Mountain Isn’t a Mountain, and You’re Not God

by Jed Pressgrove

“God” was the first text I saw when I started Mountain. That’s a powerful word, but others have reported seeing phrases like “What does love look like?” In any case, the game gives you words and phrases with a blank pad. After I saw “God,” I didn’t start drawing with my mouse, so a message eventually appeared at the bottom of the screen: “Hint: Draw Something.” I’m sure we all could think of less smart-assed ways to introduce a novelty game.

After you submit your drawings, the game generates a mountain and proclaims “You are God,” as if gamers and critics need such a boost. You can rotate the mountain, zoom in and out, and play notes on the bottom rows of your keyboard. Things change in the game with time. Day becomes night, night becomes day, sometimes you’ll see rain, sometimes you’ll see snow, and sometimes you’ll see random objects hitting the mountain. You’ll hear a chime when the game is ready to share messages, such as “I’m all about this deep black night,” yet another phrase I could imagine coming from a smart-ass.

At Kill Screen, David Cox logically discusses Mountain in the context of god games (e.g., Populus). Cox argues that Mountain has “an approach more in line with deism—the belief that, while there is a god, he’s probably not too interested in us.” A review at Retro Future Man goes further: “Like a real deity your influence seems to have little to no impact on the world as it is.”

Interestingly, these old reflections about God seem to result in new marketing language. “If you’re going to pick up a mountain simulator this year, make it Mountain,” says Retro Future Man. “We ask, but Mountain says little back,” says Cox. But can these potential catchphrases compete with Mountain developer David OReilly’s other trophies, which include the nauseating “MOTY (Mountain of the Year)”?

“What am I doing?” is a question Mountain shared as my fingers frantically tapped the keyboard in search of that elusive good note. The game can clearly make connections with players, but these connections might be partially based on one’s desire for a “different type of game” rather than fully based on entertaining or edifying qualities of Mountain. At best, the communication between player and game in Mountain is highly open to interpretation. At worst, the communication is muffled. All of this can lead to the following scenario:

Some say Mountain is a good or great game essentially because it’s different. This group typically doesn’t mind different interpretations because that’s part of the game’s appeal. However, this group might label those who think Mountain is the equivalent of OReilly pissing as shortsighted or dumb. Of course, those who think Mountain is piss might label those who enjoy Mountain as shortsighted or dumb. Since no one can say what Mountain is ultimately “about,” any discussion and debate will remain somewhat silly.

Of course, others might say Mountain is just a mountain that you can appreciate. In that case, I’d rather think about the mountains in Idaho. Those mountains never said things that sounded smart-assed to me.

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9 comments

  1. From descriptions and videos of this, it doesn’t seem like a game at all. I don’t mean this in a condescending sense, rather, in reference to the apparent lack rules, winning conditions, or interactivity aside from the first few moments.

    If anything, this looks more like a computer-based based…which really isn’t a bad thing at all. I actually wonder why folks don’t make more computerized toys, something that has no directives or winning conditions: a thing one can play with and make their own sort of fun with.

    1. “If anything, this looks more like a computer-based _toy_”

      Seems I was too quick to hit the “post comment” button.

  2. I previously thought about purchasing this game, but I honestly don’t need to spend 1$ to know that a deity is either ignoring me, or unable to help me. The other way I’ve seen the “game” marketed is as a slightly interactive screen saver – which is possibly more apt than attempting to derive philosophical meaning from it. It’s possible to make the game say more, but it just doesn’t seem worth it.

    1. I’ll admit that my approach to the game is influenced by the fact that “God” happened to be the first word the game gave me.

      I’ve seen OReilly call the game a “relax ’em up,” but I found Flower more relaxing and significantly less smart-assed.

      1. Considering the game is created by the dude that made the fake game in Her, I can imagine how beautiful the game is, and how smart-assed.

        In the movie the fake-game was gorgeous…but also filled with a tiny utterly foul-mouthed little alien. Guess it’s a juxtaposition the creator is into.

  3. I still have to play this game, and while it doesn’t look like anything stellar, it definitely interests me. Kind of like an interactive surrealist/dadaist piece. Will download over the weekend. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it and it won’t be too pretentious. But the way I see things, if Double Fine was willing to publish it, I doubt they’d put their support behind a low-quality game.

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