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In Dropsy, the Key to Happiness is The World Rightly Ordered

(Spoilers throughout)

Dropsy is a game about rightly ordering your soul by rightly ordering the world around you.

It is also a game about redemption, but we’ll get to that. (If you haven’t seen the trailer, I recommend doing so now.)

Dropsy is the sort of clown who makes you uncomfortable; if you have a fear of clowns, you may not look much past the title screen. You’d be in good company here: most of the townsfolk who live around Dropsy dislike him or distrust him. Dropsy’s history—unveiled primarily through his disturbing nightmares—certainly doesn’t do him any favors.

This, of course, says far more about the town than it does Dropsy himself. Dropsy isn’t deterred one bit by the near constant discrimination he faces. Sure, Dropsy is sad when someone says they dislike him. But Dropsy also goes well out of his way to provide people with whatever it is they want or need. Got a problem? Complain about it out loud near Dropsy and he’ll help you however he can. This compassionate, joyful attitude is not limited to people, either—Dropsy wants to help the animals and the trees and just about everybody he comes across. (One unexpected point here: Dropsy helps turn in a known criminal, which only fits the ‘help everybody’ purpose if you believe the criminal will be better off in jail than on the streets.)


Dropsy’s joy is unmistakable, bubbling out of him whenever something goes right. He is downright infectious: I’ll admit to finding his bizarre quirks difficult to like early on (his near-gelatinous dances, storing his inventory in his pants, and his desire to hug everything from squirrels to people to refrigerators), but his unabashed joy in the face of harsh reality won me over. By the end of the game, I wanted Dropsy to be happy.

This is where rightly ordering the world comes in: Dropsy derives happiness from making the world right. Sometimes this means making somebody happy in a fairly obvious way—a young girl is sad that a flower is wilting, and Dropsy replaces it, bringing her joy. Other times rightly ordering the world means providing a picture of a deceased loved one to a widower. While there is joy there, Dropsy never attempts to break the widower out of mourning; rather, he seeks to provide the appropriate reminder of what he has lost.

And so we can learn something from Dropsy: rightly ordering the world is its own reward. Dropsy keeps a record of those he’s helped (represented in the game by pictures on the wall of his room), but the reminders don’t prevent his nightmares. He is still haunted by his past, despite his present success in bringing joy to many naysayers.

And so we can learn something from Dropsy: rightly ordering the world is its own reward.

In fact, the nightmares last until the end of the game. The ultimate ordering of the world is a world without Dropsy, it turns out. In the last hour or so of the game, we learn that Dropsy came from another world—a la Superman or Jesus—and is simply trying to find his place in a world designed without him in mind. The only person in the game who seems a true adversary to Dropsy (a man who actually knows that Dropsy is from another planet and aims to destroy him) also happens to be someone who intentionally subverts the natural order (by mutating Dropsy’s animal friends).

Dropsy is blamed for further destruction and follows his adversary to a pillar of alien origin. A short portal trip away and our adversary shoots Dropsy right through the chest. In a not-so-subtle resurrection moment, Dropsy is abducted (is it an abduction when you are returning home?) and reunited with his now un-mutated animal friends and his heretofore unseen and unheard of wife. Dropsy is finally home.

Dropsy is a game by Jay Tholen and A Jolly Corpse. Jay’s newest game, Hypnospace Outlaw, is an “alternate-reality internet simulator” set in 1999. It is scheduled to release in “super early 2019” on PC, Mac, and Linux. You can check it out at PAX South at the No More Robots booth, #10611. 

James Arnold is a writer interested in the way culture and philosophy interplay with religious beliefs. He has written on hip-hop, games, philosophy, television, movies, and even the Supreme Court. When not commuting, he can be found spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Twitter @jamesfarnold

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