We are World of Goo: Part 1 – The Goo Filled Hills
by Jon Erik Ariza
Jon Erik Ariza takes an in-depth look at the hidden messages of ‘World of Goo’ in what could be one of our generation’s most ‘important’ games.
[Warning: Article may contain spoilers]
Video games with greater themes are nothing new. Games like Metal Gear Solid have shown that it is possible for video games to convey a message that can serve humanity as a whole. The thing is, these games are typically not very subtle about it. Metal Gear Solid practically spells out its theme for you. Its characters have long soliloquies talking about the dangers of nuclear weapons, the proliferation of gene therapy, the face of war, love, life, etc. Its messages are all important but it’s anything but subtle.
When I first played World of Goo it was a brilliant puzzle game on a gameplay level. It took shots at corporate globalization and consumerism but little more than that. Or so I thought. I recently went back to the World of Goo and what I saw could only be compared to stepping into the infinite of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
World of Goo is a game that has some pretty obvious themes like those I mentioned above, but it goes beyond that and touches on beauty, our past, the cost of progress, and our place in the world. There’s so much to this game but how do they fit it all within the confines of a puzzle title? Puzzle games like Tetris are brilliant in their own right but often lack all semblance of a storyline. They lack depth and meaningful themes, but somehow World of Goo transcends the apparent barriers of the genre -- some might even say the medium -- and delivers messages appropriate for the best of films or poetry, and does so with such tact and subtlety that many won’t realize how obvious it really is. When I stumbled on it, World of Goo went from being an excellent puzzle game, to being a tragic mirror with a glimmer of hope in a telescope aimed towards the stars.
I first began to stumble upon the depth of World of Goo when I began to wonder who exactly I was playing as. You’re not exactly playing as a goo, after all, since you’re reaching out and manipulating them yourself. To answer this question, I thought about what you are trying to do. In almost every level, your goal is simply to reach a tube. Upon reaching the tube, it sucks up all goos not used to build the structure and pumps them back to the World of Goo Corporation. And that was it. Whoever you are, you are working for the benefit of the corporation. What does this have to do with anything? Well, I then began to think about what I was being asked to do in order to serve this corporation. For perspective on this, I turned to The Sign Painter.
The Sign Painter is a never-seen character in World of Goo. In most every level he leaves signs with cryptic sayings or hints. His signs, however, are not only there to help you through the level. They provide a perspective on what’s happening in the game world, a perspective that you the player simply do not have.
In level 3, “Hang Low,” the Sign Painter’s sign reads:
“This cave looks like it’s been undisturbed for thousands of years... Until now!
When the pipe broke through the ceiling above, the sunlight must have blinded these rare Albino GooBalls.
They didn’t seem to notice when it began to snow.
Maybe they would wake up if they had something to jump onto.”
Aside from the fairly obvious gameplay hint, this passage immediately brought to mind images of drilling for oil; using the pipe to harvest resources, only here the severity of my crime is expanded upon. The passage mentions that the cave has remained undisturbed for thousands of years and here I am breaking through for the purpose of harvesting the goos that have inhabited it for centuries. There is a tinge of tragedy in this level, but this is only the beginning.
Part 2 | Next >>