This article has spoilers for the game Mountain
I was drawn to Mountain for it’s simple approach and minimal gameplay style. It’s not that pricey and from what I could tell, you watch a mountain spin around. What I wasn’t expecting was a game that would make me surprisingly emotional towards this mountain. The game also has surprisingly deep meaning with the world and how we approach gaming.
Mountain was designed by David O’Reilly the same man that made a fictional game in the movie Her. The fictional game called Alien Child where the player has a belligerent alien that responds to the player’s world and yells obscenities and insults at them. Mountain is nothing like that. It’s a surprisingly simple game. The only interaction you really have with it are drawings you make that the game uses to generate your mountain.
The game is simple. There are no controls, (you can play music for the mountain and some find that it causes the mountain to react) and you watch day and night pass along with seasons. But something happens. Your mountain is spinning peacefully and then something crashes into it, then another and another. This continues until the game goes through one of many endings. Basically, something destroys your mountain and you have no control over it.
Despite it’s simplicity though, Mountain is surprisingly deep. It seems kind of a parallel to our world, the longer we’re here, the more things we’re doing to our planet that could destroy it. There’s nothing we can do to stop our inevitable end, whatever it may be. In some game’s it’s a passing Sun, comparable to a red giant, that destroys the planet, in others, one last item crashes into the mountain and destroys it. You just have to watch as the mountain you’ve grown attached to becomes no more.
Not only does the game have a message that applies to the real world, but it shows that games don’t have to have any controls to be meaningful or thought provoking. You just stare at a mountain, but many players have found themselves growing attached to it. With games like The Walking Dead where there’s more of a focus on what’s happening and you have time to sit back and watch, it shows a potential new direction for gaming where there’s less playing and more watching.
The sit back and watch approach also seems to connect with the way a lot of people are taking in games today, through let’s plays, where users can watch someone play through and commentate on a game through video platforms like Twitch or YouTube.
Does this mean we’re moving away from gaming where you actually control things? No. There’s plenty of negative criticism out there for Mountain. But it does provide an opening for people that like their games to be about watching and not controlling.