This was originally posted on tumblr on July 11th, 2014.
Cameron Kunzelman is right to say that:
‘there’s a desire to see Mountain as profound. It wants to cultivate that, with its poetry, with its random objects, with its sometimes-soaring spouts of music. I’ll come out and say it: There’s nothing special about this mountain. It is like every other mountain, and if we wanted, we could try to mine that normality for profundity.’
It’s definitely a game that both invites reading whilst resisting interpretation at the same time. No matter how much we try and explore Mountain, either by zooming out into space or by flipping the mountain to see its underside, it always calls us back to that view of the rotating giant, turning endlessly through the day and weather cycles; no matter how hard we try and find something meaningful within the game that answers some unasked question, we are unanswered. Sure, we canzoom out into space if we really want to, but what does the space mean? What does it tell us about the mountain? Nothing, of course. Its purpose is to decontextualise; it’s seriously just a mountain floating in space. So we abandon the search for profundity. The game’s musical flourishes and occasional pieces of on-screen text are fleeting and transient, but the mountain itself is constant.
We can, of course, save the game and turn it off, but that doesn’t make the mountain go away. It is still there, in the save file, waiting to be revisited. We gain no progress towards any kind of reward, so when we save the game, what progress exactly are we supposed to be preserving? I think Kunzelman answers this neatly also:
‘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?’
A game of endurance, yes, but I think moreso a game of time. Creator David O’Reilly states that‘[w]e as humans feel all big because we build great things but the fact is that mountains dwarf us.’ Not just spatially but temporally; they have outlasted and will continue to outlast almost everything else on Earth. And yet Mountain has an endpoint, supposedly after 50 hours of gameplay. This means it can be conquered, but not in the way that we are used to. ‘Beating’ Mountain requires no action on the part of the player. All that it asks of the player is time.In most games the movement of the player towards some kind of conclusion is predicated on interaction with the game world, and this comes to define the relationship between the player and that world – beat the final boss, complete the story, reach the highscore. Mountain, however does not define this relationship, and it falls to the player to come up with it, that is if the player decides that there is, should be, can be one at all.