Once upon a time, in a sleepy, quaint European village, there lived a bad, bad goose. One day, the goose was feeling even more horrible than usual, so it decided to wreak all manner of nastiness and chaos on the village and its inhabitants. The goose threw a gardener’s rake in the lake, it trapped the little boy in the telephone booth and it even made the old man fall on his bum.
You might find yourself asking, why, why is the goose like this? Asking that question, however, is the same as asking why there are so many hills around Geneseo or why Niagara Falls flows so powerfully. There is no rhyme or reason for the goose’s actions, the goose simply is the way it is. The bad, bad goose is a detestable force of nature that video game fans around the world have quickly become infatuated with. Untitled Goose Game, WTF?
Untitled Goose Game is a comedy-stealth video game by developer House House released on Sept. 20 for Windows, macOS and the Nintendo Switch. In the game, players have the honor of controlling the aforementioned horrible goose as they are tasked with completing its handwritten to-do list of dastardly deeds. These anarchic schemes are only sparingly explained, the notebook only reads something like “make the gardener wear his sun hat,” and it is up to the player to puzzle out how exactly that specific bit of mischief can be achieved. It’s silly and dumb, but the game about the horrible goose should be celebrated—it’s an achievement in game design that delivers one of video games’ greatest draws in spades: Untitled Goose Game is the ultimate power fantasy.
Gamers often find themselves playing through games as unstoppable super-soldiers and cold-blooded killers; even sports simulation games like Madden or FIFA grant players the fantasy of being responsible for a professional sports team. It makes sense, as much of video games’ appeal comes from their unique ability to place their audience in a position of power and allowing them to act autonomously in that role. Untitled Goose Game is aware of this appeal, and it grants you a power fantasy found nowhere else in the media world: the ability to be unabashedly, unrelentingly petty while hiding behind the adorable guise of an evil, evil goose.
The game’s relative realism scratches an itch that other games, and other pieces of media like movies and books, cannot reach. Other video games, like Call of Duty, trend towards the unrealistic, touting power trips revolving around violence or fantastical worlds. On the other hand, movies like Mean Girls grant audiences the ability to relish in a realistic level of pettiness, rudeness and vengeance yet it lacks the control inherent in the experience of playing a video game. In the middle of this Venn Diagram composed of virtual warfare and the 2004 teen-revenge comedy is a goose. That bad, bad goose allows you to control your environment, enacting all manner of meanness and mischief throughout the village, while still preserving some level of realistic decorum—the goose can’t shoot people dead, but it can steal villagers’ glasses and honk while they flee.
The horrible goose may be an evil, monstrous beast … but it is also me. The goose allows players to unleash their baser instincts and be the miserable jerk that I’m sure you sometimes wish you could be throughout a given day. Because it is an animal, the goose doesn’t need to adhere to tired conventions like “manners” or “politeness” as it terrorizes those poor villagers, and while I’m playing Untitled Goose Game neither do I. It’s bad and horrible and nasty, but I would die for that goose.