Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When You're A Goat

Goat Simulator is stupidly entertaining.

I had no clue this game existed until watching a Rooster Teeth Let's Play, and instantly knew that this game was both dumb and brilliant. "You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat. Your dreams have finally come true!"

Swedish developers Coffee Stain Studio threw together a beta version of this product as a joke during a game jam, and the internet ran with it. 'Let's make a game where a goat does stupid things,' they said. And 10 weeks later, they had Goat Simulator. Of all of their products, this one has been the biggest seller for the company.

So what can you do in the game? Well you're a goat. You can head butt things. You can lick stuff (and due to an entertaining bug, can attach said tongue to just about anything). You can jump on trampolines and air vent fans. You can strap yourself to fireworks and rockets. You can run up walls. You can walk on your front legs. You can slip down water slides. You can turn on rag doll physics and slow motion. The whole goal of the game is to run around, be a goat, and do silly things for points: mostly destructive aspects. There are no deaths. People that you knock over will jump right back up and continue walking and running. There is no blood. Just Michael Bay-esque kabooms. In fact, that's one of the in-game goals: Blow up lots of things! It's even called a Michael Bay.

And that's it. A game that prides itself on it's short development time, low price, and high entertainment value. It's simple, easy, and capitalizes on the humor the internet craves. Anyone can play with the stripped down controls. And it's a game that the developers encourage to keep the bugs in. Why? Because it's funny to see a goat's tongue go through the city walls and cause unnecessary havoc. The only bugs they want reports on are the ones that literally prevent you from playing the game (which there is a Steam achievement for).

It's also a very stupid game. There is no divine meaning to take from it. You're running around as a goat, destroying things with a head butt. Sometimes the destruction is from a pitching machine strapped to your back. But overall, it's a game that would never compete on the level of The Last of Us in terms of character development and plot lines. And in it's simplicity, Coffee Stain has managed to capture a niche category that few will travel and created success that others wish to replicate. Beer Simulator (which recently hit over $100k on Kickstarter) is being developed under the same guise. Rock Simulator (originally a $500 goal is now over $1k), and Game Journalism Simulator (which may or may not be a ruse, I'm not certain). They are the type of games that are here for a few months, and quickly leave our minds.

But the point of the game was not to have long-lasting success. The very nature of the game supports the model many consumers follow in our technology-savy culture: it's quick, easy, and cheap. We want things now, not in another 5 years. We want products that are easy to consume and understand. And just as quickly they can be disposed of when we tire of them. Maybe we'll come back to Goat Simulator a year or two from now, and it'll just be as thrifty and forgotten then as it is now. Coffee Stain has hit it's market audience perfectly, and achieved success many indie teams dream of. Will the fad of quick games last? Eh, it has cycles. We'll be bored of them soon enough, and just when we think they're gone, we'll yearn once more and they'll return. Coffee Stain made a genius business decision for a stupid game.

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