I. Goblin Camp
Goblins like to camp. It is in their very goblin blood–a desire to construct small buildings, plant seeds, harvest plants, weave baskets, and generally create a civilization based on raising children by putting all of the poop and corpses you can find in one place.
Or that might just be the way that Goblin Camp thinks goblins work. To be fair, it seems to be accurate. Goblin Camp is a Dwarf Fortress-like game that is built on having a usable, clear UI that allows you to manage lots and lots of small guys who do a number of menial tasks for your visual pleasure.
In the spirit of total disclosure: I have never been able to play Dwarf Fortress for more than two minutes, max. The sheer number of tasks that are possible, combined with a lack of usability, makes my mind shut down almost immediately. Goblin Camp shortcuts through all of that. It is easy to get started, and more importantly, it feels rewarding to play it. The first time that my goblins started running around and doing shit on their own I felt like a king. These tiny characters were doing what I wanted them to do. I had some control.
I crave control in games. I want to be able to tell every little creature what they are supposed to be doing at any given time. If a game is the interaction of a player with a system of rules, then I want to be the player who interacts the most and the best. Or that is what I think before I begin playing–most of the time I get overwhelmed. As much as I want to be that guy, I have never been able to pull off being a hardcore min/maxer or manager of minutiae.
If we’re getting down to the most honest level of honesty, I am most comfortable with a Dungeon Keeper level of management. I like to tell the people I am ruling over what to do, and I like them to accomplish those tasks quickly but at their own pace. Goblin Camp fills that desire–it turns me into a kind of global suggestion wizard. I’m just some person who flies around and says “Hey, you, it might be nice if you started making better food for yourself! Also, go put your poop over there!”
II. The Spawning Pit
It is the poop and corpses that make Goblin Camp something more than a clone of world management games. The reason is the spawning pit. It begins as a small, one-square, green pit. As the game goes on, your denizens poop, kill, and died–the spawning pit is where all of that goes. Armed with buckets, the goblins diligently take all of the wasteful productions of their society across an expanse of land and then dump it into a green hole.
Then goblins and orcs start coming out of it. You see, the only way to expand your goblin civilization is to dump things into the spawning pit. It is a beautiful illustration of both Kristeva’s abjection and the way that contemporary capitalism functions, particularly in the way that the spawning pit continues to grow. No matter how far away from your camp that you place it, it will eventually come to encroach on your goblins’ territory. It will take over everything, ruin buildings, make a wasteland of fertile fields. It grows and grows, but you can’t get rid of it. You need it.
You need to make the goblin camp.