a recent version of GMDX that fixed this obvious flaw.

  10. poliovaccine says:

    Haha, I get the feeling. I like how at least a few Fallouts have the “Animal Friend” perk to stop them being aggressive. I always take that one, even though it kind of ruins the challenge of some bits, just cus I love being able to walk up and watch AI pootle around its space undisturbed. It’s the same sort of enjoyment I always got out of watching bugs.

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    Earl-Grey says:

    Dog lover here.

    I for one can’t fucking stand rabid virtual mutts and mow them down with reckless abandon. Annoying shites.

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    Drib says:

    This is why Fable 2 hit me, when the guy straight murders your dog.

    Damn, man, weren’t you villainous enough trying to take over the world? You had to shoot my dog, too?

  13. DeadCanDance says:

    I imagine playing stalker or darkwood is impossible for you guys.

    • poliovaccine says:

      Funny enough, for me anyway it depends a lot. For whatever reason, the mutant dogs in the STALKERs or the Silent Hill series are fair game, but Fallout’s dogs and Dishonored’s dogs make me feel bad about killing em – I think it has to do with having the potential there to get by *not* killing them. Far Cry 3 is kind of mixed in that regard, but it doesnt help that the animal AI makes them seem more like living things the longer you watch them from afar… that being said, absolutely zero qualms about selling an endangered white tiger pelt for like $35 bucks haha.

  14. vorador says:

    Dogs? As long as they’re the ones to attack me, no problem.

    But i didn’t like attacking animals on Far Cry 3, specially species in risk of extinction. Just to get a bigger bag.

  15. wackazoa says:

    Are Wolfensteins dogs considered dogs? I own the game and know that they are in there, but having not played it yet I am a bit nervous about having to kill them without anyway around it. If they are mechs like Liesel then I might not have any issue…..

    *I haven’t played Valiant Hearts simply because I don’t want the doggo to die…. Im kind of a softie.

    • Grizzly says:

      There are your average dog and mechanized dogs.

      That being said, Wolfenstein’s dogs are nazis.

  16. Chaoslord AJ says:

    It was the same thing with cats for me although that’s easier as they don’t tend to attack me.
    Collateral damage mostly by AoE.
    However my roommate at that time pointed out how strange it was to feel protective of virtual animals while at the same time slaughtering virtual humans by the hundreds, oh well.

  17. PancreaticDefect says:

    Killing any animal in MGSV results in gaining demon points. So remember kiddies, fulton those wolves, jackals, hyenas, etc. Even if they jump on you and bite you in the face.

  18. BewareTheJabberwock says:

    Not terribly long ago there was a lengthy discussion somewhere on RPS about the morality of killing and mind-controlling orcs in Shadow of Mordor, since they were mostly minding their own business and not invading human/elf/etc territory. Rather a silly argument, but interesting, nonetheless, in its way.

    Wolfenstein 3D would be tough w/o pixilated-dog-killing, tho.

  19. dethtoll says:

    This is an awesome contrast to that terrible dog-hating article that was ostensibly about Fallout 4.

  20. Spacewalk says:

    Cujo was my constant companion in Quake. He was a good dog, very loyal, very eager to distract Shamblers by getting clawed by them. Unfortunately he was also very good at finding his way into my line of fire.