OBEY does not have official ingame lore, but it does have underlying subliminal messages intentionally designed by Dan Dez, the developer.
| "OBEY was inspired by authoritarian systems of influence and the way they function. OBEY is not about bunnies or robots at all: the meaning of OBEY becomes evident when you realize that the situation spontaneously arising in your game with your fellow players mirrors a recurring human pattern.
These are the ideas that have, and will continue to inform my decisions on OBEY."
The "Story" can be viewed from the main menu, and discusses the ideas behind the general game design.
| OBEY is the story of someone familiar.|
Yes, you as in YOU, in life.
Do not be distracted by the motif of the robot destroying 'defenseless' bunnies.
Obey gives YOU, the player, a MIRROR to patterns of power that exist in all our lives.
Will you look into the MIRROR?
To look in, you must first understand what a STRUCTURE OF POWER is.
A power structure is a system of influence.
It may be the pattern of parent to child, or the pattern of a government over a citizen (or citizen over government), a set of molecules (genes) influence over the structure of your body and behavior<1>, the influence of an elite over a society, a company over an employee and customers, or customers over a company, but also MEMETIC PATTERNS of behavior like farming or electronic computation over humanity.<2> For example, is society able to stop farming today? Not without catastrophically destroying itself. Yet humans went from existing without farming to farming being essential to human existence, and therefore to humanity being dependent and subject to continuing and propagating this pattern of behavior.
The meme of farming exercises power over humans.<2>
Systems of power can't be broken or even challenged directly.
They can only be subverted. They can't be destroyed but only changed or made obsolete. And for this to occur, a condition must be created that makes it impossible for them to function in their old form. Consider the examples: religion, parential jurisdiction, capitalism, bacteria genes, the country you live in, drone warfare, vertebrates.
The gameplay centers around the pattern of the powerful player asking the other players (who are introduced as veritable slaves), to do things in his interest (generally, things that consolidate his power while isolating them). The requested actions are almost never in the interest of the slave players, yet a slave player will often be compelled to comply anyway, in order to continue playing and score.
The assumed goal of the game, and the goal encouraged by the game is to score as many 'cents' as possible. The best way to achieve this is to take control and take power in the game. All players will hate the object of control and yet want to become it.
This central pattern of OBEY can be seen as an authoritarian system of power (a predatory state).
"Predatory states produce predatory societies: people do not gain wealth and a better quality of life through ways beneficial to the entire country, but get rich by taking advantage of power and privilege, by stealing from state," <3> To survive within such a system, one can either adopt the system as one's own, hide one's behavior, or assume power in some form (to note: even non-violent protest is still an assumption of power and is the reason autocratic regimes commonly target artists and writers). The gameplay mirrors various authoritarian patterns including patronage, secret police, intolerance of dissent, and formally ill-defined yet quite predictable laws <4>, among others. One notable aspect of this pattern mirrored in the game is that of the role of fear in authoritarianism.
An authoritarian power structure is sustained with fear: the fear of outsiders is commonly used to legitimize the structure's existence in people's minds, but also (more relevantly to the game) the fear of one's destruction if one challenges the system of power.
Wherever this fear is absent, the structure begins to collapse.
If you read this and understand it, you are looking in the MIRROR. What do you SEE?
<1> The Selfish Gene, 1976 - Richard Dawkins
<2> A Theory of Power, 2004 - Jeff Vail
<3> Essential Readings in Comparative Politics, 2004 - Larry Diamond
<4> Juan Linz
OBEY - 2015
Dez also revealed the graphical design of Robosaru (Originally submitted to the Robosaru page)
| "The design of the robot is intended to represent illegitimate power. The halo embodies one of the worst forms of this: the merging of religion and nationalism (both illegitimate forms of influence on their own) typically for the justification of aggression. It is also the source of the light beam (fear) that malevolently watches over others (literally and figuratively). The robot's shape is meant as a Christ figure / totem pole emphasizing the religious aspect of anachronistic and plainly false explanations of reality that influence the present. The robot is gold colored, a giant golden idol that everyone wants to own, yet is the fulcrum of their trouble and that players also hate or envy only when it isn't theirs. It is also adorned with trite symbols of peace and love: cheap attempts to conceal it's true and obvious nature, as is often the case with most examples of illegitimate power.
The main cannon is a giant phallus. It is the main instrument of control in the game and represents patriarchal and misogynistic systems used to justify all manner of violence, coercion, and injustice (and not without irony in a video game).
Robosaru also takes the form of a simian. Ostensibly the most intelligent branch of life on Earth, in this case the top of it's head is cut off and the head is empty. It's brain replaced with something else, something tiny that controls it instead, and for it's own purposes. Robosaru's head was inspired by the monkeys in the 'Dinner of Doom'. One thing I usually don't talk about is that I try not to refer to Robosaru as 'him' or 'he'. It is neither. In fact, Robosaru was designed with feminine parts to not only emphasize sexual power/influence (besides the gun) but also to a lesser degree parental influence (which can sometimes take the form of illegitimate power). Note that Robosaru has 'breasts' and also the entry door is red and like a vagina (with a light above it like a clitoris), and the base supports sort of like open legs. It isn't as literal as the gun, but it is something I was thinking about when I designed it. When you gain power in OBEY, it isn't just meant to look like a tiny sperm taking power over a body, or a symbolic penis, but also like the player is regressing to the womb in a sense. We are infantilized by the things we think we want. Consider about how often power leads to self destruction. (How many celebrities destroy themselves with drugs or financially after being able to get anything they want? Consider the Khmer Rouge wrecking what remained of Cambodia after realizing power and as an indirect result of that, themselves. Same with the 3rd Reich. Or repeated again with the hell created by ISIS's attempts at an Islamic Utopia.) There are many examples.
But yes, in effect, you have basically a giant monkey-faced, brain-dead, gold-plated Christ with an enormous phallus that players use to coerce each other in the game."
Dez mentioned bunnies as a design choice on the original Kickstarter campaign:
| "I chose baby bunnies to counter the robot because I wanted the contrast and asymmetry between players inside vs outside the robot to be as large as possible. I wanted the player's avatar to reflect their (apparent) impotence against the robot's (apparent) invincibility.
Secondly, baby bunnies seem to me to be among the most defenseless and innocent of creatures, it makes it all the more shocking when it becomes evident that it is they perpetrating horrific acts against each other (for money). Sound familiar?
Finally, baby bunnies are a fitting animal to live in a magical forest, which I also wanted to have as an environment to counter the hard lines and aesthetic of the robot."