For all the people who were once children reading this blog, you are probably aware of the computer game character that captured the hearts of children everywhere and never let them go. Yup, you guessed it, I’m talking about the loveably anthropomorphic golf cart named “Putt Putt” by his master. That rascal ventured on various adventures. Also just to clarify he is not a “rascal”, he is a purple golf cart that can think and reason like a human. In one game he went to the moon, the other he traveled through time and in one he went undercover in a sex trafficking ring (he went under the alias butt slut).
I suppose I should take a few minutes to explain to explain the appeal of Putt-Putt. The games are a lot of fun and challenge you to think outside the glove box (this is the entire appeal of the game. It may not have taken you a few minutes to read, I just type very, very slowly). All of the Putt-Putt games are stone cold classics, as ordained by the press, or cold stone classics if you have ever had the Putt Putt flavor (vanilla ice cream with sprinkles). Yet our love for these games, as headphones do, speak volumes about the moral standing of our society. Graphically, Putt-Putt utilizes a super-minimalist visual aesthetic to portray its philosophical viewpoints (less is moral). The sparse design gives room for the dialogue and character interaction to shine even brighter than when the titular character got that wax job. It is with these two elements of the game which I will center my discussion on.
Putt-Putt relies heavily on exposition to describe what is going on. Take for example, in the game Putt-Putt Goes to the Zoo, the song in the opening of the game “Welcome to the Zoo.” This song describes the systematic class warfare rife in the United States society and recommends we uncage the lower class from the shackles capitalism has confined them in. Poverty is a zoo for those privileged enough to be free from its stranglehold. This is contrasted with the very character of Putt-Putt, a golf cart. As a golf cart, he is expectedly associated with the sport of golf. Golf is a rich person’s game, something Putt-Putt is all too aware of and rejects inherently. Those born to wealth either abuse it or refuse, so the classic rhyme goes. Putt-Putt, choosing the latter sets a moral precedent unheard of in modern day society.
This contrasts with game developer Humongous’ more cynical later work: Pajama Sam. This game was radical in its depiction and support of something they previously condemned: an anarchist state. In the debut game “No Reason to Hide When It’s Dark Outside”, the darkness is a metaphor for anarchy, freedom, solitude, oppression, equality, rebirth, and the power of a group. Previously established imagery is utilized here. Light is mockingly shown to represent progress and civilization. Anarchy is shown to supposedly be the absence of that light. However, the game is stating that the lack of “civilization”, the lack of government, is not something to fear. True freedom is easily mistaken for pure chaos. Yet unlike chaos, freedom is not reckless. Freedom is pure energy. According to the famous Carl Jung, freedom is like a tree without a vine. It can grow uninhibited by the suffocating force of those who would seek to hold it back. A tree is an extension of the soul, Jung also argued, and felt that retired souls formed the forests of the world.
Pajama Sam, viewed as an ideological extension, progression and outright revolution of Putt-Putt, makes a compelling case for the absolution of the ruling class. Like a plugged in phone, those in charge are in need of a group coup d’état. In the latest Pajama Sam sequel, Son of Pajama Sam, the game shows us that justified murder can be a valuable tool for bringing about change (the creators of the game were, in fact, recently arrested for grand theft slaughter). Overall the commentary these games provides is thoughtful and challenging. Whether or not you agree with it, I’m sure you can agree with this: Putt-Putt has your heart and he is never letting go.