Honk honk! This is an article about geese, more specifically, a game called Untitled Goose Game. You may have come across this goose-flapping game before. Released in September this year, the stealth puzzle video game, developed by House House, has set tongues wagging for its humorous premise. Now available on Nintendo Switch and home computers, the game is set in an idyllic English village; rolling green hills, quaint cottages, flowerpots and all. The only thing spoiling this flat, digital scenery, is a rather annoying goose. Players can honk, run, flap its wings, grab objects and, all-in-all, annoy the surrounding villagers which is, of course, the aim of the game, and a lot of fun in general.
Founded by Nico Disseldorp, Stuart Gillespie-Cook, Michael McMaster and Jacob Strasser, House House is an independent video game developer based in Melbourne. The four never intended to make video games professionally, mostly coming from a fine art and film background, stumbling into the medium during a summer project when the studio’s first game Push Me Pull You was created. “We’d been hanging out a lot as friends and talking about video games,” Michael tells It’s Nice That, “so it felt like a nice way to formalise everything a little bit.”
Starting from scratch, the four friends learned the necessary skills to make a video game that summer, treating the projects as “a nice way to keep occupied” with no real expectations of what the game could be. Above all, making things together as friends has “probably been the biggest motivator for making games,” and now with two critically-acclaimed games under its belt, House House “feels very lucky” to still be working on this chance career years later.
The idea behind Untitled Goose Game all started with a stock photo. Out of nowhere, Stuart posted a stock photo of a white goose on the co-founders’ internal chat and proceeded to say: “Let’s make a game about this.” As Australians, the four members of House House weren’t that familiar with the ins and outs of annoying goose behaviour. As they aren’t too common in their native land down under, “in retrospect,” says Michael, “it feels like a bit of a fluke that we stumbled into making a game about this particular animal. Before we announced our game, we assumed it would have a very niche appeal,” he continues. But upon its release, Untitled Goose Game rapidly racked up popularity, selling over 100,000 copies on Nintendo Switch in the first two weeks of its release. Not to mention the memes of the now-famous goose which are also very popular.
What started as an “in-joke” between the four founders, quickly became a resonant (and extremely enjoyable) game. They were pleasantly surprised to find that “most people have very strong feelings about geese.” Though Michael sheepishly admits that the House House team doesn’t have any significant encounters to share, he goes on to say, “basically everyone we’ve met while we were making this game has their own traumatic experience to tell.”
Describing the studio’s creative process as “basically a big mess,” Nico, Jacob, Stuart and Michael work in an anti-disciplinary method where “nobody really has ownership over any part of the creative process.” Collaborating with a handful of talented developers, the final major decisions came down to the four co-founders who thoroughly examined every part of the game until they were equally satisfied. “Sometimes this is easy and a lot of the time, it’s hard,” says Michael. “It’s definitely very slow, but the outcome is that every bit of the game has been critically examined, argued for and justified. It’s a very particular working dynamic that I don’t think would work if we weren’t such a small team who knew each other so well, but it’s what works for us. Like I said, one big mess.”
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