Goat Petting Simulator: genius or bollocks?

Simulation game Goat Petting Simulator looks pretty straightforward, but is it concealing a deeper meaning?

(Credit: Chris Hall)

Simulation game Goat Petting Simulator looks pretty straightforward, but is it concealing a deeper meaning?

Cicadas chirp. Birds sing. The sun is shining. A light breeze stirs the grass. A few metres away from you stands a goat in a pen.

This is Goat Petting Simulator (free for Mac and Windows), one of just a series of simulation games by Aussie developer Chris Hall, whose oeuvre includes such leviathans as Grass Simulator 2013 and Hospital Patient Simulator.

Excitedly, we walk towards the goat. There are few goats in the Sydney city area. This is a rare opportunity. A left-click of the mouse lowers our extended hand to pet the goat's head. The goat baas.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

It appears to have a simple heart — allowing those who experience a serious lack of goat petting in their lives to fill that hole — but we suspect something more sinister is at play, given Hall's penchant for horror. After a while, the sound of the cicadas becomes oppressive. The goat doesn't move. The sunlight feels like a hot weight.

Weary of petting, we turn to explore the world of Goat Petting Simulator. A vast expanse stretches endlessly ahead. Holding the W key, we start for the horizon. It's then that we notice the protagonist's gait: off-kilter, as though walking with a limp. Why? How?

Considering the vast wilderness, away from the small haven containing grass, trees and goat, we're struck by the combination of goat and wasteland. It reminds us of the scapegoat of Leviticus 16:21-22:

And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.

Granted, it is the human, not the goat, walking into the wilderness. Is this a lesson of some kind? Is Hall trying to tell us that our transgressions are our own, and that we must carry them ourselves? That our rites for evading responsibility are a sham?

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Eventually, we walk off the edge of the world. We release the W key. The arrhythmic footsteps continue. The cicadas continue. The land, the goat, have disappeared. There is nothing but cloud. Unnerved for a reason we can't quite explain, we kill the game.

We're still not sure what it was we experienced. Goat Petting Simulator calls itself "The most extreme goat petting simulator experience out there", with a super-sweary trailer for emphasis. It's a claim we can't refute, but if you open your mind and your imagination, Goat Petting Simulator has something much deeper to offer.

Author's note: this review may be taken with a healthy dose of salt.

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About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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