Readers of this newsletter may remember the fact that I really enjoyed getting to play (if I’m scrupulously honest, mostly watching my friends play because I’m enormously bad at video games) Untitled Goose Game earlier this fall:
I am the horrible creeping bag of sound that is the most worst to you! I will use my beak to mischief you and I will press B. I wobble my snake-front-body and I waggle my bag-back-body and they meet in the middle to plan a bad idea to upset you. I flap back and forth my business rear for balancing and I snapple-pap my feet all up and down the town for terrible reasons, and you don’t like it. I am the goose and you are the miserable boy with no honk. I invented my body and it was the best idea.
Honk! Honk! I flap open my back in celebration when I make victory over the fence, when I smash it from its lock, when I smash it down, when I undo all of your doing. Here I honk! I hold up all of my wings and I make more layers of me, the goose that hates your family.
Earlier this week I got the chance to speak to Jake Strasser, one of Untitled Goose Game’s co-creators, as part of Melbourne’s Digital Writer’s Festival. It was delightful! It was a little nerve-wracking! Not since 1926’s “Jeeves and the Impending Doom” have I seen such a loving, masterful portrayal of birds and Man – what was I to ask him?
A brief excerpt, for the unfamiliar:
“My man,” I explained to the Right Hon. “A fellow of infinite resource and sagacity. He'll have us out of this in a minute. Jeeves!”
“I'm sitting on the roof.”
“Very good, sir.”
“Don't say ‘Very good.’ Come and help us. Mr. Filmer and I are treed, Jeeves.”
“Very good, sir.”
“Don't keep saying 'Very good.' It's nothing of the kind. The place is alive with swans.”
“I will attend to the matter immediately, sir.” I turned to the Right Hon. I even went so far as to pat him on the back. It was like slapping a wet sponge. “All is well,” I said. “Jeeves is coming.”
“What can he do?”
I frowned a trifle. The man's tone had been peevish, and I didn't like it. “That,” I replied with a touch of stiffness, “we cannot say until .we see him in action, he may pursue one course, or he may pursue another. But on one thing you can rely with the utmost confidence — Jeeves will find a way. See, here he comes stealing through the undergrowth, his face shining with the light of pure intelligence. There are no limits to Jeeves's brain-power. He virtually lives on fish.” I bent over the edge and peered into the abyss. “Look out for the swan, Jeeves.”
“I have the bird under close observation, sir.”
The swan had been uncoiling a further supply of neck in our direction; but now he whipped round. The sound of a voice speaking in his rear seemed to affect him powerfully. He subjected Jeeves to a short, keen scrutiny and then, taking in some breath for hissing purposes, gave a sort of jump and charged ahead.
“Look out, Jeeves!”
“Very good, sir.”
Well, I could have told that swan it was no use. As swans go, he may have been well up in the ranks of the intelligentsia; but, when it came to pitting his brains against Jeeves, he was simply wasting his time. He might just as well have gone home at once. Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird's head; and, taking the boat-hook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave. The swan goes into a bush and starts trying to un- scramble itself ; and you saunter back to your boat, taking with you any friends who may happen at the moment to be sitting on roofs in the vicinity. That was Jeeves's method, and I cannot see how it could have been improved upon.
You can watch our conversation here, and for those of you who can’t listen to an interview at work, I’m including a few of the questions I asked Jake below.
You’ve talked about how you and your partners Michael McMaster, Stuart Gillespie-Cook, and Nico Disseldorp work collaboratively, that you try to operate by consensus wherever you can. What does that process look like?
Have you ever had to refine or modify it? What’s been the most challenging part of committing to consensus?
It’s funny to think of a consensus-driven team creating a game where your main objective is to divert, hinder, and stymie everyone you meet from achieving their goals. Do you think there’s a way that striving for consensus allows you to better imagine what chaos might look like?
For that matter, do you think of the goose as chaotic at all? As malicious? As purposeful?
Your previous game, Push Me Pull You, explores the light, playful, relational side of Body Horror. Do you see any connection between that and the physical delight of, for lack of a better word, goosey embodiment in Untitled Goose Game? I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is the bizarre joys of enfleshment I’ve noticed in your games, in the strange triumphs of flesh-pressing you’re somehow able to bring to the forefront.
I know a lot of the response to the game has been about the pleasure people have found in playing as the goose. I found myself experiencing multiple responses to, say, the boy I trapped in the telephone booth: sometimes great pity for his suffering, sometimes impatience and contempt for his weakness, sometimes a parental desire for him to stand up for himself and fight me. Is this what it’s like to be God?
Is this a fantasy of harmlessness (I’m just a simple old goose who can’t do nothin’ to nobody) or a fantasy of power (even your smallest pleasures, townspeople, are subject to my whims)?
You’ve talked about being influenced by Brum, a British television show that was syndicated in Australia and setting Goose in an English village – is it too much to suggest Goose has something to do with the Commonwealther’s relationship to British imperialism?