Yes, I write about games now too. Get used to it. I do whatever I want!
I played through Undertale, also known as the game where you get different endings depending on how many monsters you choose to kill or spare. It’s created mostly by one single person, Toby Fox, and is probably most known for its “genocide”, “pacifist” and “neutral” endings and for how the game messes with the players’ intentions, feelings and itself by breaking the fourth wall and being morbid in general. But what struck me when playing through it was that most of all, Undertale is very fun. So fun that it makes me wonder: Why isn’t everything this fun?
The dialogue in Undertale consists of 78 000 words in total (for comparison: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has 77 000 words, The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time has 40 000 words, and The Bible has 800 000 words (clearly a debatable number)). Toby Fox has basically written a book. So, in Undertale there’s a lot of text boxes. But they’re never exhausting to go through, because their purpose isn’t to give information, they’re there to entertain. For example, in the area “Hotland”, you get constantly interrupted by the character “Alphys” calling you to tell you uninteresting stuff and help you with/not help you with going through the mazes and puzzles in the area. She’s calling you so often that you barely can take a few steps between the calls, and this is actually a fun and stimulating part of the game. How is that possible? How isn’t it an extremely annoying part of the game? Because of the game’s funny writing. Undertale both has better writing and uses it in a different way than many other games. It’s a part of the game’s main experience rather than just a tool assisting the gameplay, so you don’t want to skip them. The characters are so lively and fun that their long strings of text are always happy interruptions. And because of the big size of the dialogue, there’s plenty of reason to go back and check the old characters out every now and then, because they often have some new things to tell you, because they’re alive.
A world full of life doesn’t seem to be the standard in video games. The game industry seems to be okay with “dead” NPC characters with little or no personality saying lines mostly to let you proceed in the gameplay. In my opinion that’s boring, and I’m of the even stronger opinion that almost nothing in the world needs to be boring. Almost no subject is too serious to not deserve fun (would you ever prefer a boring and unengaging teacher over a fun and engaging one in any subject at all?), and I don’t think video game worlds are an exception. We are humans and we like things like stories, faces, human emotions and visual representation, not unnecessary information, cryptic stats (“You won! HP + 2, ATK + 2, SPEED + 7”) and unlively writing (please tell me if I’m wrong and you actually like unlively writing. This isn’t science, but I’m obviously right).
So, here are my demands on the video game industry: Be more fun! You make games for humans, adapt every part of them to fit humans! Make your dead characters and boring menus come alive! Undertale simulates a lot of old technical limitations of retro games without really needing to (just look at the graphics!), but at least it does an amazing job at filling its two-dimensional world with life. The monsters you “fight” show their emotions during “battle” and say funny stuff, Papyrus is so incredibly cute and weird that I would love to date him in real life (a reference to the game, where you actually date him), and the game is just generally full of delightful surprises. Like all stores having a menu option to “SELL” your items to them, but almost none of the store clerks wants to buy your stuff and think you’re weird for asking. The characters in Undertale are real, they’re alive, and they don’t have time for your bullshit.
Let’s repeat my demands on the video game industry: Be more fun! Be like Undertale! But could anyone else than Toby Fox actually have created Undertale? It’s a wacky game made by a wacky dude, and maybe my wishes for the big video game companies to take after his creativity is too big of a wish. They’re probably playing safe to maximize profits. But, Undertale’s uniqueness and weirdness haven’t made it harder for it to succeed, probably the opposite. It’s an RPG game parodying other RPG games, but I enjoyed it without knowing much about RPG’s or games in general. It’s fun and entertaining for what it is. Toby Fox doesn’t seem to have created it to reach mass success but rather to make something he felt like creating at the time, but it still happened to resonate with millions of people. And I can’t really see why big game companies couldn’t succeed by becoming as creative in their game creation as Toby Fox is. Who knows what they can make with a large team if they let the creative geniuses show the direction? Maybe they just have to question their beliefs and look outside their boxes to allow themselves to be more fun.
Now watch Mettaton EX having a seizure, because why not. And buy something from Toby Fox so he can make more games!