Faster than A Gorilla

Limitations work in various ways. The German delivery service Gorillas and the video game Minit have chosen the same core concept: They limit the time available for a task. “Gorillas” have ten minutes to bring groceries to the customer. Those playing Minit have one minute to do anything before the character dies and the player is returned to the starting point. A time limit. A challenge. Or a pretty rotten business model. The gorillas, they’re the couriers, speeding through the city like apes rushing through the forest. Dynamic, young. Not to help old people who can hardly leave the house. The target group is other, young metropolitans who still haven’t optimized their everyday lives to the max. Employees as livestock. Gorillas. Of all the animals they picked those so close to humans. It could hardly be more emblematic.

The time limit of Minit and Gorillas seems to differ in the mathematical factor only: the gorillas are given ten times as long to deliver the goods. But by taking a closer look one can see that the limitation works not only differently, but the opposite way: While Minit allows creativity to grow from the limitation and thus renatures the well-trodden genre paths, the limitation of the couriers does the opposite: depletion and exploitation. And while I don’t have a guilty conscience when playing an ambitious indie game, one could ask oneself if one has to roll with every crap just because it can be done? Is there really a need that gorillas fill, or is the need created by the supply? Many people rely on delivery services. But why does it have to be that fast? Do so many people have their yeast dough ruined, because they can’t get their hands on a missing ingredient within ten minutes? Are they so tightly scheduled and short-tempered? And why do customers support a business model that takes no one by surprise when the first reports of poor working conditions arrive after a short time?

I’m reminded of a song by the U.S. band Nada Surf, in which one line is repeated over and over again: “Always rushing, always late.” Or the German band Element of Crime: “Always electrified. Always on the move.” Apply it to Gorillas, and it sounds dystopian. But to me, those songs were always positive. “Electrified”. I can relate. I am living it. It is what Gorillas simply advertises: Youth. Dynamism. And it is what Minit understands and truly conveys.

Because when I’m roaming the world of Minit with a time limit breathing down my neck, I feel light on my feet, I’m trying things out, and I get all excited when I discover something new that I’ll explore more thoroughly in the next run. As thoroughly as a minute will allow, that is. Minit delivers an impressive answer to the question of how much fun and variety you can come up with in 1-minute chunks from a single starting point. It is a unique video game world that has picked Zelda as a useful template. Items that make blocked paths accessible or allow other ways of getting around, as well as a grid-like interconnected world, are the ideal breeding ground for this creative process. Exploring the outer borders, discovering new places and seeing familiar places in a new light that I had already rushed past ten times: The game is funny, surprising, ingeniously convoluted, and it embraces the idea of its own limitations with a nonchalance that Gorillas get billboarded by pricey agencies.

By the end of the game, I had unlocked a world for myself. Through many, short actions that added up to something large. Meanwhile, the Gorillas built nothing. No improvements, no surprising moments. They didn’t grow as humans, unlocked no permanent shortcuts, and not even rigged jetpacks to themselves. As I played the game, they each supplied food to around 9 households. Because those households desperately needed a few cans of Red Bull.

Minit is one of many ambitious indie titles distributed by Devolver Digital and was released in 2018 for all major platforms. With its short gameplay duration of 1-2 hours, the threshold to engage in this particular gaming experience is low. I have never ordered from Gorillas and never will.

This post is also available in: German