A lot of people have things to say about Untitled Goose Game. Frankly, I’m no different. Its smoothed-over aesthetic and lack of dialogue make it perfect for applying any number of critical reads. The one I’ve seen repeated the most is that your victims in Untitled Goose Game are quietly terrible people — “small town Brexiters” and so on. I like that read. It is a good read. It’s funny and gives you the perfect reason to be a thieving asshole goose. It’s just not quite my take on the game about a goose ruining people’s day.
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Here’s mine: the goose is an object immune to justice. It exists outside our laws and ability to cope — just dangerous enough to make us step back, just harmless enough not to sensibly retaliate against. Untitled Goose Game is about what people do with a problem that can’t be solved. The answer, of course, is nothing at all.
The human characters of Untitled Goose Game run on repeating patterns. Others have likened this to Hitman, and Untitled Goose Game to a nonviolent(ish) interpretation of that series’ formula. You interrupt patterns to achieve objects. Some objects have multiple solutions. For instance, a gardener will take off his hat to rub sweat from his brow. At which point the goose can surprise him to make him drop the hat. My solution, however, was to scare the gardener into bashing his own thumb with a hammer. The shock caused him to fall over. I ran up and snatched the cap off his scalp before he could recover. Then I honked in his face and dropped the hat in a puddle. Good times.
But who among us doesn’t have those same repeating patterns? Who doesn’t get coffee every morning, or visit a certain relative on weekends, or keep telling the same bad joke until it gets a laugh? Forces beyond our control throw that pattern out of whack every day.
Sometimes its a force of nature (like the almighty, amoral goose). You can get angry at it, sure, but you can no more apply a motive behind it than to the wind. Other times it’s someone richer, more powerful, or otherwise more privileged than you doing or taking whatever they want with impunity. Either one can make you feel just as powerless. Either one can leave you with less than you had, trying to mimic the same pattern as before. You dont’ have much of a choice. That’s life.
Waddling Away with Murder
That’s also why it feels so, so good to ascribe terrible traits to the faceless folks of Untitled Goose Game. It’s a low-impact metaphor for taking from people who have too much. They have the food. They have the gardens. The goose takes just a bit for itself — enough for a picnic, let’s say — and upsets the balance of power. The goose uses the ability of the powerful to break the pattern against them. And it feels delicious.
The goose has an advantage we don’t, of course. It’s safe from repercussions besides being chased away. There is no fail state in Untitled Goose Game that I can tell. Developer House House is Australian; the game reflects that with phrases like “loo paper” and the fact that… nobody just runs up on the goose with a shotgun. Some alternate, American interpretation of this game absolutely accounts for firearms. That’s life, too, for a lot of people.
That lack of fear is what makes me often relate less to the goose and more to its victims. They’re all from a world that, to me, feels even more like fantasy than intended. That makes interpreting Untitled Goose Game a bit of a dead end — very cathartic, nonetheless. Not to mention I like the way our hero’s widdle butt struts when you try to run. I mean just look at it, would you!?
That’s probably enough from a game about a goose. It’s cute and funny and open to a lot of interpretation. I can have my serious take and my fun and that’s okay. There doesn’t have to be some neat conclusion tying it all together. In the end, I can be satisfied with HONK! HONK! HONK HONK HONK!