An unusual video game called Cult of the Lamb was recently released for several gaming platforms. It soared to the top of the sales charts and seems to be developing a cult following of its own.
JUANA SUMMERS, ACTIVE:
A week ago today, a quirky little video game called Cult Of The Lamb was released for several gaming platforms and immediately shot to the top of the sales charts. A million copies have already been sold across all platforms, and, well, it seems to be developing a cult following of its own.
(YOUTUBE VIDEO AREA, “LAMB’S PROMISE: STARTING YOUR CULT”)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: So lead your flock, increase your power and spread the word of the lamb.
SUMMER: NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour host Glen Weldon counts himself among the growing herd. Hey, Glenn.
GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.
SUMMERS: Okay, so I downloaded this game…
SUMMERS: …But I wanted to wait to play it until I talked to you, so I need you to rush us here. The name makes this game sound incredibly creepy, but I guess that’s not the whole story.
WELDON: No, not the full story. This game is – well, it’s adorable because your character is this cute, cartoonish sheep. You have these big, big Disney character eyes and you’re tasked with gathering followers. And your followers are also little cartoon animals – little piggies and deer and kittens and bears, and they have the same big big disk eyes that you have.
SUMMER: Aww (ph).
WELDON: It’s very sweet, very sunny – at least on the surface – because your job is to make your followers adore you, and you do that by keeping them happy. They have to eat. You build them a farm. They must sleep. You build them shelter. They need to poop. You build them outhouses. You want to start building the outhouses right away because this is very important. If you don’t, they will spill out everywhere and then get sick. So the more things you do for them, the higher their trust in you grows, which gives you the power you need to go out and do your cult leader stuff, like go out into the world and gather more followers and slaughter other cults. It’s just sickeningly bad, this game – think Animal Crossing meets Helter Skelter.
SUMMERS: OK, Glen, we were talking about cute animals with disc eyes, and now this is taking a dark turn. Is this a dark game?
WELDON: Well, it sure could be. It doesn’t have to be, though, because it gives you a lot of choice about what kind of cult you build—what kind of cult leader you become. Now, you can be the type who sacrifices your followers and brainwashes them with magic mushrooms. And it will give you a quick confidence boost, sure, but it has long-term consequences because your followers are individuals and some of them will be horrified that you sacrificed their little piggy friend and a mushroom trip will leave you exhausted . And if you do nothing about it, they will turn against you and begin to sow discord among your flock.
On the other hand, you may be the kind of cult leader who keeps your followers loyal by offering them small blessings or listening to their confessions. Now, the more you play, the more the line separating cult from organized religion becomes a distinction without a meaningful distinction. So – now, one thing that gives you so many choices, of course, is that it opens up the replay value of the game, because once you’re done, you just go back and play as a completely different kind of cult leader.
SUMMERS: And I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to be a cult leader? But, Glen, I understand that managing a cult is only part of this game.
WELDON: Yeah, the other half is in the crawling dungeon. To get more followers and get the resources you need to keep them happy, you’ll need to get out of your compound from time to time – out into the world. The game generates a series of short, random dungeons to go through and gives you weapons to take down your enemies. And then, ultimately, you’ll meet rival cult leaders and defeat them in boss battles.
(ARCHIVED SOUND RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character, non-English language spoken).
(SOUND OF TYPEWRITER)
WELDON: War is good. It’s nothing special. But what it does do is give you a much-needed break from the constant demands of your followers, who can be quite a bunch. So after a long day of making grass soup for them and emptying their houses, it’s fun to jump back into a dungeon to take out your frustrations on some demon frogs or wizard crows or whatever they are. And that’s the appeal, right? That’s the secret here. I think there have been games where you managed your resources before, and god knows there have been games where you crawled through dungeons before. But the way Cult Of The Lamb combines them? It’s really clever. It’s really fun. And as I say, this game – it’s extremely disturbing.
SUMMERS: All right. Cult Of The Lamb is now on various platforms. Glen Weldon, host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, thank you.
WELDON: The lamb gives, Juana.
(SOUNDBITE OF RIVER BOY “PRAISE OF THE LAMB”)
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