I'M DAHEE SYSTEMS EXPERIENCES RESEARCH CRITIQUES

CHASING BIRDS
It's a cult.

created by davidczar

In this ambient game, you are a dog. You run around and chase birds, find other dog friends, and do other simple dog things. The mechanics don’t take much getting used to, but they are somewhat unpolished and rather awkward. The mechanic is initially distracting to the gameplay itself, but after that hurdle is overcome the gameplay is smooth.

According to Rick A. Ross’ Cult Education Institute, the following are signs of a cult:
(1) An absolute authoritarian leader without any meaningful accountability that so dominates the group he or she virtually comes to define it.
(2) A process of intense indoctrination that inhibits critical thinking and ultimately leads to undue influence, often called "brainwashing."
(3) The group is harmful. This can be seen through anything from financial exploitation to physical abuse and medical neglect.
This seemingly harmless, relaxing game has all three of the qualifying characteristics to be a cult.

The first sign is an authoritarian leader without any meaningful accountability. You play as a singular dog in this game that has complete control over the gameplay and eventually the other dogs. The lack of fight from the dogs is evidence of the absolute control you have. You literally just walk up to a dog and that dog’s yours. Throughout your exploration these dogs trail behind you, and become one of your crew. When I reached a barking marker and we all barked together, I felt a strong sense of warmth, community, and power. As weird as it is that I have basically brainwashed these dogs, it was nice to have a support network.

The second sign of a cult is a process of intense indoctrination that inhibits critical thinking and ultimately leads to undue influence, otherwise known as “brainwashing”. The way you get other dogs to join your conquest of the park is to approach and bark. The dog’s collar changes from red to yellow, and they are now one of your mindless followers. I got a strong sense of assimilation through the collars’ color changing when you successfully “activate” another dog. The Rajneeshees wearing all red, the red MAGA hats, and even to the New Yorker’s reputation for wearing all black, uniformity and brainwashing was an obvious goal of this game.

The last sign of a cult is the group is harmful. You might think you got me here, but you’re wrong. The games title, Chasing Birds, is telling enough. Why are you chasing birds? Why are you chasing the squirrels? Why are you peeing on fire hydrants? Why are you exhausting your followers? You are not only harming your followers, but you are harming your environment.

Cults are experts at hiding in plain site. The singular mindset, the cunning leader, the illusion of support and community, they all point to the immense power that cults can have. Chasing birds is a relaxing game that allows you to play as a cute dog doing simple dog things, but it’s also a perfect example of cults’ power and appeal.