Steam gets a bunch of new games all the time, but one has been making headlines this week for its absurdly exorbitant $2,000 price tag. That game, The Hidden and Unknown, isn’t exactly worth your time, though, especially considering that it has this extremely long opening text crawl all about men’s rights and “the human cycle” of reproduction. Ew.
Developed by ProX.team, The Hidden and Unknown is the latest indie Steam game to capture some of the internet’s attention for a handful of reasons. Yeah, it really is $2,000. Yeah, it really takes less than two hours to finish. And yeah, it really does have a Star Wars-like opening scroll that’s eight minutes long and completely unskippable. These facets alone make the game somewhat curious for gamers like myself, those interested in what’s happening on Valve’s PC distribution platform. However, it’s the thesis of the opening sequence that has me raising my eyebrows as it posits that “most western men today are feminine” and “incapable of taking the lead.” In other words, soy boys are a no-no.
“There is an idea called The Human Cycle which cannot be stopped as long as humanity continues to exist,” begins The Hidden and Unknown’s opening text scroll. “This has been the case since the inception of civilization, however, with unprecedented advancements in science, things might not be the same as they used to be. Whereas previously only a small portion of people could afford being weak, the situation is different today. Most western men today are feminine, while most of the western women today are masculine. Men mistake being weak as being good so they do not offend females, while women take on the more masculine role as their men are pathetic, weak, and incapable of taking the lead.” This goes on and on for eight minutes straight, y’all.
But what is The Hidden and Unknown? Well, it’s a non-interactive visual novel about some kid named Brian, whom you never actually see. Brian is like most kids in that he plays soccer, goes to school, sleeps in his bedroom, hangs out with his friends (who you also don’t see), and plays browser-based video games. The only difference is that, after Brian grows disenfranchised from his friends because the (similarly unseen) girls are making fun of him, he somehow becomes connected to the Super Artificial Intelligence 2123, which is actually just Brian from the future trying to save this digital world from the brink of extinction due to a lack of baby making. You see, Brian, now disillusioned and detached from everyone and everything, isn’t interested in relationships or reproducing now that his boys have turned on him and the girls are mocking him. 2123, this AI that supposedly strikes a balance between masculine and feminine energies, wants to help Brian make friends again and, ultimately, find love to prevent “this extinction-level danger” that is non-population growth.
There is so much to unpack here, I don’t even know where to begin. However, if you’re familiar with men’s rights activism, a political movement centered around the notion of structural discrimination against men, then these talking points should come into focus. It’s dangerous rhetoric peddled by the likes of self-proclaimed misogynist Andrew Tate and propped up by streamers such as Adin Ross, all of which basically advocates for men’s position on top in a horribly patriarchal society that still exploits women.
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In Discord DMs with Kotaku, a The Hidden and Unknown developer known only as ThePro said the game is “loosely following my own experiences,” though it’s not “an exact copy.” ThePro explained that, though the game calls “most western men” feminine and weak, they don’t necessarily believe that “men generally are weak.” However, “anyone who has had an easy life” will be weak, ThePro said, breaking down how the game has been received so far and what they’ve learned.
“I’ve heard the world has become much worse than it used to be, but I admit that I prefer doing my own research before jumping to conclusions and the reception definitely proved to me that people are too consumed by the wrong things,” ThePro said. “They make a big deal out of a price tag that doesn’t affect their life in any way, instead of focusing on improving not only themselves, but the lives of people around them.”
ThePro said they fear we might “[lose] the one thing that makes us all human,” but refused to expound any further on what this could mean. Instead, they simply explained that “both men and women have testosterone and estrogen” and that these energies should be balanced.
“I have been accused of being ‘transphobic’ and ‘misogynistic’ and more, however, I would like to let everyone know that I have no problem with men, women, trans people, or any other group, as long as they are able to respect me as well,” ThePro said. “People that have been accusing me showed me no respect and went straight to conclusions, which doesn’t make a good image for them. It’s sad to see we have to live in a world where everyone grows aggressive straight away, however, I would like to have a positive belief that if we start working together instead of against each other, we will find a way to escape the dangers of extinction which are very possible during the current climate.”
ThePro then went off on a long tangent about the “many possibilities” that could contribute to or cause human extinction: nuclear warfare, global economic woes, the overuse of lithium, estrogen in plastic products, etcetera. At the end of the day, it seems ThePro is using The Hidden and Unknown to propel some form of ideological rhetoric about the need for men to “take the lead” because, if not, we’re all doomed. What a revelation.
So, yeah, you don’t need to check out The Hidden and Unknown. If you had the money and beat it in less than two hours (which is totally doable), you could get a refund as per Steam’s refund policy. But why you would subject yourself to such a boring and, frankly, philosophically barren game is beyond me.