Splatoon 3 takes place in a post-postapocalyptic world. Humanity as we know it has been wiped out by rising tides and its own over-ambition. (Technically, the game doesn’t say this outright, but it insinuates that humanity got wiped out by climate change.) Thousands of years later, ocean creatures dominate the globe. Splatoon 3 asks the question: What would be left of a place ravaged by climate catastrophe and the decay of human order? Here, it gives us an unusual answer: Chaos, and a whole lot of fun.
Anarchy drives the world of Splatoon 3. When we boot up the game, we’re greeted by the sounds of the “Anarchy Splatcast,” hosted by institution-defying trio Deep Cut, who have an edgier vibe than the pop princesses of previous titles. The main hub of the game eschews any sort of order, offering up a busy visual scene lathered with bodegas, odd jelly creatures, neon signs, and the occasional pile of trash sitting on the street. When we explore the larger world in the single-player campaign, we find the abandoned ruins of once-orderly industries. Replicas of historical fascination, like Moai statues, lay next to defunct machinery. Even the matches seem to defy any sort of logic or order. Sure, competitors are organized by a ladder system, but Splatoon is a game where chaotic, unpredictable fighters can flourish and the tide of battle can turn at any moment.
You might not know this, but this chaotic world was actually picked by the players. At the end of Splatoon 2, the developers hosted one of their regular online Splatfest competitions in which players picked between two choices: Chaos or Order. Most Splatfests just provide in-game rewards for the winning team, but this particular event was different. When team Chaos won in the end, the developers announced that this would be the concept grounding the next game.
Personally, I can’t imagine a world where team Order won. Maybe this is because I feel like a world that embraces chaos fits the fandom I see in Splatoon. In Splatoon 3, chaos isn’t a source of anxiety or decay; it’s liberating. It could just be the circles I run in, but I see the Splatoon community as being one that is — for lack of better words — extra gay. Beyond seeing fans support queer ships of characters, I frequently see Pride posts in Splatsville. My TikTok is full of fans editing characters like Shiver and Frye with borders in the Pride flag colors that correspond to speculation about these characters’ sexualities and identities. For a community of gamers that often might not fit into the neat binaries or the heteronormative expectations of society, entering a world that embraces joyous chaos is an ongoing delight.
As a person looking ahead toward the increasingly encroaching precipice of climate disaster, Splatoon 3 offers a surprising comfort. While it’s a far cry from the sleek, chrome technological utopias often imagined in sci-fi, it has its own beauty. Sure, the apocalypse hit, and workers are still exploited, but also, we get to dance. It’s a world with city streets decorated by the disorderly layering of neon lights, paper lanterns, and graffiti. It’s a sweet and somewhat bitter reminder that even if we don’t make it through the apocalypse, some other form of life will, and that new life can always find its own joys.