Undertale is not Mimetic
Tea: Autumn Tea (Black)
First of all, this article will spoil Undertale to a degree you may not have thought possible. I strongly advise finishing the game first. You still have time to leave or else you will have a bad time…
Everybody gone? Good, now with that out of the way, here is my theory: Undertale is not trying to mimic any reality, but is the reality of Undertale and the Underground itself. We will go through this step by step. Starting with the basic concept of mimesis.
Mimesis goes back to Aristotle and refers to the imitation of reality, usually in text-form, but in this case we will apply it to video games. Most games, if not all, are mimetic. Meaning there is a level of existence within the game that is supposed to mimic the real world. Think of Dubai in Spec Ops: The Line. Yet, we know that this is not the real Dubai, but merely the game’s representation of it. Outside of this level are elements we would usually label under ‘video-game elements’ such as the interface, subtitles, button-prompts etc. If my theory is correct these two levels are the same in Undertale. Consequently, the 4th wall would not be labeled as such per se, since this refers to the breaking of illusion and shattering the internal consistency of the world and revealing it as a game, but if Undertale’s world is truly only the game, then such a thing as a 4th wall cannot exist, since there is no illusion to shatter.
– He literally does. Flowey is well-aware of his position in the game –
The first indicator for the theory are the two lovely brothers Sans and Papyrus. As should be well-known by now, they are named after fonts. The question of what was first: their name or the way they speak is irrelevant here, since both theories strengthen the hypothesis. If Sans is named such, because of the way the speaks, this can only mean that his speech is not audible words, but text boxes with written letters that make it possible to identify the font used. If the font used in his dialogue boxes is derived from his name then these must be visible as well, since only then would the Comic Sans font be identifiable and be connected with him. Obviously, the same holds true for Papyrus and the elusive W.D. Gaster named after the Wing Ding font.
– Chicken or egg? Font or name? What was first? Irrelevant! –
My next example is the fight against Asgore. The brilliant moment of him destroying the MERCY-button is a perfect illustrator for this theory. Assuming that Asgore’s spear does not possess the power to erase the concept of mercy from existence and since afterwards the button appears again, but shattered, we can safely assume that his spear had physical contact with the button. This, in return, means that the battle-interface and Asgore exist on the same plane of existence, since both can physically interact with one another. And since we already discussed that speech in Undertale takes the form of text it only makes sense that sparing an enemy is indicated by pressing a box, visible to the opponent.
– Asgore believes his is unworthy of Mercy and therefore takes away your option –
This might be good idea to talk about the rather abstract battle scenario itself. It is a bit frustrating to think how battles in Undertale play out, following the logic that it is mimicking reality. How would this black and white space look in 3D? How is Frisk only a heart. Illustrators have worked on this and come up with rather impressive results, but always subtracting some elements, like the box, button prompts on the account of them being the interface and therefore not part of the world. The rather anticlimactic answer to this dilemma is that it simply looks like that. Nothing more can be said. In battle Frisk is only the culmination of his/her being, as explained by Flowey in the beginning, represented by a heart. Trapped in the two-dimensional box and dodging whatever onslaught the enemy produces. This becomes more apparent, since certain enemies can interfere with this space. For instance, Sans in his fight at the end of the Genocide route can expand the space seemingly infinitely and also act outside of the boundaries of the space. In the same battle the heart can push the box to the FIGHT command which is, once again, only possible since the two exist on the same plane of existence.
– The entire meta-level (which would no longer be a meta-level) of game terms just adds to this theory –
Speaking of 2D, this is no abstraction either. If one thinks the world of Undertale is actually 3D and this is just a 2D representation of it, he would be wrong. Little details, such as Frisk being able to completely disappear behind the conveniently shaped lamp even though Papyrus would be able to see him/her on a 3D plane and bigger details such as Sans being seemingly able to teleport support this. Every screen does not connect to the next like a consistent 3D world with only the size of the screen being the limit. Every screen exist by itself. Frisk moves in a specific order akin to our logical connection of places, Sans simply does not. He is able to move according to his internal consistency. Since it was already shown that Sans has slight power over the world this makes sense, simply because he has knowledge and therefore power over the world/game. He is able to read the players EXP which means he can access the menu of the player as well. Something the player is able to do as well with the command check. Therefore these stats must be a visible component as well.
– Perspective is key. Frisk could not hide form Papyrus on a 3D plane –
My first indicator for this theory to begin with was an encounter with Mettaton in the life and death report sequence. He said that everything in this room was actually a bomb, even the words he spoke. Next, the words themselves exploded which could only mean that these words in their written form actually existed in the world itself. Speaking of Mettaton, his TV interludes also play into this theory. Mettaton would need to alter the internal reality of a world that we would perceive somewhat akin to our own (similar rules of physics etc.), but his TV shows defy this. Making it possible for us to seemingly seamless transgress between reality and TV show, but if Undertale is what it portrays, this paradox disappears, since, as previously established, more powerful characters possess power of the game, his actions become possible.
– Apart from being a hilarious moment, the encounter with Mettaton clearly supports the theory –
My last and biggest argument is Flowey. Flowey, for one, possess in-depth knowledge of the game (which we can translate to knowledge about his own world), this becomes apparent in the beginning already. Yet, later on after he manages to kill Asgore on the Neutral route he becomes the nightmarish Photoshop Flowey. First of all, that is a rather telling name and we can assume his power has been increased so much that he able to act outside the game, open a program on the computer and create himself a new body. A body that is not consistent with the style of the game (pixel vs photo-realism), but both can exist on the same plane. Take note, however, that Frisk’s heart and certain attacks are still kept in the pixel-art style. Therefore Flowey has not altered the world entirely, but only himself and his attacks. He is also able to change the game in terms of gameplay. Removing the button prompts entirely and turning the entire fight into just his attack phase. Only with the help of the other souls, part of the altered reality can be restored and, obviously, this is the only way to harm him, since any other method could only be created with a power rivaling that of Flowey himself. But since Flowey still exists in the world the method of FIGHT is effective against him and can hurt him. He can alter the world, but not change the internal rules, similar to Asgore not being able to erase the concept of mercy, Flowey cannot make himself impervious to damage, since he has a physical body.
– Flowey may have exceeded the borders of the game, but the basic concepts still apply to him –
Flowey in the form of Asriel Dreemurr functions in a similar way. At this point Asriel is able to alter and create the text of the interface. Such as naming himself the “Absolute God of HyperDeath” which is something a child would think of. His attack is classified as infinite. But his attack deal roughly only 5 points of damage, depending on armor and whether or not the command HOPE has been used. So the supposed infinite attack has a numerical value just like all the other and is only boasted to the infinite level by Asriel himself. We can assume that monster stats are not written by the monsters themselves as Sans’ description reads that he is the weakest enemy and cannot keep dodging forever, something Sans would never state himself. And staying with Asriel, his rebirth is only possible since Flowey is well-aware of game conventions, knowing that the Neutral ending does not satisfy the player, he uses the player to strive for the “happy ending”. Ultimately because he doesn’t want to be alone. Knowing this, he would make himself out as an insurmountable task and an endless challenge to the player, knowing he would not quit. All because the game is his world and not a mere representation.
– Asriel is trying his hardest to impress us. Poor soul… –
I hope to have made my point clear that Undertale is simply Undertale and not the representation of a story within that world. Everything you see in Undertale could therefore be considered real, since it does not refer to a hypothetical reality outside of the game. Of course, I do not deny that this game was programmed and so forth, but as the game exists everything in it exists as well, simply because this is Undertale in its entirety and not a mere reflection. And the fact that such a beautiful thing as Undertale is real can only do one thing: fill you with DETERMINATION!
Image sources in order of appearance:
- http://another-castle.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/undertale-2.png (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- http://gamerpros.co/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/undertale_papyrus.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- Screenshot taken from Youtube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eqypnw6gQNg (timestamp: 1:12) (Laste date of access: 14.01.2016)
- http://images.akamai.steamusercontent.com/ugc/420314861878219552/BC9E526999BD21C2AEBE34EA914B1030A7F3252C/?interpolation=lanczos-none&output-format=jpeg&output-quality=95&fit=inside%7C1024:* (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- http://i.imgur.com/QrNCsTt.png (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- http://lpix.org/2238664/1989.gif (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/4efWqkwWMUk/maxresdefault.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)
- Screenshot taken from Youtube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPyzaKoGjks (timestamp: 9:22) (Last date of access: 14.01.2016)