What is there to say about Untitled Goose Game that has not already been said? When the game’s first trailer came out in 2017, the internet was beside itself. Never mind that the game had no title, people were united by one true shared experience: the fact that they had, at some point in their life, encountered a goose, and thus knew geese were the objective Worst.
But now, a change! A chance to become the goose! To be unfettered by expectations and norms! To flap and honk and cause a stir!
Last month, Untitled Goose Game was released (they never did bother to come up with a new title. And why would they given all the 2017 press?), and the internet loved it.
Like, bought 100,000 copies in two weeks loved it.
Like, wrote a billion different think-pieces about it loved it.
Truly, the internet loved Untitled Goose Game, and still does. Weeks after release, fresh goose memes still cross my feed. (I wish it weren’t true that internet freshness a mere month later meant something was “long-lived,” but this is the world we find ourselves in.)
Honestly, I haven’t seen people so united around a game since Pokémon GO came out in the summer of 2016. Do you remember that time? I sure as heck do: going on long walks, with the game open on my phone, seeking out Pokémon to catch in the world. Every once in a while, a rarer Pokémon would spawn, and I would literally chase it down, ending up in some park I had never ventured to before while desperately throwing virtual Pokéballs at a dratini. Sometimes I’d catch what I was chasing, but more often I would find myself in conversation with the 20-some-odd people who had also congregated in the same spot, trying to catch the same Pokémon. I’d chat with folks I’d never otherwise encounter. We were united, however briefly, and found a certain communal joy in looking for dumb 3D lil’ critters.
It was… genuinely nice.
And then the fall of 2016 hit, with the election and the subsequent burnout. I deleted it from my phone, and so did most everyone I know. Even with the more recent resurgence of Pokémon GO — in light of pretty massive gameplay updates — I still don’t see masses of folks, collected in public spaces, with the same frequency that I did in the summer of 2016.
We moved on. Got tired. Stayed in. And then we met the goose.
In Untitled Goose Game the player controls a goose (naturally) and a “To Do” list. On that list are a number of small victories for the goose, and small annoyances for the folks in the goose’s village. It’s the goose’s world. Everyone else is just living in it.
The controls are simple: you can crouch down, pick things up, flap your wings (which serves NO OTHER PURPOSE other than being fun), and, most importantly, honk.
Normally, I hate breaking rules in games. It makes me anxious. I hate making people feel bad, even when those “people” are a bunch of pixels that have been programmed by actual-flesh-and-blood humans.
But in Untitled Goose Game, I relished my soft-padded waddle of destruction. I stole socks and toy airplanes and radios. When people chased the goose down and took those items back, I followed them, honking and flapping the goose’s wings. This display didn’t do anything in the game — it didn’t stop folks or make them give me things back — but it felt good.
The goose was an agent of chaos, but one that worked in small ways. It wasn’t going to run people over with a car à la Grand Theft Auto, or blast foes to smithereens like Saints Row. Untitled Goose Game was full of the same “I’ll do what I want” energy, but with all the overt violence removed.
Instead, the goose is death by a thousand cuts.
And, in this way, Untitled Goose Game is the perfect game for our current political climate, perhaps explaining (in very small part) its popularity. The goose causes trouble, tripping folks up and causing a scene. The goose disrupts your day and makes it hard to go about your business and it takes nothing but absolute joy in the process. To be goose-like is to revel in being a capital-p Pest.
Truly, I think we could stand more pests these days. If horror is mundane (see: Papers, Please) then resistance can also be mundane. You might not be able to burn it all down, but you sure can light a hundred matches…. and then fan them with your magnificent wings.