In continuation of our animal-themed month, we had a go with Goat Simulator, a game meant to poke fun at the simulator genre by putting the player in control of a goat who is a device of pure destruction. The game embraces the ‘glitch’ aesthetic and uses its wonky physics to allow players to feel like they are in the shoes (hooves?) of the goat while simultaneously being reminded that they are playing a game. Goat Simulator also provided a good point of conversation regarding the sensibilities of gamers and the ‘unfinished’ game. A lot about Goat Simulator reminds me of the Untitled Goose Game in the sense that they both present themselves as unrefined and unfinished products. The glitches and the lack of sense in certain animations of gameplay in Goat Simulator – such as being able to swim across the map while laying prone with legs flopping around and not paddling whatsoever – presents itself as a happily unfinished product. Similarly, the Untitled Goose Game also presents itself as unfinished due to its lack of a ‘proper title’. This, to me, seemed like a sort of love letter to the modders, the glitch-exploiters, and the beta testers, but Nathan questioned whether an intentionally unrefined game was a homage to this idea or if it was just empty aesthetics.
Although the game is very much sandbox-y, the player is given different objectives – many of which in reference to different pop culture of the time – to give the player direction and keep the interest in the game flowing. These achievements are quite similar in function to the grocery list of the Untitled Goose Game, where you also play an animal whose purpose is to disrupt the humans around it, albeit in a less violent way than Goat Simulator.
However, as we continued to play the game, we delved into the discussion of paratext and video games. Paratext is often considered in literature to mean the materials produced about a main text, like how an ‘about the author’ insert is to a novel. However, what is the paratext of a video game? Do we consider the menu screen paratext, where the player can fiddle around with options and controls prior to engaging with the gameplay? Are inventory screens in-game for RPGs a text or paratext? Is all of the software and coding narrative and not paratext at all? In the stream, Erik said that “It’s tricky because the paratext defines how we talk about something and we understand that there’s something in the paratext that will relate to the regular text and we’re not sure what to do”, which emulates the importance of understanding of how paratext affects games and why it’s worth considering what separates the source text from the paratext Furthermore, paratext is complicated by the practice of multiple games buying the rights to use the same physics engines if we were to consider the code that makes the game playable at all a part of the source text.
Either way, the conversation left some good food for thought while we made cars explode with a goat.