If you look at the hours I’ve spent playing games, the ones I’ve spent the most time on are probably Civilization VI, Final Fantasy, or Spyro. These are games that compel you to keep playing, either by having addictive mechanics or immersive storylines and seemingly endless content. The game I recommend most to people is basically the opposite of that! In Untitled Goose Game, I spent about five delightful hours running around as the tiny jerk Goose causing mayhem, and then I put the game down and went back to my life.
The basic premise of this game is that you have a to-do list that involves stealing items, pulling pranks, and terrorizing the local people of this town. Every person you run into has deep trauma and a ready-to-deploy anti-Goose sign. You interact with them by picking up items, honking, and flapping your wings. Despite its simple mechanics, you find some really creative ways to mess with people, ranging from tripping a kid and stealing his glasses to inciting an argument between neighbors.
I wonder if my love of this game is dangerous. Did I spend five-ish hours pretending to be a jerk, or was I always a jerk? I would like to think that there’s a line between the actions that I made the character take and the things I would do in real life. I don’t trip people or drop anyone’s mail in rivers. I would be horrified by someone delighting in that in real life! But it’s hard to shake the feeling that, on some level, I condone the actions of Goose.
For example, would I be willing to play a game where I, like Goose, played these horribly mean tricks on these people and then MURDERED THEM? No. But I’m willing to play Final Fantasy, which involves murdering all sorts of people, and if anything, the characters in that are usually much more morally complex protagonist heroes than Goose. If I accept that setting Spyro’s enemies on fire doesn’t reflect on me as a person, why does playing the Goose game feel more like gleefully reading a juicy AITA post?
I think, like AITA, Untitled Goose Game feels more intimate than the more violent video games that I play. There are only a few characters in Untitled Goose Game, but each jerk thing you do is designed to target them specifically. It’s this super petty ‘eff you in particular’ feel that hours of swinging a sword at mobs doesn’t capture. This brings me back to one of the main selling points of the game. It’s very short! So while I accept that playing as Goose in Untitled Goose Game might have made me a worse person, it did so for a very short amount of time.