I did not pay for Mountain. The now well known “Mountain Simulator,” seemed to have all of the components for a game I would not enjoy. As a general rule, I have an aversion to things that are intended to be ironic, or for games that seek for pretension above experience, and as far as I could tell Mountain was possessing of both of these attributes. After a discussion on Twitter, a friend bought it for me with the statement “May you find it spiritually and/or philosophically enlightening.”
There are some for whom this game has struck an emotional chord, who feel passionately about their experience. Andrew Webster, a writer for the Verge, called the game “surprisingly emotional,” and he’s certainly not alone. A lot of people grow to have a strange sort of love for their mountain, a cosmic creation that announces at the beginning that “You are God.”
It is unfortunate then, to find that I am not one of those people. It’s very possible that I did not play the game long enough, that my rabbit like attention span negatively affected my ability to enjoy an emotionally charged experience. The game is often mentioned in the same breath as the movie Her, which Mountain creator O’Reilly was a part of, and I had a similarly difficult time getting into that experience. It could be that there is not much to do in Mountain. You watch as the mountain slowly spins, you are given no controls and though the game advertises “collection,” what you actually do is get struck by meteor-like objects over the span of the games timeline. It seems, in this sense, to be a parody of all of the simulation games that came out around it. At the very least, it falls into that strange world of games that are “not games.”
Maybe, if we come down to it, the issue is that I don’t understand art. It certainly feels like I’ve missed the point of Mountain, which feels as much a game as a video screensaver and which peppers the player with the kind of questions and observations a first-year Philosophy student would be proud of. The game is fundamentally beautiful, and I could see allowing the game to quietly spin around my desk top to be pleasant, but I’m now positive that I would never have paid actual money for it.
In Webster’s piece he quotes OReilly as saying:
Everything is also a game, including this sentence, where I can make your eye move left to right, and make sense of these abstract shapes we’ve agreed upon. You’re rendering these shapes into thought on my behalf, it only feels like you’re in control, and you are for the most part, but I’m guiding you, and I want you to keep going, even though you can quit at any time.
And a part of me fights against this strongly. Maybe it’s the feeling of pretension that I perceive, and maybe it’s the fact that whenever someone tells me that I only feel like I’m in control I want to buck against it. Either way, I ultimately found Mountain to be as engaging as abstract art. This doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t enjoy it, and if those sorts of things appeal to you, I’m sure you will find enjoyment there.