People very much enjoy schadenfreude. Be it a friend slipping on a banana peel, a character on TV getting their comeuppance or an enemy dying in a hilarious fashion. And video games, as an interactive medium, allow us to be the harbingers of that sweet German-named revenge.
Why wouldn’t you want to be a jerk while playing? The ability to cause chaos with no real life consequences is an experience unique to the medium. And if you feel particularly pacifistic, there are some games which avoid killing in favour of other forms of mischief. Here are three of them.
The honk that broke the internet
The most recent and insanely-popular example of a game like this is Untitled Goose Game. Waddling around and honking, the Goose is the perfect medium to being a jerk — a force of nature that has no alignment with good nor bad. Whether it steals a bell for the seventh year in a row or decides to help a farmer put all of his carrots in a box, all of this is happening on a whim.
But one could say that there is a method to this madness. After all, The Goose has a list of things to do. But not all of those are necessary to continue and finish the game, one can just create their own goals such as knocking over all of the villagers’ figurines. All of this is sprinkled with stealth and flapping your wings about.
And honking. Oh my god, so much honking.
The whole game is about being mean to random townsfolk which you can apply whatever attributes or lifestyles to, making it even easier to wreak havoc. Because of the human brain being wired the way it is it is so much better for me to steal cabbages if I can imagine that the farmer is a cranky boomer, and the aforementioned kid is a snotty brat. Screw you Mason. Those are my glasses now.
Do unto your neighbour… bad stuff
The tradition of being a menace in video games dates back a while. The earliest game I played that let me be a total jerk was a 2003 title Neighbours From Hell. If you don’t remember it, I don’t blame you. The main character was a star of a TV show in which he tried to make his neighbour’s life a living hell by messing with his apartment.
The game is composed out of season with a couple episodes each — every episode the trickster Woody has a number of tricks to figure out and play on Mr. Rottweiler. And if done in quick succession there is a boost to the viewership.
Neighbours From Hell follow a more straightforward theme of revenge and schadenfreude. We know that the antagonist is bad, so we want to see bad things happen to him. A simpler idea, but executed well. It does show its age though, with the sequel adding Mr. Rottweiler’s mother-in-law as an extra obstacle.
Cats are jerks
Coming back to animals, let’s talk about cats. Those stinky goblins have it all figured out — they get fed, their litter boxes changed daily and they don’t have to do anything, just look good. And they still keep knocking stuff off of tables, ungrateful little gremlins.
In Catlateral Damage the player finally gets to know how it feels to knock over all of the cups from the table. But unlike my cat Milton, you won’t have to feel any repercussions of your actions. Each level is a mad dash to knock enough items off the shelves to reach a certain score. Some items give you more points, and some actions give you power ups like even higher jumps or maxing out your speed.
While smashing pictures to unlock photos of cats and dropping books from high up one starts to ponder. Is it the cat’s nature to be an absolute jerk? Or does it simply choose to revel in the mischief and chaos created by it’s action? We may never know the answer to those questions. But I know one thing.
Milton is a jerk and should be kept off any tables.