The Symbolism of Oddworld

“This is Rupture Farms. They say it’s the biggest meat processing plant on Oddworld. I used to work here, well, I was really a slave…like all the others.”


As a kid, Abe’s Oddysee was one of the first games I ever played on the PS1. It was one of those games that entertained me in a way that helped me get through the fact the game itself used to also terrify me.

The Oddworld series by far is one of the most identifiable game franchises out there, and for good reason. It’s brimming with creativity, and above all, symbolism.

As a kid, I was more than likely oblivious to the symbolism of this game, but as I got older, I realised how much of an impact this title had on me for my animal and human rights crusade.

In this week’s post, I’ll list all the features this game has that pose as satirical symbolism.

It all started way back in 1997, by creator Lorne Lanning with the game Abe’s Oddysee, about a cute but creepy humanoid creature (a mudokon) named Abe, who works (slaves) at a meat processing plant Rupture Farms. However, after overhearing the sales meeting between the Gluckens (the squid-like bosses who run the industry) Abe realises they intend to grind up Abe and his slave friends for a new product launch. Terrifying!


An Industrial World

oddworld

A majority of the game takes place I and around the areas of the meat factory. The setting is a somewhat over sensationalised depiction of a filthy industry. The world is dark, eerie, dirty, dangerous and polluting.

There are also parts of the game that take place in a more natural setting, but even these have a somewhat synthetic infection to them, as if the industrialisation of the corporate world has oozed its way into the natural world.

Symbolism: It’s a prime example of how businesses in the real world exploit the natural landscape for its own financial gain. We see it all the time with hunting and deforestation, where the landscape is reaped and harvested of all its resources and infested with industry until there is nothing left, only for the businesses to move on to their next target of exploitation.


The Meat Industry

Mudokon-Meat

One of the biggest themes in Abe’s Oddysee has to be its emphasis on the meat industry. At the end of the day, the game is about escaping one’s demise of being turned into a kind of meat on stick corndog.

The game starts pretty dark and terrifying but is lightened (if you can call it that) by a sequence where Abe lists the different meat products Rupture Farms produces, like Paramite Pies, Scrab Cakes, Elum Chubs and Meech Munchies – though the latter now out of stock due to an extinction problem , a bit like the dodo in real life. We were just too greedy.

The Meat factory Rupture Farms is not a good place. Throughout the game, you witness bones, and carcasses transported through the terrifying industrial landscape and the smog-filled skies of the darkened surveillance-intensive stockyards as you try and save your friends from being butchered.

Symbolism: This is a prime example of the real guarded and confined world of the meat industry. The game’s distorted reflection of reality’s barbarism dictates its story and writes its premise. The meat industry is literally hell on Earth and we can experience it in its gruesomeness with Abe and the other anthropomorphic creatures and their point of view. If the tides were turned and humanity was literally the product, there’d be uproar and we, like Abe, would went to escape too. It is an industry all humans would refuse should we be in the place of the product.


Slavery

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The opening lines of the game speak many truths. Not only are Abe and his friends enslaved to the glutinous Glukkons but it also shows the degree of unpleasantness that Rupture Farms is.

Now of course nobody would ever want to “work” at Rupture Farms, so it would make sense to enslave the lesser, more repressed race to keep their factory running, especially if the salary was not being killed, until the start of Abe’s Oddysee.

Symbolism: There is a saying I go by when advocating my animal rights: “There is nothing like having someone do everything for you, especially when you don’t have to pay them. By the way, it’s called slavery. Too bad it’s illegal.” Sarcasm obviously, but the moral here is that good things are never good at the expense of another’s life.

For example: Fast fashion and getting all the clothes you’ve ever wanted, is made possible most of the time using lawless child labour. Sure you have all the clothes you want at the cost of nothing but a child’s life.


Animal Testing

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As the franchise progressed there was even more animal exploitation running amuck in the land of Oddworld. The Glukkons were bad enough, but then came along the science-driven race the Vykkers from the game Munch’s Oddysee, a grotesquely shaped creature with appropriately shaped needle-like limbs.

Like the Glukkons with their obsession on industry, the vykkers also have a stance on small consumer goods, with addictive products like nicotine, sweeteners, baby food, sedatives, laxatives, fabric softeners and shampoos that accidently burn holes in their customer’s heads.

Resembling a ball of fluff, the fuzzels this time were ay the mercy of the dreaded vykkers as they were subjected to electrocution, dissection, acid contact and being left alive on the stove for dinner.

Symbolism: It’s very evident how the Oddworld franchise can take real scenarios of animal exploitation and fit it into their style of storytelling. It’s also worth noting the Vykkers are sickly looking, a possible indication that the products they manufacture at the expense of the animals they test on, have had no effect on improving them. An indication that animal testing itself is as archaic as slavery. As noted by one of the Vykkers in the Munch’s Odyssey game, the burning shampoo worked fine on the fuzzles until it was used on their customers.


Consumerism

Posters

At the end of the day, the game franchise is very good at portraying the worst possible acts a species can have against another. The factories throughout Oddworld are structured and placed in the story to represent the true nature of productivity, efficiency and consumerism.

The Rupture Farms factory made meat products from endangered animals, the Soulstorm Brewery made highly addictive beverages with ingredients from their slaves’ bones and tears, and Vykkers Labs made consumer products at the expense of animal testing.

Symbolism: In the world of Oddworld, within its own rights of course, the products these factories made are advertised with a somewhat light-heartedness. It’s evident that when money is at stake in the world of consumerism, the manufacturer will always blindside you with pretty façades to hide the guarded and secretive truths these companies don’t want you to know about. Laughing Cow? Really? When was the last time you saw a cow laugh after being artificially inseminated then hooked up to an udder-sucking pump unit?


It’s ironic how much I love the Oddworld franchise, since it’s s such a harsh reminder of reality’s evils, but in some way, this is a good thing and probably the reason I have enjoyed the series as much as I have done.

Each game cleverly depicts the abuse a species can put on another in a way that reflects exactly what we as humans do. Never has a game franchise of all things ever dealt with issues such as slavery, animal testing, meat production, animal organ transplantation, only to throw it all into a mix of its own fabulously gloriously grotesque world. But to be quite frank, it was played for the fun, for it’s a fun odd bunch of games indeed.

If you want to play any of the Oddworld games, many of them are available on current devices and platforms so you can experience exactly what I did when I was a terrified but curious kid. Find them here.

All above art and works by their respective owners and not of Orion Nebbs / Chris Sergi

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