I Shot The Dog In ‘Duck Hunt’ And It Really Messed Me Up
Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a game of Duck Hunt went the same for everybody. You miss a shot, and then that dog—responsible for picking up the dead ducks you’d successfully killed—laughed at you. We all reacted the same way: We tried to shoot the dog with the light gun. Everybody had that friend or cousin who swore they’d actually killed it. But they’re all liars. If they had, they probably wouldn’t tell anybody. Taking a life has a way of changing a man. You see, I really did shoot the dog in Duck Hunt and it altered the trajectory of my life in ways I’m still trying to comprehend.
I can remember it as if it was yesterday. He laughed (just as he had so many times before) and I rapidly pulled the trigger. A series of little light squares flashed on the screen, and then I heard the sound of flesh being torn asunder, along with the most heartbreaking “yelp” you’ll ever hear (and which I will never stop hearing). The Duck Hunt dog looked me straight in the eye with an expression that said, “Why?” He fell to the ground, and a pixelated stream of blood turned the light green grass a deep, dark red.
“Why?” I don’t know, video game dog. Why didn’t Nintendo check its code more carefully? Why can’t I ever stop replaying this sad, disturbing event in my head? (The official line from Nintendo—they won’t take my phone calls, and return my letters unopened—is that “the dog in Duck Hunt cannot be struck with the NES Zapper.”)
Life has been hard since then. I’ve never been in a relationship that lasts more than a couple of weeks, certainly not after she introduces me to her dog and/or video game console. And every night I experience what my therapist calls “the dream.”
It’s always the same. I’m lying asleep and the Duck Hunt dog rises up from behind the bed, dead duck in hand. I then realize that instead of a duck head, the carcass has my head. Suddenly, I’m looking at the dog from the perspective of the duck-me hybrid, and the dog is laughing, menacingly. So … much … laughing …
The laughing never stops.