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Undertale: Just One Big Inside Joke?

Undertale is a game that has exploded to absurd levels of internet popularity since its release in September of 2015, especially considering that the entirety of the game was created by one man, Toby Fox. Playing it myself, I absolutely loved the game–its mechanics, the writing, and the story as a whole. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I may have only liked it because of all the parallels and references the game made to other games and game genres. In other words, I’m not sure I would ever recommend Undertale to someone who has not already played a lot of video games.

I have lots of questions surrounding this topic. Is Undertale only good because of all of its in-jokes? As far as it relates to modern internet humor, that seems to be an essential part of that brand of humor nowadays. Is it a good/bad/neutral thing that this extremely compelling video game is really only accessible to a seasoned gamer? Are there other game genres that are ripe for the type of commentary and inside jokes that Undertale pulled on the RPG genre? Can anyone come up with an idea for a game to poke fun at another genre of game?

  • Interesting idea! I also loved Undertale, but I am not a huge gamer and I didn't get many (if any) of the major game references. So I wouldn't say that is the *only* reason the game is good. I personally loved it for it's exploration of the whole concept of games (which I suppose ties in to the "making a joke at the expense of games" idea), and the story as a whole. Perhaps, though, this article could still use the concept of the "in-jokes" as examining different ways that the game has been or could be appreciated. E.g. some people love the story, some the in-jokes, some the art. Or discussing the idea of Undertale as a parody of games, instead of making it out to be the only reason the game is good. – Mariel Tishma 5 months ago
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  • I suppose the question I'd have to ask is whether or not deconstuction is, by its very nature, an inside joke. Undertale isn't all that heavy on direct references, but it does rely heavily on leaning against preconceived notions of how video games, JRPGs in particular, work. It is, in a way, a conversation about how we play games in game form. That said, like many conversations, it can be hard to participate if you have no context on the subject matter. This is certainly a limitation, but I suppose the question then is if that limitation is so dire as to reduce the value of the work as a whole. – John Wells 4 months ago
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