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Video Game / Duck Season

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That darn dog...

It's the eighties, and you're just a normal boy who is home after school. Then, your mother comes home with a rental copy of the newest hit game for your Gammon Kingbit Game System (totally not a trademark-friendly copy of the NES) - Duck Season! Finally, that light gun you've got is good for something. But your mom has to take it back tomorrow, so you'll have to make the most of your time. The game is immersive, fun, and you get to shoot that stupid dog in his stupid grinning face. However, as you play and the hours go by, weird things start happening... especially with the dog in the game.

Yep, it's one of those games.

Duck Season is a VR game made by Stress Level Zero, a game studio headed by Brandon Laatsch, who's good friends with people from Corridor Digital and Freddie Wong. Though it's a throwback to classic '80s video games, especially a homage of Duck Hunt, it's also somewhat more than that - primarily a horror game, taking cues from the likes of Five Nights at Freddy's, but rather than relying on paranoia and jumpscares, this game prefers suspense, atmosphere and a lot of Mind Screw. As well, there are a grand total of seven endings depending on what you do.

In June 17, 2019, a "regular" PC version, which doesn't need VR to play, was released.

Not to be confused with Duck Season, Rabbit Season.

This game has examples of:

  • Absence of Evidence: There's a large bag of dog food in the kitchen, even though the family doesn't seem to own a dog.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The dog in the original game was at worst a jerk who laughed at you. This version is a murderous psychopath who Would Hurt a Child.
  • Ambiguously Human: The Dog himself. While he and the game itself display all the tendencies of a demonic Eldritch Abomination, he looks like a guy in a costume, can be seen smoking before every round and is rather easily killed by the police in the "Best Man" Ending, complete with copius amounts of blood. This, along with the events of a few endings, suggests he may be a human trapped in the game and made to carry out its bidding. It goes even further when some fans theorize that the man trapped in the game is David's father. Ultimately subverted, since the dog is not even a human, but a cryptid; see Shared Universe below for more details.
  • And I Must Scream: The 'Stuck Forever' ending, where the dog escapes and traps you in the game world, forever.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The "Canon Ending". If you successfully defeat the dog and avoid getting killed, but your mother is killed anyway, you end up having to bury her, and then run away from home, since the police will probably never believe your story of 'video game character coming to life and attempting to kill you' with your mom already dead and may make you the suspect.
  • Black Comedy: When the kid buries his mother in the canon ending he doesn't do a very good job.
  • Break the Cutie: The boy in the Canon Ending. After dealing with the dog, he starts to call 911 but hangs up. He buries his mother in the backyard and runs away from home.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The game might as well not have a fourth wall.
    • In most of the endings, the dog, in some way, is wandering about where he shouldn't be.
    • Look behind you when in the Game Within a Game. Stare upon the fourth wall! Oh yes, and ignore the completely inappropriate exit door...
    • With the "Stuck Forever Ending", the Dog smashes the literal fourth wall within the game, which reforms, trapping the player in Duck Season.
    • In the "Dead Ending", you get a rather creepy version of this as the dog looks up at you, abruptly trapped in an area out of bounds, while he's standing over the kid's body, and waves.
  • Creator Cameo: Sam Gorski shows up playing the hunter in the VHS instruction tape, and other Corridor Digital clips turn up as VHS tapes. The Kazoo Kid video showing up unmodified in the game is made by Mike Diva, who is friends with Corridor Digital and also contributed to the game.
  • Creepypasta: Several common tropes of Creepypasta stories are ticked off as you play more and more of the Game Within a Game, culminating in the dog turning into an Eldritch Abomination that first tries to trap the boy in the game, then outright kill him.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Boy's father isn't seen or mentioned in the game. Several secrets seem to hint that his disappearance was out of the ordinary. Some fans have even speculated that the dog is actually David's dad, trapped in the game, either dressed as or turned into said dog that tries to kill you. Key evidence suggesting this is the fact that your Mom has marriage-and-divorce-related magazines lying around, the "It's Me!" tape resting on the dog bed beside the TV, the fact that David's father worked in a major league baseball team whose mascot was a giant dog, and other tidbits.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Literally. Indulge in the temptation to shoot the dog, and things go downhill quickly. In particular, if you didn't call the cops, he'll kill your mom and, in the worst ending, you. It's implied he's been doing this to everyone in every household where someone playing the game has shot him in-game, as not shooting him will get you the "Fiesta" ending.
  • Downer Ending: Two of the endings are basically game over screens. Specifically, the "Stuck Forever" and "Dead" endings. The "Nuke" ending is a weirder version of this. Heck, on top of that, the Canon ending really teeters the line between this, and Bittersweet Ending, since there's not much sweetness in the kid becoming a runaway after his mom was murdered.
  • Foreshadowing: Halfway through the game, your mom will wonder where one of her kitchen knives has gone. The dog stole it, and he uses it to kill her, and go after you in the real world.
  • Gainax Ending: A bunch of them.
  • Gaslighting: The more rounds of Duck Season you play, the more things start to shift around the room, sometimes in subtle ways. At first it can be written off as your mom leaving snacks for you or cleaning up a bit, but then you hear your mom mention that one of the kitchen knives has gone missing...
  • Golden Ending: The "Best Men Ending". Call 911 after either stage 6 or 7, and a lot of terrible things are avoided. The dog gets the business end of a helicopter's machine gun, courtesy of the cops, preventing further killings and avenging the deaths of many other innocent people murdered. The fact that it happens both on live TV and right outside of your living room's window is the crown's jewel of this moment!
    • "Fiesta" also counts, since all you have to do is not shoot the dog even once. Your reward after finishing level 8 is a fiesta-based game and music, and some maracas.
  • Medium Blending: In the "Best Men" ending, the human characters on the television are live-action.
  • Mind Screw: A truckload of it. A major source of it being anything that interacts with the Kid Wizard book.
  • The Most Dangerous Video Game: It's like a "haunted gaming" creepypasta. Game starts acting weird? Check. It starts to affect the world around you? Check. The character enters the real world and tries to kill you? Check.
  • Multiple Endings: Seven, in fact.
    • "Canon" Ending: Shoot the dog, defeat him in-game, and defeat the dog in the real world when he comes after you with a knife. David buries his dead mother, and runs away from home.
    • "Stuck Forever" Ending: Shoot the dog, but fail to prevent him from breaking the screen in-game. The dog comes up behind David while he's sleeping and, presumably, kills him afterwards. Then he turns off the TV, trapping the player in the game forever.
    • "Dead" Ending: Shoot the dog, defeat him in-game, but fail to kill him before you get stabbed. The player is then presented with an above-view look at the dog standing over the murdered David. The dog picks up the light gun, waves to the player, and then zaps himself back into the TV.
    • "Best Men" Ending: Shoot the dog, and call the police after Level 6. The dog ends up getting chased down by the police and gunned down with extreme prejudice.
    • "Nuke" Ending: Shoot the sun with a golden shell loaded in your shotgun's chamber. The game world is obliterated, David is somehow trapped in a white void and starts crying, and the last thing seen is the dog coming up behind him...unless you tilt the camera, in which you can see what appears to be him embracing David.
    • "Fiesta" Ending: Don't shoot the dog. Simple as that. The dog will give you a rather traditional ending screen.
    • "Dog" Ending: Acquired after getting to the end after getting all other endings. It's an even weirder version of Silent Hill 2's ending of the same name.
  • No Name Given: Neither the Boy nor his Mom are named in-game. The only way to learn anything is to use the Kid Wizard book to discover hidden secrets, including a picture from the Boy's missing father to him, which lists his name as "David."
  • Police Brutality: The "Best Men Ending" basically involves the dog getting chased and gunned down by the cops with an excessive amount of firepower before he can kill either you or your mom. Sorta-justified in that the dog was the prime suspect in the recent murders and he was armed and dangerous.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted in the "Best Men" ending. Due to a series of recent disappearances, the cops are actually asking for help from citizens who see anything suspicious. If you call the police when the phone is available to you, they successfully gun down the dog before he kills anyone else.
  • Random Smoking Scene: Every time you start a level of Duck Season, if you immediately turn to look at the dog, you'll notice he's casually smoking a cigarette with his back to you. He'll soon notice you, hastily put it out, and then he'll begin doing his usual happy dance.
  • Schmuck Bait: Go ahead. Shoot the dog.
  • Shared Universe: The events of this game and the events of the Boneworks take place within the same universe. It's also revealed via multiple Easter Eggs that the Dog from the game is actually a "digital cryptid", a malicious entity that came from the Void and seeks to break free into our world.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Game Within a Game is a blatant high-definition remake of Duck Hunt, right down to the obnoxious hunting dog.
    • The game's title is a likely shout-out to the Looney Tunes cartoon "Rabbit Fire"; the origin of the infamous Duck Season, Rabbit Season exchange.
    • One of the games you can 'play' on the console is a game named Final Fiesta II, which is a equally blatant send-up of Final Fantasy VI's US release.
    • The "Dog Ending" is one big shout-out to both Five Nights at Freddy's (the tape with "It's me!" written on it) and Silent Hill (it's basically a homage to the Dog Ending in Silent Hill 2).
    • The "Best Men" ending has a shout-out to Apocalypse Now, when the helicopter pilot starts singing "Ride of the Valkyries" (poorly) while flying away after shooting the dog to death.
  • Sore Loser: When the dog goads you to "come face me" after he kills your mom, you can fight him in the game, but defeating him there just makes him go after you in the real world instead, though this leaves him vulnerable to getting killed by the light gun.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: If the dog decides to get violent and the cops haven't been called, he kills your mom with a knife, and blood is all over the kitchen, then uses this to taunt you to "come face me" in the game.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In the "Best Man" ending, the dog is shot multiple times by trigger-happy police officers armed with machine-guns. Even when the dog is already riddled with bullets, the gunner onboard the chopper still continues to pump lead into him for good measure.
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: Happens to The Dog in the Best Men Ending. Go on a Disproportionate Retribution spree against multiple families? Expect the cops to be on high alert, and to greet you with More Dakka if/when they catch you in the act.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Play the game as it's supposed to be played, and everything goes as smooth as you should expect. Do not, and, well... The game earns its ESRB rating.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Invoked. Shooting the Dog is what kicks off the entire plot.
  • Wham Shot: When you witness the dog outside your home, watching you.