It seems as though with each passing day, a new “simulator” title decides to rear its head. While some titles in the currently-exploding genre play off of intentionally broken gameplay mechanics like the infamous Goat Simulator, others are almost devoid of gameplay altogether. Mountain – an aptly-named mountain simulator – fits into the latter but rather than being a farce, it stands out as the genre’s most earnest experience to date.
Developed by artist David O’Reilly, Mountain is a difficult beast to explain. Touting itself as a “Mountain Simulator, Relax em’ up, Art Horror” title, it bears certain similarities to the recently-viral Rock Simulator 2014 in the sense that it has little-to-no actual gameplay. Following the completion of a short visual quiz, players are presented with their own personal mountain that they can watch age and change.
This can be anything from the weather changing to some sort of foreign object plummeting into your floating mountain’s surface, Katamari-style. Every once in a while the program will chime, alerting the player that their mountain has something to say, whether it be a mundane statement about the current weather or a deeply-philosophical observation about life itself.
Announced on Twitter by producer Double Fine, the game is out for PC, Mac, Linux and iOS and is part of their Double Fine Presents program. Despite retailing for almost nothing at $1, the project is sure to draw some ire due to its passing similarity to the other highly-criticized simulation titles.
Where it’s clear that Rock Simulator 2014 and the more recent Grass Simulator 2014 aim to poke fun at the genre, Mountain is a more serious affair. There’s something oddly cathartic and enthralling about watching your slowly rotating mountain evolve over time. Touted as having “~ 50 hours of gameplay,” it’s by no means meant to be a fleeting experience but rather one that grows alongside the player and their computer or smartphone usage.
In this way, it clearly draws on O’Reilly’s past work with the film Her in which he created the virtual reality game Joaquin Phoenix plays. While it’s unlikely that players will find themselves developing a romantic connection to their mountain, for many the experience of watching their mountain develop is almost ritual-like. It’s a completely artificial relationship, but one that compels the gamer to continue returning.
Despite all this, it’s just as likely that Mountain is simply a finger pointed at the over-analysis and instant praise that has pervaded gameplay-light experiences in the world of indie gaming. Whether these experiences are deserving of the praise or not, it is unsurprising that there are detractors.
Taken at face value, as an evolution of the player’s relationship with a game, or a mockery of the form, it’s hard to deny the fact that Mountain has got people talking. In the end, this is the most important fact. Regardless of what David O’Reilly’s intention was with the project, it has inspired discourse between gamers, developers and writers as to what a game or interactive experience truly entails. If this is what’s needed to get people talking about how to push the medium forward, then maybe the world needs more Mountains.
What do you think the intention behind Mountain is? For those who have purchased it, do you find yourself periodically checking in on your mountain’s progress?
Mountain is available now for PC, Mac, Linux and iOS and can be found here.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ThatRyanB.