Before Everything, There Was Just A Mountain

Before Everything, There Was Just A Mountain

DIGITAL GEMS: Caty looks back at David OReilly's debut game, the ambient mountain simulator Mountain, as she prepares to (eventually) play Everything.

Digital Gems is our weekly column where we highlight contemporary and classic downloadable games that we think are worth your attention.

I really want to play Everything, the latest experiment from game designer David OReilly (the creator of the foul-mouthed fictional alien game from Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her). Unluckily for me, I have had no time to play Everything. Both in the sense of the singular game itself, and well, everything else in my life that is patiently nagging me to play it (I can hear Yakuza 0, which I never finished, calling my name as I write this). For today’s Digital Gems I’ve opted to revisit an odd game, OReilly’s 2014 debut “mountain simulator,” aptly named Mountain.

Mountain, some may complain, is hardly interactive at all. OReilly himself bills it as a “relax ‘em up” and “art horror.” At its start, you answer a series of philosophical questions via drawing (such as sketching your own interpretation of love or happiness). After that’s settled, a mountain is generated for you dependent on your responses, and then you sit back and watch as your cone-shaped nature is lives on. The mountain experiences weather (like snow) and life. At your mountain’s birth, you’re told “You are Mountain. You are God.”

Being God must be pretty boring, if Mountain is any indication. This God doesn’t micromanage the life on Earth, She sits back and lets it run rampant, doing nothing of worth, really. Playing Mountain makes me feel like this envisioning of a very hands off, non-spiteful God. Where this majestic mountain is at once my child, and a little bit of me. I can’t control it, but why should I? The mountain is doing just fine on its own, spinning slowly around, snowing at its peak, dropping life as it may. Sometimes the mountain will even muse some sad, poignant, or chuckle-worthy existential woes. The mountain knows all. And it knows its life in this world is not forever.

Over time, as you abandon Mountain, leaving its minimized tab to its own devices, occasionally you’ll hear a plop. Sometimes life will be born on the mountain; other times an out-of-place object, such as a pie, will find itself lodged into the mountain’s chunky earth. In a way, Mountain shapes itself up as an extremely passive Katamari Damacy. Where instead of rolling up every household item and critter in your path, the items come to you, colliding viciously and without apprehension.

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In my 2014 folder on my computer, interspersed with the typical pictures of friends, food, and selfies are screencaps of my mountain. I didn’t play for its recommended 50 hours; I assumingly closed the Mountain tab on my computer on accident one day, letting my mountain have an unthinkable fate. But one day before its untimely end, my mountain spoke to the void I had created for it. “I feel inspired by this firey morning,” it said. Which that statement, if anything, defines the game's simple appeal (or lack thereof), and if you’ll enjoy it’s quiet, meandering existence or not.

Of course, Mountain isn't for everyone. Some have labeled it pretentious. Others simply boring (if anything, I'd liken it to a non-interactive, passive digital pet raising simulator). Mountain isn't a game meant to be actively played, but instead watched and lived. I imagine with Everything, OReilly's latest project, that it will weather the same wandering criticisms.

Alas, I hope sometime soon that I’ll find time to dive into Everything, a game that promises millions of hours of gameplay and the same cheeky, philosophical musings that Mountain once had. Everything, though not as purely passive as Mountain, offers players the chance to play as literally everything: from itty bitty atoms, to horses that roll forward like a cube, to the towering trees as they glide across the Earth. In the meantime though, maybe I’ll reboot my mountain, and watch it survive in anguish. Mountain is available for the low, low price of $1 on PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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