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.