Marco Caracciolo’s recent article “Animal Mayhem Games and Nonhuman-Oriented Thinking” introduces an idea to explore environmental thinking via certain animal-led games. As the title suggests, the animals in this case are to wreak havoc in various ways in the world of humans. Caracciolo mainly concentrates on two games – Goat Simulator and Untitled Goose Game, both of which incorporate nonhuman-oriented thinking in different ways.
Goat Simulator can be seen as a crossover of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the Grand Theft Auto series. Explicit goals do not exist but being mischievous and doing stunts in the open-world grants player achievements. In this game, the world of human, animal and even inanimate objects blend together: The game takes place in a seemingly ordinary city, where the player is an animal being able to morph and mimic non-human shapes. Untitled Goose Game on the other hand is a puzzle game in a cartoonish display of a small English town. As the name suggests, in this game player controls a goose with a mission to disturb everyday human life. The distinction between human and animal is far more strict compared to Goat Simulator: the player needs to corporate the limitations of the goose body and human thinking. In both games penalties are low: The goat is an immortal being and the goose can always re-attempt the puzzles. These low stakes encourage players to experiment with the game world.
Even with their differences, both can be linked to the core ideas of “strange stranger”, a concept by Timothy Morton.
Morton’s “strange stranger” can be explained as a disruptive element that defies human categorization and conceptualization. Or more simple way, beings beyond common comprehension and labels. This is a good summary of what these games are about: Challenging the black and white view of human vs. non-human gaming experience and how human nature is usually portraited as a master or controller. Caracciolo’s goal has been to show how animal mayhem games can be read and played keeping in mind the current environmental crisis. Humor is a part of animal mayhem games and having fun can give insight into nonhuman vitality. In Bad Environmentalism (2018) Nicole Seymour discusses affective ways to present ecological issues. Humor holds ecocritical value being easy to understand and open to critique. This could be one way to dodge the problems of polarized discourse. Becoming an animal via game avatar is not entirely unproblematic though: Seemingly easy reconstruction of animal life may lead to reinforcing the belief of human superiority.
Original Article: Caracciolo, M. (2021). Animal Mayhem Games and Nonhuman-Oriented Thinking. Game Studies, vol 21 issue 1 May 2021. Retrieved from http://gamestudies.org/2101/articles/caracciolo
Header picture: Goat Simulator press kit https://www.igdb.com/games/goat-simulator/presskit#images