The Status-Driven Dystopia of Uurnog Uurnlimited

The flow of Uurnog Unlimited’s core mechanics artfully illustrate our culture’s dehumanizing obsession with status.

Written by Richard Clark / Published on December 19, 2017

What if our identity was comprised of the stuff we own?

That’s the question examined in <span”>Uurnog Uurnlimited, a puzzle platformer by Niflas Games and published by Raw Fury, that tasks you primarily with collection.

"There is a kind of panic that takes place when we become obsessed with status. This game places us in that mindset, but it does so in a masterfully calming way."
Uurnog is a game without pretense. It makes no attempt to force contemplation or narrative into the play session. Instead, it presents the player with remarkably arbitrary objects and challenges. It’s not mirroring the real world minute-by-minute. Instead, it’s a game that asks you to look for certain color blocks, block-shaped-birds, and block-shaped-laser guns, so that you can eventually achieve the solution to some block-based challenge, and attain a new block-based acquisition.

Fundamentally, the core components of Uurnog are different than our own. The motivating factors of our lives are not replicated here. But within that structure, Uurnog illuminates what could be. By presenting us with the weirdest-case-scenario, it blows past the uncanny valley long enough for us to maintain our suspension of disbelief.

We think of Uurnog’s world as we would a fantasy world, or science fiction. We are not relating to these events as much as we are projecting onto them far-away potential. By showing us what could happen in some alternate universe, these approaches remind us that even the near impossible is near impossible. By lingering on something that will “never happen,” these approaches remind us of what scenarios would result in something very much like it happening after all.

In Uurnog’s case, the alternate reality is one in which the human race is single-mindedly focused on acquisitions. We spend our time in this game looking for the next thing, rather than appreciating what we have.

The home-base is made up of a series of nondescript doorways and a place to store our block-shaped-objects. There is nothing more of note within. It is not a place of rest, or connection. Just a place to understand how much you have, and where else there might be more stuff.

When you wonder outside that home, you sometimes find other people. At this moment, when you are confronted with just how dystopian this world is. It is not that these computer-controlled characters behave unrealistically. In fact, they behave exactly as you do. They frantically bounce around the screen, boxes in hand, activating and throwing their objects around in an attempt to figure out how they might uncover the next discovery.

This is a puzzle-game, but it is not the kind of game where you carefully consider your movements. Solutions are stumbled upon after wildly frantic experimentation. It is this kind of approach, mirrored in our computer-controlled friends, that seems most appropriate for a world in which our value and worth is dictated by the quality and quantity of stuff that we own.

There is a kind of panic that takes place when we become obsessed with status. This game places us in that mindset, but it does so in a masterfully calming way. We may be lulled into thinking we are relaxing, or embracing some kind of zen gameplay loop. And in fact, that may be true. But it’s not until we confront our fellow human beings that we realize the truth: this single-mindedness has stripped the possibilities of relationship, mutual concern, and sanity from our lives.

When the stakes rest solely on what we have, we cease to be human any longer. We become objects ourselves.

About the Author:

Richard Clark is director of editorial development for CT Pastors and Preaching Today, a co-founder of Christ and Pop Culture, and has written for Unwinnable and Kill Screen. He can be followed on twitter @TheRichardClark.