The Dark, Silly Satire of Go Fly a Kite Finds the End of Everything A Secondary Concern

Like anything that has a history longer than ten years, the internet has its own share of ‘back in my day it was all fields of gold and strawberry rivers’ types that roll their eyes over how bad things are now. And as with everything else, those people are wearing the rosiest of tints on their spectacles.

 In the case of the internet, there’s often weary sighing about how fucked up online communities are nowadays, and while yes, they are generally murky muck-filled swimming pools full of contrary opinions, stupidity, and hostility, they always were. There are just more people pissing in the pool now, and to be heard, you gotta piss the loudest. Nobody wants to hear you pissing though… for the record.

I speak from experience as a relative veteran who is legally allowed to do one of those smug eye rolls and tuts but doesn’t. I once had plenty of paddling room when I used to be a mischievous piece of shit on Limp Bizkit forums and in Unreal Tournament matches (I was always cool you see). I don’t much care to be that guy these days, but even if I did, wading into the modern scummy widescreen latrine would be akin to quietly reading a joke book in a room full of hyenas with dysentery.

The opening to DigitalTchochkes’s short and surreal game Go Fly a Kite brought these thoughts flooding back to me. It opens on a forum dedicated to discussing the end of the world via some unknown apocalyptic event. The group is treating this seismic event with all the gravitas you’d expect because they’re discussing it like it’s a hybrid of E3 rumors and COVID conspiracies. People are either excited about attending end-of-life parties or posting those delicious contrary takes that sustain internet culture. The admins shouldn’t give a shit about policing the forum, but still, they pop up with a virtual wag of the finger when anyone deviates from the exact subject matter of the topic. Of course, this results in some verbose soul going for the wittiest of online retorts by suggesting some sort of deviant act has taken place between one of the admin’s parents and the poster. There’s an evergreen feature of online communities for you.

Go Fly a Kite Computer

Go Fly a Kite is just 15 minutes long, and yet it still leaves such a strong impression thanks to its mixture of the surreal and the satirical. It feels like a window into the past and present of social blundering, both on and offline, whilst being quite alien in its aesthetic. For something so cynical about life, it’s something that makes me feel alive. That opening beat online in a forum thread alone was an exquisite moment, so the fact that Go Fly a Kite continues to ascend from that fairly lofty perch is an impressive feat indeed.

The forum opening is a great indicator of what Go Fly a Kite offers overall from a story perspective. The end of the world is coming, but it’s very much secondary to everyone’s increasingly pointless and relatively minuscule, personal issues. You see, there’s a collective decision to just do the bare minimum in social interaction. So the forum admins continue to be dicks about arbitrary rules, and posters continue to spit in the face of those rules because ‘what are the consequences if we’re all buggered anyway?’ There’s so little power left to have in a helpless world that people clearly cling to whatever shred of it they can exert. The game’s protagonist consistently discovers just how little anyone cares about anything serious when he talks about the troubling growth on his head. The general obnoxious apathy towards humanity found in the seedier corners of the net is amplified in this unique situation, and effectively bleeds out into reality, literally and metaphorically it seems. The protagonist’s condition is serious enough to warrant a visit to the doctor, and that’s a trippy ordeal on multiple levels.

Firstly, it’s the reveal that the player character is a claymation monstrosity of a person. Go Fly a Kite’s look is lo-fi barren retro worlds and play-doh characters with a stop motion quality to their animation. If the futile chatroom shenanigans enticed me into Go Fly a Kite’s world, then the aesthetic embraced me. I’ve written before about the appeal of early 2000s experimental late-night TV programs, and their relation to a kind of vivid dreamscape. That reveal in a dingy room was instantly bewitching, and when our clay boy heads outside to catch a bus, I could have swooned at what I saw.

What I saw was literally just expanses of grey, with an ugly, blocky bus chuntering away as it waited for me to hop on, but the structure of the environment made that grey intriguing. Between the road and the courtyard of the apartment building I just walked out of, there’s a vast cavernous nothingness just sitting underneath. It’s familiar yet utterly alien Occasionally it’s filled with television static, something that’s seemingly a side-effect of whatever heinous thing is sitting atop the protagonist’s head as it crops up repeatedly throughout, escalating in surrealness.

Getting on the bus only adds to the weirdness. I sat alone, watching the world go by. The world at this moment, is heavily digitized footage of real-life motorways zipping past, with indistinguishable greenery peppering the view in an unheard staccato beat. Go Fly a Kite consistently shifts expectations with little things like this, and it’s a big part of why I found it so engaging.

At the doctor’s I discover the GP has really embraced the current mood because he’s shed his corporeal form to become a digital mind. Why? Because he believes he’ll live on this way after the world dies. He’s not sugar-coating the details of the accursed lump either and gives our protagonist a prognosis that means death by malignant tumor is scheduled to arrive a little earlier than the end of the world.

The protagonist is actually quite annoyed at this development, as it means he can’t join his pals in seeing off the planet and tries that age-old step on the road to acceptance by bargaining for a similar digital procedure to his doctor. The doctor, once again not needing to bother with bedside manner, simply tells our hapless hero that he could do the same, but there’s no chance he can afford it. He does offer up the opportunity for his patient to settle up his outstanding insurance payments though, with a whopping 5% discount and everything!

Not being all that happy with the doc’s casual manner, our protagonist says some nasty things towards the now digitized professional and gets a wounded response that culminates in the doctor basically saying ‘Hey no need to say it like that. Why not say ‘Go Fly a Kite’ instead?’ and this becomes a running theme.

The protagonist meets a friend for drinks after this, and breaks the news of his impending, relatively premature, death. If you hadn’t guessed by now, his friend treats the news with a terrible apathy and proceeds to moan about some trivial bullshit in his own life. Once again there are foul, angry words said, and the wounded refrain of ‘Go Fly a Kite’ drifts leisurely into the conversation once more. Resigned to the way of the world and his personal fate, our protagonist makes one final ‘trip’ where he takes on the oft-repeated advice and does go fly a kite in a magnificently underwhelming ending.

The profound truth of Go Fly a Kite is that with a predetermined extinction event on the cards, humanity is generally not all that likely to band together and sing Kumbaya as death looms large. The 15 minutes of this character’s life we get to witness shows us an all too familiar side to people in the face of doom. It’s understandable when you really think about it, and really, the protagonist’s final voyage is a comforting thing. When the world goes to shit, at least you have yourself, right?

Go Fly a Kite is available on itch.io. You can check out DreadXP for more horror game content.