The other night I had a nightmare. As I slept, the classic sources of horror came and went: past-due papers, terrifying heights and, uh, geese. Yes, geese. That’s what happens when you spend several hours bothering a picturesque little town as a white-winged evil demon, as I did playing as the “protagonist” goose in the viral and fantastically morally ambiguous “Untitled Goose Game.”
First things first: Boot up the game. “Press space to honk,” the screen suggests. I press the spacebar, and, lo and behold, a goose emerges from the shrubbery. From there on, I proceed to obnoxiously terrorize the locale. If it can cause something to go awry, consider it done: locking a shopkeeper in the garage, stealing a boy’s glasses or destroying a scale model town’s tower. A to-do list, written in the most innocent of cursive scripts, encourages my gleeful misdoings.
There seem to be few limits to my havoc-wreaking, but my wants are reeled in by the stealth required by the game. This only adds to the fun, though, as I discover new, diabolical ways to approach each puzzle. The evil genius of the game is that the tasks become more and more questionable as the game progresses. Getting into the garden? I have no qualms about that, but when the ever-demanding to-do list wants me to injure a sweet old man or trip a helplessly afraid boy in a puddle, I might be forced to question my self-image.
Perhaps this moral dilemma is why the game has become a viral hit. The game commands such actions, pushing players to unexplored boundaries of their moral psyche. In “Untitled Goose Game,” the goose comes to represent the repressed desire to simply be unlawfully bad in a world where people can’t (and shouldn’t) do so. The game combines humanity’s joy derived from being annoyingly devilish with an ability to do just that. We cannot run wild destroying anything in sight, but on a relatively harmless single-player game, anything and everything is A-okay! While it isn’t acceptable to go around haphazardly breaking vases and tripping little kids on a day-to-day basis without being seen as a total sociopath, we can easily do so in “Untitled Goose Game” away from the watchful eyes of our pesky peers. The game, then, is an effective outlet for us to vent our daily frustrations wrought by a world that restricts us from wreaking total havoc. All is well and good in “Untitled Goose Game.” Worse comes to worst, we can easily, as Lizzo once elegantly put it, blame it on the goose.
Another huge factor in the incredibly rapid growth of “Untitled Goose Game” is that it was seemingly designed for the internet. While rocketing to the top of the game charts, it spawned (and continues to spawn) a great host of memes. The game is easily repurposed into a variety of popular meme formats, as evidenced by its popular subreddit page with more than 19,600 members. The subreddit, r/untitledgoosegame, is quite the collection of goose and game inspired material: jack-o’-lanterns, traffic signs and, of course, an abundance of wonderful memes. The to-do list has played no small part in the boom of r/untitledgoosegame. What could be funnier as an online post than a take on “rake in the lake”? Without the game being so meme-able, it is hard to see the game being as fabulously successful as it is today.
Even though “Untitled Goose Game” stands as a masterpiece of combining morally ambiguous and certainly viral gameplay, the game would be not be the cultural and commercial success that is has become if it was not a downright blast to play. And thankfully for us, the game delivers on all fronts in this regard. The puzzles are difficult but possible. The characters may have no faces, but they are overflowing with personality. Our lovely goose protagonist is given just the right balance of simplicity and dexterity with its controls. “Untitled Goose Game” is a fantastic example of a game done right on all levels, creating an outrageously fun experience. All in all, it’s bound to deliver a lively adventure for its players, whether they are looking for a nice way to de-stress after a long day of studying or just want to check out what all those memes are about.