I’m starting to learn why Gabe Newell is worth $9 billion USD: Steam sales. A few times a month, Valve will send you an email that some game on your wish list has temporarily dropped in price by 75%. Even if you had no intentions of buying the game in the short term, some part of your brain screams “but what they never drop the price again?!” and tries to yank your finger to the “add to cart” button. I’m trying to build up a resistance to it, but in the meantime one of those snap sales led me to finally purchase Undertale. It’s one of those metatextual games that tries to get you to think about what exactly you’re doing within a game. Just take the about page:
In this RPG, you don’t have to kill anyone.
Each enemy can be “defeated” nonviolently.
Dance with a slime. Pet a dog. Whisper your favorite secret to a knight.
Or, ignore this choice and rain destruction upon your foes.
If the first words you’re told about a game are “you can do X! Or maybe not,” you know that there’s something special about X. And, indeed, there’s multiple endings that can be reached, depending on how your treat other people in the game. These first lines also call attention to the core loop of the typical video game, which usually involves slaughtering other people. Or if you’re playing an RPG, you instead spend a lot of time pick-pocketing the dead or breaking other peoples’ pottery for your personal gain. By placing that front-and-center, Undertale is also pointing out how video games force us to be terrible people thanks to lazy design.
Tune into my Twitch channel sometime in the next eighteen hours, and you’ll see me attempt this game for the first time. While there’s no active fundraiser at the moment, I don’t think there’s harm in reminding you of the links where you can donate to us or Skepticon to help pay off our legal bills.