Night in the Woods and The American Death Cult

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick of Texas went on Fox News and ranted against shutting down the economy to prevent deaths from Covid-19. “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in,” He said. The next month he doubled on that statement. Refrains of, “the cure cannot be worse than the disease” infected the consciousness of the American people. Many US Citizens, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, are enamored by American Death Cult.

First let’s establish what the American Death Cult is. It is eagerness to die or to sacrifice others for the American Dream represented by the American Economy. The belief also holds reverence for the American Mythos. Money trumps human lives in the eyes of the American Death Cult. Climate Change is a prime example. For decades scientists warned us about the planet warming. The Republican Party rejected inconvenient scientific findings to promote unrestricted growth regardless of the harm done to Earth. They use the victories of the past to justify their actions. Tremendous amounts of lives are lost due to climate change and the mentality has stayed relatively the same. Slower economic development (even though one can argue that climate policy promotes growth) was seen as unacceptable, so instead we traded humans for money. The leaders in charge of the Death Cult do not sacrifice themselves or put themselves in harm’s way. Like many cult leaders it is, “do as I say, not as I do.”

(Spoilers for Night in the Woods)

At the climax of Night in the Woods it is revealed that the ‘ghost’ you have been investigating is actually a member of a group dubbed the “Conservative Uncle’s.” This group is composed of mostly males from the town of Possum Springs and they have found a cosmic horror in the bowels of the town’s mine. The Black Goat demands sacrifices and in exchange Possum Springs stays afloat. Their justification, the government did not help them during the economic recession and instead chose to help out ‘immigrants’. Bea, Mae’s crocodile friend, calls them out on their bullshit but they just ignore her.The Uncles explain that they choose ‘troublemakers’ in the community to sacrifice to the Black Goat. Every community member they kill quells the Black Goat and Possum Springs lives on.

The Black Goat represents the invisible hand of the market. It demands human lives to push the market forward. However, like normal capitalistic markets, the promise of economic prospects does not equal a good life. For years the Conservative Uncles killed innocent townspeople and the jobs have not come back. One business completely shutters it’s doors at the start of the game. Residents, like Greg and Angus, plan on leaving the city as soon as they have the money. Instead of coming together as a community, the Uncles decided the solution is throwing bodies into a giant hole. A bottomless hole of death and misery in service of the economic glory days.

However, the past is not always better. Instead it is whitewashed until it becomes myth. Possum Springs had a massive miner strike. As with any disruption to the flow of capital, the government responded with violence. The National Guard fired upon the miners after a random person threw a rock. This incident killed many miners while the National Guard was fine. Instead of upholding their oath to defend citizens, they broke it. This cycle of state violence creates more mistrust in the government. Currently, the Trump administration ordered the abduction of U.S. citizens they deem ‘criminals’. Many on the right justify this behavior. Tom Cotten’s op-ed in the New York Times advocated for the state to wield our own military against us. Those on the right advocate for the state to own a monopoly of violence. Military might is glorified from echoes of wartime propaganda. Generations of the military industrial complex ooze into the minds of Americans.

Mae sees visions of her town destroyed and devoid of all life. These visions haunt her throughout the game. The Conservative Uncles know the natural path for the American Death Cult. It comes from a failure of the systems and pinning the blame on individuals as opposed to systems of oppression. Mae suffers from some mental disorder and the system did not help her. Instead she saw a doctor who only prescribed a journal to write down Mae’s feelings (this doctor also does this for all his patients with mental illness). Mae dropped out of college to fall back into the past. However, throughout the game she learns that people grow up and move on. Greg and Angus plan on leaving the city. Bea runs her family business keeping her and her dad afloat. Her family is about to lose the only home she knows. The American Death Cult offers Mae the chance to join them. Sacrifice lives to revert back to the past. Mae rejects them.

Many young right-wing personalities have popped in the past decade. These mostly male, mostly white, icons tapped into a segment of culture. They convert people in the American Death Cult. Some advocate ignoring mask guidelines. Others say we have to get back to work regardless of the consequences. Hardly any of them are putting themselves into danger. They benefit from the masses’s labour. Eventually the tide turns. Mae refuses the Uncles which leads to the tunnel collapsing. Their ignorance led to their downfall. Ignoring the injustices of the system and focusing on dividing people can only hurt the American Death Cult. The cult stands unmovable in the face of destruction. They gladly force others to march to death, so much so, that they cannot see destruction at their doorstep.

The Sky Cat declares that “The Universe is forgetting you”. Mae is pissed off at this god being indifferent. However, that indifference does not turn into nihilism. She finds a home and community with her family and friends. It doesn’t matter if her family loses the house, they still have each other. Even if Greg and Angus move, Mae can visit them anytime. Bea may be busy running the store, but since she is in Possum Springs she will have Mae’s back. Pushing people past their limits is not how you treat a family. The American Death Cult’s goals are extremely short sighted and inefficient when compared to the nurturing love of family and community. Night in the Woods wholly embraces the community it is set in while condemning a system that allows suffering to persist over love. On top of that, there is a literal gay bear and that is something special.


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They/Them. Loves writing about games and other media that catches my attention. Co-Host of a monthly gaming podcast called Onett Radio

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Faden Cross

They/Them. Loves writing about games and other media that catches my attention. Co-Host of a monthly gaming podcast called Onett Radio