At one point, a little game called SkiFree was included on everybody’s Windows system.
Although the background whizzed past in an obvious loop, there were plenty of details hidden in the pixels. If you jumped over trees while in a slalom freefall, they’d catch fire. If you skied near a dog, he’d mark his territory on the snow.
Unofficially, SkiFree could be played in two different ways: either by performing cool tricks (a la the SSX series) or simply by skiing as far as you could down the slopes.
No matter how you played it, the game would end abruptly. An Abominable Snowman would pop out of nowhere and gobble you up.
Ignoring the fact that you could sometimes escape being devoured through keyboard heroics, that Abominable Snowman was omnipresent. I often played SkiFree in the library with friends, and we were all descended upon by him in the end.
This ending, that of the monster consuming the hero, is rooted in myth. It’s the knight being eaten by the dragon, the sea monster swallowing the brave sailors. It’s the biblical Jonah and the whale.
Sometimes, however, the hero is the monster.
In Native American myth, consumption and corruption often go hand in hand. The wendigo, for example, is a monster who was once a man. He delved into cannibalism to become more powerful, but through this dark consumption, he was transformed.
Some games involve death as a means of transferring power. In The Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, the sand-infected prince gains health by siphoning sands from his enemies. But fewer games utilize consumption as power.
When anthropomorphized food is the star of a game, very rarely will the enemies and bosses be people. Perhaps this is because we don’t want to see ourselves as the monsters. Perhaps this is because, done heavy-handedly, food being happily eaten can be kind of creepy.
E.V.O.: Search for Eden, an SNES game released in the US in 1993, relies heavily on the idea of consumption as power. In E.V.O., you start as a small fish, helpless and hungry. You eat what you can to survive, avoiding predators and making your way through treacherous terrain. As the game progresses, you grow strong. You evolve. You begin to eat your enemies, the same creatures that once ate you.
Even more of an epitome of this idea of monstrous consumption is Kirby.
Kirby is cute. He’s pink and round, with saucer eyes that gleam in the way only anime-style eyes can. He loves to eat watermelon and tomatoes, and he tends to go through life in a blissfully innocent state.
He also eats his enemies to gain new powers.
Obviously, Kirby’s different from the Abominable Snowman or a wendigo. After multiple games in the Kirby franchise, he still has his moral compass in check. His consumption hasn’t sent him into a power-drunk free fall.
As long as Kirby remains a lovable pink marshmallow, he might be okay.
But Anthelme Brillat-Savarin says, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”