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The Unbridled Joy of Being a Pain in the Ass

Some games can capture that experience of living for the joy of having fun and being a pain in the ass. Untitled Goose Game is one such game.



Children and pets always seem so joyful don’t they? Rushing around making messes and pissing on the carpet without a care in the world! I mean, who wouldn’t love that life? Well, some games capture that same experience of living purely for the joy of having fun and being a pain in everyone’s ass. Untitled Goose Game, one of the year’s most celebrated indies, has made a name for itself with this specific purpose in mind.

It’s not a huge surprise that this format works so well, especially for adults. For those of us with a job and a family, so much of our life is spent cleaning up the messes of others or dealing with the incompetence of fools. What a relief it is to finally escape the confines of these responsibilities and embrace not just a lack of responsibility but a deliberate notion for paying these annoyances and irritations forward.

After all, even most video games, when you think about it, are about fixing things. You’re faced with the job of foiling the plans of the villains, clearing out a nest of baddies, or, even more audaciously, saving the entirety of existence from some massive threat. Of course, these games do have their place as a type of wish fulfillment as well: we all would love to play the hero and imagine ourselves as a one-of-a-kind savior at some point, wouldn’t we? But the thrill of the total opposite, as with Untitled Goose Game, cannot be overstated.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Untitled Goose Game, the deliberately silly nature of the name oughta give you some inkling as to what to expect, in tone if nothing else. Essentially the game tasks you with entering a sandbox of English country folk and ruining their days with a fervor that oughta be illegal. You mess up picnics, steal important items, and generally just make a mess of things everywhere you go.

There is a smidge more to it than that, obviously. You have special goals that add a puzzle-solving mechanic to the game as well. How do you trick a gardener into getting sprayed by his own sprinkler, trap a shop keep in a garage, or blow an old man’s aim off so badly that he breaks his dartboard? These ridiculous tasks are the meat of what keeps Untitled Goose Game going past the initial stage of just chuckling at a goose getting up to increasingly silly business.

Catlateral Damage, a less lucrative game from years back, captures much of the same thrill as that. In that game you’re a cat mucking up your owner’s house while they’re out, and it’s equally fun. Part of this success, in both cases, might come from the fact that you expect both cats and geese to be a huge pain in the ass at least as often as they’re not.

Still, there’s something to be said for this increasing notion of expanding games, especially as we enter the third age of modern indies, into markets and ideas that have been ignored for so long by the triple A space. Big companies can’t often afford to take huge risks on experimental games and so tend to stick to the safe sequel and proven genre concepts that keep their massive employee pools well… employed.

However, this somewhat necessary tunnel vision leaves a huge market for the creators of I Am BreadGoat SimulatorCatlateral Damage, and, of course, Untitled Goose Game, to make silly sandboxes for us to just muck about and make silliness. These games are all the more thrilling when they challenge us with not just not helping the NPCs that populate the game world but actively ruining their days.

It’s a very specific market but that’s what makes it so much fun. After all how many breakout indie successes have flourished through this precise thesis? It seems it’s a need we all still have inside of us: the notion to behave like a careless child. There’s a certain sense to it all, what with all of the psychology talk of the inner child, but it’s still shocking what a good time one can have by just being a pain with zero repercussions.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.