What The Internet Did To Undertale
March 19, 2022 3:50 PM   Subscribe

What sort of things do you picture when you think "small indie videogame gets a rabid online following"? Oh I assure you, none of those things go far enough. Here, in 40 minutes, is the amazing story of What The Internet Did To Undertale, a $5K Kickstarted game that became something much much larger than anyone could ever have expected.
posted by hippybear (28 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
That was astonishing-- I'd never heard of the game, let alone its fandom, but the video was the most interesting thing I've seen in a while.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:22 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Quick question, before I click play: My (kind, gentle) ten year old son is a huge fan; should I show him this, or are we going to find out that one of the creators is a monster or the internet is a disaster for whatever it touches? Or is he (are we) going to be happy he saw this?
posted by mhoye at 5:30 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

mhoye, it's a little bittersweet, but the ambiguous monsters are all in the game, except for a few of the fans some of whom aren't ambiguous about being monsters. And internet fame, even if it's mostly positive, can be rough on a person. The video ends on a moderately up note.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:37 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

I've been meaning to play the game for years and I knew it was popular, but had no idea to what level. Fascinating video.

I thought the ending could have been expanded upon a bit more -- the creator takes it in a personal direction, noting that his youtube channel has gotten popular so he can sympathize a bit with how fandoms can be crazy in this day and age. Which is true and interesting for what it is. But the dynamics here aren't very well fleshed out. Like, how much power to fans actually have over different types of creators (e.g. youtuber vs game developer)? What are the ways that that owners of IP differ from creators of "derogatory works" and the like? What are the actual ways that "it changes you" and you're "still the same person?" Are there reasons that some fandoms are more or less toxic than others?
posted by ropeladder at 5:55 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

I'm 4 minutes in, and this is the first video game I've seriously considered playing since I discovered Tetris back in the 90s.
posted by amtho at 7:40 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

Oh man yes Undertale is one of those games that somehow lives up to the incredible hype. It's easy enough to "review the audience" and decide to skip a thing because it makes too many people too enthusiastic, but, well, it turns out that there's something to this thing that makes a lot of people really enthusiastic because they like it so much

(If you can avoid spoilers and go in knowing as little as possible, well, that is ideal, but that's also nothing unusual)
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:47 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

On fandom toxicity, what I say is:

The First Rule of the Internet is, negative voices are much louder than positive voices.
The Corollary to the First Rule Regarding Fandoms is, as groups get larger and interconnected, the negative members of that group will be much more visible than the positive ones.

This is visible with Undertale fans, My Little Pony fans, heck even Steven Universe fans, a show focused on positivity and acceptance. It goes all the way back to Sci Fi fandom, in the pre-Internet era, but the Internet has greatly exacerbated the effect.

I don't think the effects of this rule are absolute, but they should be remembered.
posted by JHarris at 8:23 PM on March 19 [8 favorites]

I would like to pull the discussion away from toxicity, as the video is full of really amazing creativity and this is not a sad story at all.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 PM on March 19 [7 favorites]

I thought I knew about Undertale and what a big deal it was on the internet.

I did not know. I did not even suspect it was this big and this amazingly...fecund.

What a great, fascinating video.

It might be good to warn people that if they haven't played Undertale and think they might want to, this video discusses in detail a lot of the twists and surprises that (I think) made the game so popular, so you might not want to watch before playing the game.

I had no plans to play the game (and watching this I don't think I would have liked it much) but I was amazed by and enjoyed the video very much. Thanks for posting, hippybear!
posted by straight at 10:42 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

For what it's worth, if you're on the fence about playing it, it's only about 7 hours long, unless you get really engrossed and check every nook and cranny (in which case, you're enjoying it, and more length is good).

It's a solid and enjoyable experience, no risk of "oh wow I don't have 40+ hours to devote."
posted by explosion at 6:52 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

I've never played, but my nephews love it (I have scoured the internet some Christmases for a Sans plushie) so this was a great overview of the game itself and a fascinating dive into the community it created. Thanks!
posted by misskaz at 6:57 AM on March 20

I've seen this video, because my son is a superfan, with both a Sans plushie and his own Sans hoodie. He posts fanart online and plays fangames, of which there are many. I watched him do a full pacifist playthrough, because he wanted me to share the story but I am not up to that much video game. It was a lovely experience.

I think the video does a great job of capturing the depths that such a simple game and reach around things like the choices we make thoughtlessly in video games and what they really mean and imply. We've been watching fanmade videos in some of the AUs--it runs deep.
posted by gideonfrog at 7:06 AM on March 20

This makes me want to replay Undertale, or rather to start over and actually finish it on a pacifist run. I felt terrible after I killed Doggo. I didn't like it, but I thought he was just a respawning enemy type! And then at the Grillby's they were asking "Where's Doggo?" My heart!

I do think that this video is, or rather should have been, about causes of fandom toxicity. I think that fandoms for media about positivity and acceptance can lead to some of the ugliest shit, although this is of course not something I can prove. Troubled young people looking for light, not knowing how to handle conflict and big feelings ... I dunno, man, just a theory.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:09 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

I appreciated this primer. Our kiddo has a Sans mask and a Sans Xmas ornament and plays the theme regularly on every instrument they dabble with. It was good to learn a bit more about it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:10 AM on March 20

I think that fandoms for media about positivity and acceptance can lead to some of the ugliest shit, although this is of course not something I can prove. Troubled young people looking for light, not knowing how to handle conflict and big feelings ... I dunno, man, just a theory.

Oh, no, I think that you're definitely onto something there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:34 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Undertale sounds like the Amen break of indie video games.
posted by technodelic at 1:31 PM on March 20

What kind of hardware do you need to play this? I have a 10 year old computer with very basic specs so wondering if that's sufficient or not. (I don't usually play video games, so sorry if this is a dumb question.)
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:23 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]

It's available for a wide variety of platforms. The Steam page for it has computer requirements if you scroll down. They look pretty minimal.
posted by hippybear at 8:39 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]

Maybe I missed something, bit it's weird that this video never mentions Homestuck, isn't it? Almost everything the creator talks about-- from the kickstarter success, to the fanart and AUs and toxic fandom-- derives from the fact that the early Undertale fandom was imported from the Homestuck fandom. Did they just somehow miss this, or was that a deliberate choice?
posted by phooky at 9:06 AM on March 21 [3 favorites]

oh yeah I can definitely confirm that Undertale is One Weekend Long, the optimal length for a video game
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:47 PM on March 21

A friend got this for me (because they knew I had a switch and I guess its availability gave them a chance to purchase it again in another media like it’s a dark side of the moon reissue) and I couldn’t really stick with it after 2 hours? I’m too spoiled and casual a game player and it’s too minimalist/spartan/the all-caps ETHICS going on was lost on me? But now I want to actively avoid it, the styles and designs and the lingering pollution resulting from the remixing or the RPG-ish original creation are my cup of tea.
posted by allisterb at 9:10 PM on March 21

I loved Undertale; one bit the video doesn't mention when talking about subtle characterization is that it's a bullet hell where the shapes & behavior of the bullets themselves are personalized for each character & their mood

it's a NEAT game mechanically & that doesn't get discussed as much as the love/hate for it in the context of its fandom does
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:05 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]

not to abuse the edit window: also I thought I kinda knew some stuff about Undertale going into this video but I was like A LITTLE BABY FRESHLY SEPARATED FROM ITS PLACENTA, holy crap
posted by taquito sunrise at 2:07 AM on March 23

i had the same reaction taquito
posted by thedaniel at 11:46 AM on March 24

I went back this weekend and got through the pacifist route. I bought it in 2016, and although I knew it had the special peaceful/genocidal modes I played it like a normal RPG. I never really recovered after killing Toriel: I got to Waterfall then just quit playing. On my current attempt I missed some friendships on the pacifist route, so I got the "photoshop flowey" ending at first. I get why all the nesting fandoms: it's written like the edge of a larger story. I also get the strong impact of "Despite everything, it's still you."
posted by netowl at 9:12 PM on March 27

This video is charming with how absurdly impressed it is with Undertale's fan communities. Not to rain on anyone's parade, but I saw it all before when I looked into the adult (as in, age) My Little Pony community when it was running at maximum. This all seems like a second version of that. But there's been other massive fan responses in the past, going back at least to All Your Base. I'm sure they'll be others, and other people to make loud and hyper-edited videos expressing amazement at the size of their fanbases.

MLP's fandom diminished a lot, I think, from some of the toxic culture around it, which I think was a result of three things: 1, the natural tendency of very large fandoms to be seen as toxic due to the loudness of the worst actors (which has happened to Undertale too to a large extent), its origin in 4chan and all of the problems that come with that, and the implosion of Tumblr, where many (most?) MLP fan arts were posted. Due to that last part, a lot of prominent MLP fanart is gone now, taken off-line when people shut their Tumblrs down. (This affected Steven Universe as well, which also has a very large fanbase, although not at Undertale's scale.)

While Undetale's fandom definitely suffers from the first effect ("Sans Undertale" had strongly negative connotations in some circles), it largely avoided the other two, leaving it the current reigning fandom champ.

To newowl, you actually cannot complete the Pacifist route before finishing a normal run. A necessary event trigger only happens after you reload your file after seeing the normal route ending without killing anyone.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 PM on March 29

Also: when the video gets to the Sans > Fresh Sans > Unfresh Sans > Human Unfresh Sans chain... they're all Waluigis. It's Waluigis all the way down. That's the future of the internet: everyone's a Waluigi.

Be the Waluigi you wish to see in the world.
posted by JHarris at 10:15 PM on March 29

I found this video [47m] which is a really good overview of the story and theme of Undertale. For those who want to know but aren't interested in playing.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 PM on April 1

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