Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mountain is a charming, relaxing oddity

Far too often do we think of games as fast-paced, jarring challenges, bringing us loads of fun but, sometimes, some unnecessary stress, too.
My mountain at the beginning: beautiful and majestic, with
a giant bench sticking out of the side.

Mountain doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's nothing like that. When you bring up the "pause" menu and view the controls, "nothing" is honestly listed underneath. Starting off your adventure with the game, you quickly discover that you have no control over your environment. You can rotate your mountain and spin it rapidly to get a different look at it, and you can play melodies that will speed up the flow of time. You can also zoom all the way out into space to get a farther look at your mountain. At this time, music you play will have an ethereal, far-off quality to it.

Slowly, your mountain will collect various objects--garbage cans, light bulbs, giant coins. This is seemingly random, and perhaps it is. You do have some control over how your mountain will look by drawing pictures in response to questions the game asks you upon creation, but how exactly these drawings affect your mountain is unknown. The game boasts 50 hours of play with a concrete ending, so you can get some finality. Every now and again, a musical note will play, and the mountain will make some kind of statement or observation about its surroundings. Usually, it comments on the state of the evening or the beauty of the sky. Sometimes, a lower note will play, though, and the mountain will express loneliness or sadness. This may be just a coincidence, but the more I play, the more of the latter I seem to notice. If the sad moments do increase, it makes the mountain seem human--it begins innocent and free of blemishes, happy and talking about how beautiful the day is, then becomes more cynical as it gets older.

Highlights of Mountain include the lovely little chant that comes every time the sun rises in the game, the green fireflies that light up the sky on summer nights, and the surreal weirdness that comes from being a sentient mountain in the middle of a galaxy, slowly collecting pieces of the universe that surround you.

My mountain more recently. I love its little line
of trees. As you see, the bench is still there.
So is a giant lightbulb, a film reel, a cup of
coffee, two asteroids, and a garbage can.
Mountain is an exercise in patience and silence. Too often, we feel the need to define games as possessing of certain criteria. We all need to re-think the concept of "games", stop trying to define them and enjoy them for what they are: a method of play. If you want rules and a failing point, then here's one for you: take 15 minutes, alone with your thoughts and Mountain, and allow yourself to just be. If you can't, you lose. You lose a million points. And you get a game over. How's that?

Mountain is merely $1, and you can play it on a number of platforms, so it's very accessible. If the idea of a "relax-'em-up" game that doesn't require a lot of attention or challenge appeals to you, it's definitely worth the dollar.

I've had a lot going on in my life lately, so it's nice to have a game that has no required minimum play and doesn't ask a lot of you. As much as I love Animal Crossing, my town hasn't had a lot of play due to my focus being elsewhere. I love that I can turn Mountain on and have it playing in the background while I do my homework or read an article. When I'm away from it, I actually find myself missing the unpredictable serenity of my mountain.

If you want to read more on Mountain, here's my favourite article about it (I've read quite a few, to be honest). I posted a link to it on my Facebook page, and my mother, who has also recently gotten Mountain, said "it does remind me of how difficult and important it is to just be". You don't have control over your surroundings, so just let it happen. A nice reminder.

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