Mutazione (pronounced mew-tas-ee-ohn-ay), a game developed by Copenhagen based studio Die Gute Fabrik (German for “The Good Factory”) is branded as a “mutant soap opera” about surviving small town drama. Also there’s gardening? And its super chill.
This article will have light story spoilers for Mutazione.
I wasn’t much into the gardening aspect of the game myself, but what got me invested was the sense of community that drove the small town you’re experiencing. The game starts with your character coming to the island of Mutazione because of something happening to your grandfather. You play as a fifteen-year-old girl named Kai. After being quickly introduced to the various denizens of the island (see the image below), you’ll eventually learn how their community works separated from society. Something to keep in mind while playing, or reading, about this game, though, is that the residents’ mutations aren’t the focus of the game, the residents themselves are.
Each character, except for maybe the dots (little circle shaped creatures with arms and legs) and the sausages (mutated sausages?), has a specific role in Mutazione’s community. For Mori that role is cooking food for everyone; in game this translates to you being able to stop by and pick a vegetarian or meat option for lunch daily. There’s Yoké, a rattish-looking human who is nearing eighty years old and is wheeled by the others out to the Archive every day where he works as a historian. The only one of them who frequently goes to the mainland though is Graubert, a spirited sailor who is in charge of obtaining materials from the mainland for the town.
In game, I never found out how exactly Graubert gets material from the rest of the world. It is made clear early on that Mutazione does not use currency. The sausages reveal this when their leader, Medisti, is proposing that there’s a “market opportunity” for them since there is only one power plant on the island. He claims they could convince the dots to run on treadmills to generate power and create competition. There’s no reason to care about capital gain for the denizens of Mutazione, though. The sausages are mostly there to make you laugh at how ridiculous entrepreneurialism is. At the end of the day, I just assume that Graubert trades something with the mainland, even if it is not explained what.
Although, in town there is a way to exchange items with others. This takes the form of Claire’s small boat, where she takes care of the community inventory. People stop by to chat and give Claire various tools that they aren’t using anymore, then, when they need anything, they go to Claire to find it. There isn’t any sort of competition or self-superiority, everyone shares what they have.
Just like the various tools and goods in the inventory, everyone in town also gives their services freely. No one hates what they do. Everyone has several things that they’re great at so they share them with the community openly. That might mean that a bipedal cat specializes in hunting beasts for the whole village to eat (Mui), or that someone is a great tattoo artist and nail technician so they run the bathhouse on the island (Ailin). At the end of each of their days they never complain about helping the others. They might jest with each other with the sense of familiarity old friends do, but no character hates another in this game. Everyone loves each other and it feels so good to be a part of it.
My favorite example of how much they all care for each other is shown with how the others treat Yoké. As mentioned before, Yoké is a rat-like human who mainly keep record of the town history. He also runs the town book club, plays harpsichord, and is a great friend to Kai’s grandfather, but he’s in a wheelchair. For him to get to the town Archive every day someone needs to wheel him out there and back home. Perhaps he could wheel himself if there were maintained sidewalks and roads, but they don’t quite have the resources for that. Even though they don’t have those things, when talking about the windmill on the edge of the island, Yoké says that “Dennis and Tung took pains to make sure the walkway out there could take my wheels.” It was so endearing to me was that even though they’re abandoned by society, two members of the community would work to make sure that Yoké could reach the lighthouse in his wheelchair.
How Yoké is treated is sweet, but you could also read it as a take on how society treats disabled people; specifically with how ableist the capitalist mainland (and our society) can be. When you can’t profit off of a group of people, they get left behind. Unless the government steps in and creates laws to protect them, or a political party or group of people take it uponthemselves to improve accessibility options, accessibility becomes an afterthought.
I enjoy the delightfulness and respectability with which Yoké is treated in a much different way than I enjoy the sausages’ over-the-top entrepreneurial ideas though. Those usually made me laugh out loud because they were so ridiculous. For one of Medisti’s ideas they discuss making a contraption to allow humans to walk on water like water-striders, which is ridiculous, but some people actually think like that! The sausages talk about “market opportunities” most of the game and I laugh at them, but I’m sure you could hear Elon Musk talk about the same shit if he drove you to dinner in his Cybertruck. It’s ridiculous because much of society worships people who focus on “market opportunities” and make money off them. When you put the sausages side-by-side with some famous entrepreneur like him, you can see the simulation crumbling at the seams.
Mutazione shows that in capitalism, much of the time, there isn’t room for any sort of community. However, my favorite scene of this game comes in form of the town bar’s band night. A night where community is fully on display in how it came together and the aftermath. In Mutazione, band night happens every Friday night. It is when a few residents play in a rock band at the bar. Over the course of that day, several residents are forced to swallow their pride in different ways. One had to apologize for embarrassing their parental figure in front of the whole town, two of them had to admit they had a crush on each other for years, and another character had to reveal a secret to someone, which then subsequently gets revealed to the whole town. There’s obviously an extremely soap opera-y arc to it all, and, for someone who has only watched soap operas with their grandparents when they were a toddler, I loved every second of it. Much of the lead up had me on the edge of my seat, legitimately feeling worried about a character’s feelings, while the end had me feeling content with where the characters ended up.
By the end of Mutazione, I felt a sense of community with all the characters and was deeply invested in not only what each of them did, but how they felt and affected each other. When one of them hurt another’s feelings I, the player, felt it as well. When the town was worried about another character, I felt that worry too and worked to resolve it for them. It left me feeling sad that the game ended because I wish I could have lived in that community for a little bit longer.
From Mutazione, let us take that if you are in any sort of community to try and remember to take care of each other even if it takes some extra effort. The sense of warmth that comes from others will warm you for days to come and create a positive feedback loop with everyone around you. If you haven’t picked up this game yet, I highly recommend doing so and seeing how the community you help cultivate makes you feel.
Mutazione is out on Apple Arcade, PS4, and PC