Heya D-Toid land. This here be my first blog post on this site after making the occasional comment here for quite a few years now. Been meaning to get into the blogging community on D-Toid for a while, but my first blogging priority is my heavy metal site (link in the sidebar if you feel inclined, I post as RiffRaff) which gets put on the backburner too often mainly on the account of burnout. Luckily there's four of us writers there to keep a somewhat steady stream of heavy metal related posts going. We help each other out. So while I'm burnt out on writing about transcendental hipster post-black metal bands I thought I'd finally get around to jotting down a few words about my other lifelong passion, video games.
Over the past month I happened to play a couple recent releases in particular that sparked the idea for this post. A couple games that made me wonder why there aren't more games that don't tackle the same ideals. Games that I'm sure that if more people had played, the world would be a better place. One of them seems to have gained some serious, and more than well deserved traction in the gaming community and the other, while loved by critics and nearly everyone who's played it, I haven't heard much buzz of it outside of its initial release.
The thing that this pair of games had in common (though it could be debatable) is that in order to move the narrative forward the player must help the denizens of their respective worlds. But not help them in the usual sense of kill 23 Mogwomps or save the world, but in the sense of something more relateable. You need to commit little acts of kindness and make that NPC happy. Something as simple as giving them a hug or a nice compliment does the trick. The payoff is a kind of happy, contented feeling I rarely get while gaming, even when 'Daawwwww'ing all over the cutest of Nintendo games. It just warms my heart and, even if I'm generally a really nice guy irl, the payoff is that after playing I've found myself reciprocating those actions and little niceties in my daily routine, usually without even thinking back to the game. This gushy feeling I get is something I would love to experience more often during my game time (though I ain't gonna lie, sometimes I just want to fuckin' wreck shit).
The two games I'm referring too are Undertale and Dropsy. While both share a pixel art aesthetic, they are quite different games. Dropsy is your standard point and click adventure that will definitely bring to mind evil tentacles and hyper-kinetic rabbit thingies. Where this game subverts the genre is that instead of being led on to solve some kind of mystery or figure your way out of a some conundrum, your carrot on a stick is the want to help the NPCs you come across. Each time you figure out how to make someone happy you get rewarded with a hug and a splash of bright colors. Given that your playable character, Dropsy, is this tubby, illiterate, overtly happy, moist clown guy who seems to not have a single bad bone in his body who has been shunned by others over a murder he didn't commit only adds to the will to want to hear goofy giggle again and again as he earns new hugs. Toss in the fact that the game can be a nightmarish, surreal mindfuck with a nice little story presented without a drop of traditional dialog and has some great social commentary, you got yourself a game that will make you feel all fuzzy inside.
Then there's Undertale, which I'm sure the lot of you have caught some wind about by now. It's often compared to the cult classic Earthbound due to its character design, fuckin' outstanding music, and general quirkiness. It's also styled like a JRPG. I won't put any big spoilers in this post, but if you haven't played it yet, just stop reading now and go play it. It's best gone into blind.
So, while there are multiple paths you can take in Undertale, the one I first followed and seems to be the 'true' path is the one of pacifism. Even the games trailer pushes you to be peaceful by saying "a game where no one has to die". If you follow the pacifism path you will still need to engage in JRPG staple of 'combat'. However, instead of taking turns smacking each other with a stick you can choose to 'act'. In the 'act' command you can do a variety of things to edge the enemy to become docile, love you, and basically drop the will to fight. The 'acts' you can do are simple as petting the mean dog or giving a compliment for example. There is a plethora of different thing you can do to nonviolently resolve conflicts and each of them with a pretty funny outcome (Papyrus is my new favorite RPG character btw ;) ). And each time you overcome your foe with kindness (or as the game puts it 'mercy') you're rewarded with a joke and a smile. But that smile, while sometimes represented graphically in-game, comes from out of the game. When you act nice, Undertale makes you feel genuinely good. I like that. And I'll leave it there for Undertale.
So after finishing those two games I dug into my brain to see if I could think of other games where helping others in such a manner was so integral to the gameplay or narrative and found myself hard pressed to think of any. Chibo-Robo on the GCN, and maybe, in a weird way Elite Beat Agents, are really the only ones that popped straight into my mind. Kind of a shame imo. More games really need to reward players for small, nice acts more often. I know it would brighten my days up. So, tell me, are there more games such as Undertale or Dropsy that I should check out? Help me jog my memory and remember a couple more. And if you haven't yet, do play those two, they're short, inexpensive, and jam-packed with hugs and quality.
Peace, Love, and Video Games