At the end of May, a group of eleven YouTubers from eleven different countries were invited to the VI Scholas World Congress, a conference that Pope Francis began to bring young people from around the world together to promote peace. This specific conference was focused on how the internet can bring people together. Among the group was Matthew “MatPat” Patrick, who runs The Game Theorists, a YouTube channel that does videos explaining frequently outlandish theories related to game narratives.
Before attending, Patrick was informed that it is customary, when meeting the Pope, to bring a gift. Apparently, he chose to give the Pope a Steam code for the game Undertale. That may sound absurd, but in a video, Patrick discusses at length why he specifically chose to give Undertale as a symbolic gesture.
Patrick begins by explaining how, to people who don’t play games, “gamers” are often thought of as one big, homogeneous group. He then connects this perception to the common perception that people in groups other than one’s own are more similar to each other than members of one’s own group are to each other. This is known as out-group homogeneity bias, and frequently manifests as prejudice.
“That is the first reason I gave the Pope a Steam code for Undertale, for as ridiculous as that sounds, it’s a game determined to get gamers to fight out-group homogeneity bias, so determined in fact, that it’s the central premise of the game,” Patrick says in his video.
Patrick discusses how, in almost every other game, “monsters” are just the nameless bad guys the player fights and kills, but Undertale’s story is all about a human child being given the choice to fight or befriend monsters, where the far more fulfilling story is the one in which the player is pacifistic. Patrick continues:
I don’t care whether or not you like Undertale, it’s what that game stands for that’s important. It’s a game that taught millions of people the meaning of the word pacifism … we Kickstarted Undertale, a game that pitched itself as a game about mercy and peaceful alternatives. It was something that gamers overfunded. We’re actively endorsing games about communication and understanding at a time when the rest of the world is talking about actively building walls to hide out other groups of people.
Undertale’s philosophy of pacifism certainly stands out from other games—perhaps the Pope can appreciate that, after all. Watch Patrick’s thoughtful, 16-minute video in full below.