(This is part of an occasional series in which we explain what’s behind a popular meme. We like to call it memesplaining; you might call it meme-ruining. Regardless, if you just chanced upon a joke, tweet, image, app or GIF you don’t understand, we have the answers — insofar as answers can be had.)
Everything is on fire and feels bad right now, but good news: You now have the option of inhabiting the body of a goose, flapping your wings and taunting a gardener with your mighty honk.
Welcome to “Untitled Goose Game,” the video game in which you are a goose and the worst nightmare of the people who live in a once-peaceful village.
As a goose, you can walk, run, pick up objects, flap your wings and honk. We’d say it’s improbable that such a simple game would go as viral as it has in recent days, but “Arrest for Treason” trended on Twitter on Monday and it’s not like anyone has any better ideas on how to cope with everything that’s going on.
Anyway, “Untitled Goose Game.” Here is a guide to why goose, why now.
What is ‘Untitled Goose Game’?
“Untitled Goose Game” is an opportunity to be rewarded for causing mild horribleness and chaos, in the form of a $14.99 video game about a goose.
You play the goose. The villagers play the part of your lawful good foes, who want their radios and apples and flowers to stay just where they left them. Do not let order and rules and politeness win. Steal their glasses, taunt them with honks, drop the glasses out of their reach. Break through the fences and invade their beautiful backyards. Smash their fancy statues. Steal their lunch and have a picnic. Flap your wings and celebrate and honk.
Nobody gets really hurt, and you, the goose, are incapable of losing.
Where did it come from?
According to Vulture’s interview with the creators, the game began as a joke in Slack, the messaging platform that many companies use for their employees to talk to each other.
The low stakes of the game is intentional. “We never wanted there to be any threat of violence or open hostility between the players and the game,” said Jacob Strasser of House House, the indie video game company based in Australia that made “Untitled Goose Game.”
Longtime enthusiasts of chaotic energy will note that “Untitled Goose Game” is somewhat similar in concept to “Goat Simulator,” the 2014 video game in which you play a goat who can run, head-butt and lick objects. “Goat Simulator’s” launch trailer was a shot-for-shot remake of the heart-wrenching trailer for “Dead Island,” a survivor horror game.
But unlike in “Goat Simulator,” where the humans are more like squishy objects, the villagers in “Untitled Goose Game” are organized foils to your mayhem. (More on that in a minute.)
How did this become a meme?
If you have ever watched people play video games on the Internet, then you’ll know that there’s a big market for games that let you do silly things while recording your face and upload videos of your reactions to YouTube. “Untitled Goose Game” is perfect for this. Here’s PewDiePie, a YouTuber with more than 100 million subscribers, making the goose honk a lot:
The simple design and mayhem of the game prompted a wave of memes over the past several days.
There’s political satire:
Political appropriation (a la Gritty):
welp as a contrarian, I wanted to hate goose game but I LOVE IT— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) September 29, 2019
Celebrity fan fiction:
Why is this fun?
You would ask such a question? Okay, yes, as the goose, you are basically a jerk. But the villagers are not innocent victims as much as they are sentient obstacles. Their humanity is limited. The gardener is not a man trying to provide for his family, but a silly person who left the gate to his garden open, practically inviting you to drag away his pumpkins. The gardener exists to have his pumpkins stolen; feeling sorry for him would be like feeling sorry for water that evaporates.
Another vital element of “Untitled Goose Game” is how silly the goose looks while terrorizing the village. After plucking a rose out of the garden, for instance, you’ll look like an angry, honking contestant on a goose version of “The Bachelor.”
All this, set to the thrilling sounds of Claude Debussy’s “Preludes.”
What will happen to me after I play this game?
You will become a person who finds it enjoyable to force a virtual gardener to wear his sun hat, not by kindly bringing it to him, but by waiting until he’s about to nail down an anti-goose sign, then honking to scare him so he hits his thumb and falls down, then stealing his flat cap so he has no choice but to wear his sun hat.
“Virtual” is the key word there. “Untitled Goose Game” is a safe, socially acceptable way to relieve stress. It’s the new punching a wall. It’s the new crying at your desk.
How much can I honk?