Fighting Out-Group Bias
By Sam Reiner
I want to talk about a game that came out around 2 years ago and I think it is one of the most important things in recent memory. I want to talk about Undertale. In order to understand why exactly it is so important I have to explain how our brains work at identifying people. When interacting with people we are usually dealing with the Social Anthropological Principle of Out-Group Homogeneity Bias, which is that we tend to view people of other groups as more similar than those in our own group. To simplify, we generalize or stereotype groups of people we are not familiar with. This is a big reason why stereotypes and prejudices exist but why would we do this to ourselves? Well a prevailing anthropological theory states that this happens as a way to preserve our identity. Every single human is a complicated mix of likes, dislikes, fears, experiences, and beliefs which makes it difficult to actually describe what makes you “You.” Think about every time you’re asked to tell someone about yourself and you struggle to answer, it’s exactly the same thing. So instead of defining ourselves by what we are, the out-group bias leads us to identify by what we are not. We are not Them. We subconsciously draw a very clear line in the sand to say this is who I am and I would never be one of those people.
So how does this connect back to Undertale? Well this game is determined to force players to fight out-group homogeneity bias. It’s even the main premise of the game, Humans vs. Monsters, Us vs. Them. In any other game monsters are simply that, monsters. Just obstacles for the player to overcome in your quest to rescue the princess and save the world. In Undertale however, it’s a different story. Creator of Undertale, Toby Fox, went on record to say that he wanted every “enemy” in the game to have their own distinct personality. They range from grunts and bosses to characters like Sans, Alphys, Torial, Froggit, all with their own hopes dreams fears and insecurities. This is probably one of the most genius parts of the game’s design as even though they are labeled as “monsters,” they are so much more.
That is why this $10 game is so important, it’s message. The message that nothing should be judged or hated because of a label and that you should always try to find the peaceful resolution. In fact, Undertale is what taught millions of people the meaning of the word pacifism, which is no exaggeration. Global search trends on Google show a huge spike in the number of people who searched the word pacifism and pacifist around Undertale’s release. For the first time in what feels like forever, people were talking about peaceful resolutions to conflict all because of a video game. It’s also important to remember about Undertale is that people over funded it on Kickstarter, a game that pitched itself as “a game where no one has to get hurt.” During a time where people are actively talking about building walls, it is important and comforting to know that there is a great number who care about bringing people together despite their differences.
If you or someone you know feels depressed or alone contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/