The Old City vs Goat Simulator: Existence Precedes Gameplay

By | February 26, 2014

Does a goat ever wonder, “What is the meaning of life?”

Gaming is exciting these days.  Not only is there the new tech of new gen, and the reimagining of old titles, but there’s the increasing role of independent developers such as Coffee Stain Studios and PostMod Softworks.  The latter’s game, “The Old City,” is a philosophical proof-of-concept that attempts to challenge assumptions about what a game is.  Coffee Stain Studios’s “Goat Simulator” is a “small, broken and stupid game” about all the fun to be had as a goat.  Two completely different games that are also very similar.

Like Dear Esther, The Old City is a walk, explore and talk-to-yourself game that dabbles in existentialism.  The player chooses the path through the city, and each path sparks a new voice.  Monologues reveal a piece of the “truth” every time the game is played and guide the player a little closer to enlightenment.  According to the game’s site, information is “not presented to you in a linear and digestible format,” and the objective of the game is essentially “to understand.”  In other words, much of the gameplay happens inside your noggin, and if you’re not as smart as I suppose the developers are, then you lose.

The Old City – Trailer – Indie DB

Goat Simulator does indeed look like the stupid game that it says it is.  It’s $9.99 but the site advises players to spend it elsewhere.  I’ll take Coffee Stain’s word for it and won’t stretch it.  It is what it is, but…is it?  I can’t stop wondering how this game came to existence…so I’m delving into existentialist themes, right?  Just the idea is absurd.  A goat!  And simple, but possibly complex.  Samuel Beckett has said his existentialist play, “Waiting for Godot,” is a simple ridiculous play.  But college students are still reading it is because it is open to interpretation.  It’s got layers.

Does Goat Simulator have layers?  Probably not.  It’s a game about a goat, after all.  But it does make me question what a “game” is…more so than The Old City, which is starting to reek of the dreaded P-word in art and elsewhere: pretension.

Nevertheless, I’m very excited with the work of both Coffee Stain Studios and PostMod Softworks.  The fact alone that these games are in existence is challenging the status quo.  Yes, I want to believe that even a garbage-eating goat can change the world (or at least the gaming industry).

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