Boo: The Uncle Who Works At Nintendo

Michael Lutz made My Father’s Long, Long Legs, which just so happens to be one of my favourite Twine games, and his latest release is right up in the top ten as well. The Uncle Who Works At Nintendo is a horror game that plays on schoolground jealousies, feelings of inadequacy and experimental Nintendo hardware. There are multiple endings, some of which aren’t quite as alarming as others, and the whole story takes place in the few hours leading up to midnight during a sleepover. Best played with headphones on, although sound is atmospheric rather than intended to startle in screamer fashion.

Whew. Lutz’ writing reminds me of Thomas Ligotti’s short stories – there’s a sense of meandering urban legends. Instead of beginning with an escaped prisoner and an undetected home invasion, Lutz and Ligotti pull back the curtain to show the terrible machinery that operates behind suburbia, but there’s no closure. No message written in blood on the mirror and no severed body parts tumbling around in the dryer. Things are distorted and uncomfortable rather than violently deranged. In Lutz, as the Uncle and Father of the titles suggests, there’s a strong element of wrongdoing within family units and behind closed doors. The fear is very close to home.

I’ll say little more, except to note that I’m not entirely sure what the monster in this game is. Whatever the intended specifics, Lutz has written one of the least didactic and delicate takes on gamer culture that I’ve seen in a while. And managed to do so within a creepy horror game.

There are obvious readings but there are clues that complicate matters and multiple playthroughs, with new endings unlocked, only seem to muddy the waters further. Assumptions are contradicted and there are strange shoots that seem to wither before reaching any natural conclusion.

Unlock every ending – and there are hints as to how to do so, found by selecting unknown endings on the final screen – and you’ll be able to read the author’s notes. When you do that, you might realise that some shoots were flowering behind your back and that there’s far more to contemplate than childhood anxieties and the terrifying wonder of a glitching game. Lutz also wrote a response to some of the feedback he’d received and you can read that here…but only when you’re done.

If you take the plunge, I’d be interested to hear which ending you reached on your first playthrough. I was in the linen closet, holding my breath.

10 Comments

  1. SigmaCAT says:

    That was a very very nice discovery, I just played through Daddy and the Uncle! I’m not quite sure but I think I got eaten by something… I had the “Undefined Error” ending, trying not to be intimidated by the weirdness of the events. That said, the ending was very uneasing!

    Also, Lutz is pretty funny in 30 Rock

  2. Merus says:

    I got the linen closet ending, and never worked out how to get ending #4. It looks like the last ending unlocks if you get ending #5.

    I have to admit I don’t follow the logic of the story on the way to the conclusion. It seems reasonably clear to me what the Uncle is, at least enough to follow the metaphor, but then I don’t follow how the Game Boy works given how you find it (neither of my ideas really seem to fit), and I don’t understand why the bathroom is the way it is when you inspect it on the way to the conclusion.

  3. Gravy100 says:

    I was very trusting and decided to meet the Uncle at the door. I’ve gone on to get all 5 endings now, I really loved this, thanks for the heads up.

    • sabby says:

      there are six endings, the last one you can’t unlock before completing the 5th, and it’s pretty much integral to the game.

      I liked the story, but i’m not sure about these games that you have to keep replaying over and over again to unlock the point.

      • Gravy100 says:

        Oh wow thanks for the heads up, I’m going to try that now – I know what you mean about the repetition but in this case I really enjoyed unraveling the story whereas in most games of this ilk I couldn’t be bothered, this one just grabbed me more.

        I think it would still be good even if you just went through it the one time too.

        Edit: Just got the ‘final’ ending, I get what Adam means about the commentary now, thanks again for pointing out there’s a 6th hidden ending

  4. Jamesworkshop says:

    “Undefined error” first

    -funnily enough I did actual have a legitimate mew from a contest in London

    “exit” the second

    “run” the third

    -knew I should have stuffed myself in the fridge :)

  5. Gravy100 says:

    Also I thought the illustrations were a really great touch in this, there were very evocative. The sound too was really well done.

  6. Reapy says:

    I guess I am a blockhead. I went through each of the endings but still the author’s notes and everything hit me out of left field. I honestly think I need someone to spell out the analogy for me or whatever the ‘deeper meaning’ is supposed have been? I mean, it was a neat little game taken at face value, I guess I am just lost on the rest.

    • Gravy100 says:

      SPOLIERS!

      I think a big part of the game is a response to the Gamer Gate debacle and Leigh Alexanders article that stated ‘Gamers are over’. The bit that resonated with me the most was the very end where you speak your friend who epitomises ‘the gamer’ and you can choose to forgive him for wanting to feed you to the monster, you can accept he knows no better, that he’s hurting in some way and forgive him for his childish, arrogant and destructive behavior.

      I don’t think that’s the whole point of this game, just a facet of it but for me it was a surprising and evocative bit wrapped in a horror game.

      END SPOILERS

  7. ff2 says:

    Hello, child