Goat Simulator Review

Goat Simulator. Yup. It's a thing.

Goat Simulator. Yup. It’s a thing.

The Goat Simulator video entertainment game, made by Coffee Stain Studios and distributed by the kind of in-jokey word of mouth that let potato salad earn somebody $60,000 on Kickstarter, is something that people are fiercely debating. I won’t lie, this is probably the kind of thing that you don’t want to know there’s a serious debate about, but this is the world we live in. Let’s investigate.
The game started as a joke at a game jam, a collaborative brainstorm/coding exercise for developers. The idea was to spoof “simulator” games, which tend to be like model train sets – lovingly crafted, extremely niche, and super boring unless you care deeply about the subject.

So Goat Simulator was the opposite – frantic action. You’re a model of chaos as your goat-avatar butts over fancy parties, cars, grandmas, etc. Since it was made in a hurry, they did their best (which was a very good job – they ARE professional developers) to capture the feeling of anarchic fun, but the game was half-made and buggy.

Word about the prototype was leaked, it hit a nerve in the neck of the internet, and with a swell of popularity and hype, Coffee Stain made it into a more or less full game. They kept in a bunch of non-essential glitches in to make the game funnier, because that’s the kind of game it is.
I’m hesitant to even describe the gameplay much because it doesn’t matter. The devs have compared it to a skateboarding game and that’s as good a description as any – I tend to think of this old Flash game I played where you’re a jumping dolphin. You initiate “runs”, dashing in Goat Sim, grinding or half-piping in skateboard games, or jumping out of the water in the dolphin game, and on each run the idea is to do as many tricks and cause as much damage as possible, with consecutive tricks building up a score multiplier. There is some mild exploration, a few upgrades and secrets, but really you’re looking at a few minutes of fun as you explode things.
And here’s where the controversy comes in. Critics of the game say it’s buggy, unfinished, pointless, hacky, in short, just not a good game. They think it shouldn’t cost any money, basically. Supporters fire back that that’s sort of the POINT, it’s an exercise in game development silliness merging with internet sentiment. If it’s buggy, that’s a joke about bugs in serious games. If you hate it, you’re taking Goat Simulator too seriously. This only makes sense given the meme-like following that also created it. Sure, maybe you “had to be there” to get the game, but that’s the point.
In fact, as I type this out, an analogy suggests itself. This game is Snakes on a Plane. Conceived as a joke, produced to fit a moment in time on the internet, lambasted for being mediocre, defended as ironic fun.
You can learn something about yourself from where you fall in this debate. If you try to make a “bad” (ba-a-a-a-d?) game and succeed, have you succeeded? Have you failed? Is it alright to then release that game to the public, and charge them for it? If an in-crowd, in this case game developers and internet meme-ists, makes their brand of humor available for sale, if you can in some sense purchase inclusion into that group, is that an abomination? Or is that just how these things work?
Though the term is over-used, this is really a hipster game. It’s a game for you to own, and to be known to own, rather than a game you have for play value. Supporting this game by buying it is a statement about the circles you run in, the kind of humor you have, the kind of person you are. If you want to support spontaneity, bizarre humor, and like the easy translation of zeitgeist to actual products, by all means, invest. It’s not a terrible game, and it’ll be a few hours of fun. If you want to actually purchase a video game, you can do better. (Coffee Stain Studios) by Ben Holmes
If you want a concept game with a weird sense of humor, try Viscera Cleanup Detail by RuneStorm. Play its multiplayer with a friend and chew the fat some evening, and see if you aren’t finding some emergent gameplay in high-fiving each other with severed limbs before long.