22/09/2020

An enterprising developer has brought chaotic goose energy to Windows with Desktop Goose.

As I write this, a pixelated little goose is dragging a bad meme onto my desktop and tracking mud all over my Google doc. The screen is cluttered with terrible cartoons, including one of the goose smoking a pipe while floating smugly in a pond. When I pushed the period key at the end of that last sentence, the goose lunged for my idle mouse and dragged it off-screen against my will. It will not stop honking.
am goose hjonk, it writes in a pop-up window titled Goose Not-epad.
If youre a member of the goose gangthat is, anyone whos played the viral videogame Untitled Goose Gameyou probably have a love-hate relationship with that mischievous and fowl namesake. Released September 20, the puzzle stealth game follows a very bad goose on its senseless mission to terrorize unsuspecting English gardeners and townsfolk. Four months later, an independent developer has set a new goose loose on home desktops with a Windows extension titled Desktop Goose.
There’s something almost aspirational I find in the reserved anarchy of a goose, says 18-year-old Desktop Goose developer Sam Chiet, who is not affiliated with Untitled Goose Game studio House House. I heard someone call Untitled Goose Game a power fantasy for timid people, and that’s basically the best way to put it. I’m going to mildly inconvenience the crap out of you.
Theres not much to getting started with Desktop Goose. Once unzipped, a piece of software launches that unleashes the goose onto your desktop. Its not much of a hassle at first until you realize that each individual window it drags on-screen adds up to a totally un-Marie-Kondo-like atmosphere of clutter. You can also cancel out easily enough; just hold down escape, and your tormentor waddles off screen. Everything goes back to normal.
Chiet had spent several months thinking of interactive designs that he could pull off using just the Windows desktop. For inspiration, he reflected on the classics: freeware 90s desktop managers Bonzi Buddy and Prody Parrot, and, of course, Clippy. (Rest in peace, says Chiet). The Goose, he realized, was a perfect fit. Its presence is small enough to let you momentarily focus on workday tasks, maybe even get something done, but obtrusive enough to jar you after just a few moments.
nsfdafdsaafsdjlasdas sorryhard to type withh feet, reads a window on my desktop.
Reads another: i cause problems on purpose.
It took Chiet just a couple of days to engineer Desktop Goose, which was downloaded over 500 times on Itch.Io within 90 minutes of its release. While its actions are off-putting, Chiet says it relies on basic Windows functionsjust, says Chiet, in ways that they are not meant to be used. Any app can set any Windows users mouse position, for example, to use an accessibility feature. Or a videogame might reset your mouse position to the center of a screen. Theyre certainly not expecting some random 18-year-old kid to go, I think I will set this value 120 times a second so a tiny freakin goose can nibble your pointer, said Chiet. (The value is the mouse position.)
Still, youre not alone if the extension’s antics raise flags. At one point in our conversation, Chiet took a message from someone who downloaded Desktop Goose and complained that it set off their antivirus. Software like this, he says, dropped off in popularity in part because of the safe way we use computers today. Its ultimately a good thing that PCs are better protected than ever against the dangers of the internet. But Desktop Goose suggests that maybe everybody’s a little too buttoned up. As shocking as it can be to revisit those garish, MIDI-autoplaying, HTML-copy-paste under construction pages of yore, I still feel that something was lost, Chiet says.
It’s entirely possible that I’m at the forefront of an ironic, then post-ironic revival of the fun virtual desktop assistant/manager, he adds.
Desktop Goose is a menace, but like any pet, ultimately satisfies a deep-seated lonelinesseven when it decides my mouse is prime for a game of fetch and my digital floorboards would look nicer with a dash of muddy footprints.