Mountain could be a $1 joke, and I think I'm the butt

Opinion

A tree is planted, it grows into a tree, the tree reaches for the sun, it drinks water, it lives, and eventually it dies. It doesn’t think about what it wants, or how to get it, it just reacts to its conditions and accepts whatever happens with no complaints, and not regrets.

Mountain is kind of like a tree, except it’s a one dollar video game that seems to be laughing at people who strain to find meaning in abstract indie titles.

I don’t know where my eyes are

The "mountain simulator" begins by asking you to draw some shapes in response to a vaguely worded prompt, and somehow these doodles are turned into your mountain. Your mountain floats in space, and sometimes things fly into it. You can tap some of the keys on the keyboard and tones will play, but I don’t think this has anything to do with the actual game.

The game plays in a window, and there is no way to full-screen it. You can turn the audio on and off. If you bring up the menu the controls are listed at "Mouse ‐ nothing" and "Keyboard — nothing." You can, however, save your game.

It gets dark, it gets light, your mountain is hit by random objects ... You can spin your mountain and zoom in and out to get a better view. Sometimes things fly into your mountain, but this doesn’t happen that often. You’ll sometimes hear a tone, and be granted a written affirmation on the screen. There doesn’t seem to be any actual game play, and the whole thing feels like a for-pay screensaver that doesn’t fill up your screen.

I just felt god in this sleepy day

I’m often told that I think too deeply about things, and I have a good time giving way too many words to things like the latest Transformers movie. I enjoy finding the meaning in things, and exploring my own reactions to pop culture.

So I wanted to give this a shot, and see if there was anything there. I read my little messages, and I zoomed in when a globe hit my mountain. I dutifully watched it snow, then rain and then I enjoyed the sunshine for a bit. Oh look, fireflies!

This is a quote from the Paste review:

"The mountain becomes about how I relate to that mountain and what it does to me, and most importantly, how long I can stand to witness it. It becomes a game of endurance. How much Mountain can you take before you close it in boredom?"

This is from a Kotaku post:

"'I am full of rocks and dirt and love," it said randomly while I was writing this article. I don't know why that particular line made me smile so much, but it really brightened up my day.'"

A clock just hit my mountain. I feel nothing.

I feel no pain during this piercing day


I've been reading stories about the game for about as long as I've been playing it, and it seems like there's a yearning to create some kind of meaning for the act of staring at a slowly revolving $1 mountain while random objects slam into it. I can't get over the fact that the whole thing feels like a put on, as if the whole thing is the act of a modern artist who placed a piece of ice on the floor of a gallery and charged admission to come watch it melt.

Could we find meaning in the act of standing around, knowing that we paid money to watch ice melt? Sure. Does that give the work value, meaning or justify the cost? Trying to put motivation to the release of the game is folly, you never really know why someone did something and what they're trying to achieve, but I can't shake the feeling the creator of Mountain, David OReilly, is reading some of these articles and laughing his head off.

I can forgive myself inside this fresh morning

This feels like a satire of every moderately interactive indie game that is released to positive reviews and piles of serious think pieces about what it all means. I've spent hours today with the game running in the background, and I dutifully look up every time I hear a chime and I make a note of what it tells me for this article.

I can't tell if I'm part of the problem, if I'm getting anything out of this experience or if writing about it in this way just feeds into some need to make sense out of a barely interactive experience.

I can't tell if I've seen through the joke, or if I'm a part of it. I've spent a bit under a thousand words talking about my feelings about a screensaver. If OReilly wanted to point out the sometimes absurd nature of games criticism and discussion, than he was certainly successful. If he wanted to make another point, I likely missed it. If other people enjoy Mountain, I'm glad something in this life brought them pleasure.

For now? I'm uninstalling this thing.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

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