This ideally belongs to the other white-faced blog-site, but I decided to put here instead for the proximity of themes.

Undertale is a game released last September that progressively won more attention to become a true juggernaut. It’s a thing that annoys me because it’s elusive to grasp, and it’s one of the first games to be wholly meta-game, whose popularity grows and snowballs because of that META. It annoys me because its “secret sauce” is elusive. Do I want to invest 15-20 hours to deconstruct it, in order to grasp its secrets? (the game is way shorter than that, but playing it wouldn’t suffice)

In any case, I now have two cases, almost specular, that can be used as instruments to understand Undertale, at a deeper level.

Undertale is a game about manipulation, and in order for that manipulation to be truly successful it needs to include different audiences.

I introduce you to Lauren The Flute:

She is EXTREMELY important. More important than yourself playing the game first hand. She is the audience of Undertale. She is the one player who truly understand Undertale, line by line, pixel by pixel. She is The Witness incarnate. She can show you what Undertale is, who the game was made FOR.

But while that reveals Undertale true soul, and reveals it fully, it still won’t show the other half of its face.

I guess I won’t introduce you, because he’s kind of popular already, to Pewdiepie:

This will demonstrate better the extent of Undertale’s manipulation. You can see the reflected image of this game on two completely antithetic players. Yet Undertale is made for both, its manipulation is built to work on both.

If you don’t have time for hours-long videos, then focus on this shorter section. This Lauren video, from minute 43:00 onward:

Then mirror the experience with this Pewdiepie video, from 35:30 making sure you go at least to the big revelation at 41:50:

That fourth wall breach is mad genius. But it’s not the whole deal. What’s impressive here, watching Pewdiepie playing before and through that section, is the growing sensation of DOING SOMETHING WRONG. The game instills doubt. You are doing something the wrong way. You can continue because you didn’t hit a Game Over screen, but you feel this creeping sense of wrongness the more you continue doing that “conventional” Pewdiepie approach. The game doesn’t lead you, doesn’t stop you, but it turns the observation/judgement back to you. It turns you, through the game, to a Witness of yourself.

What’s important is NOT THE GAME. You aren’t watching something that goes on the screen. You’re not reading someone’s story. The genius of this game is that the game is a mirror. You look at the game thinking of a cutesy roleplaying game that will shower you with some nice story & world, but the focus is on you. You are looking at yourself. The game is a mirror and you’re watching your own actions. Questioning them. Instill that doubt of WHAT THE HELL I AM DOING. Is this good? Is this wrong? Did I do something wrong?

That transition, from looking at the game to look at yourself, is where it’s at. The genius. The manipulative soul of this game. The cleverness that sends the chills.


    • Lauren the Flute
    • Posted February 10, 2016 at 6:30 pm
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    Oh, wow, hello and thank you! ;_; I just finished Undertale last night and was searching for something today and came across this.

    I love this game so, so much. It is always going to hold a very special place in my heart.

    • Well, thank *you*. Of course.

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