What is it?
Mountain, a game by David OReilly, is…. I am actually not sure how to answer this question. At first glance Mountain is a simulator; it simulates a mountain with weather effects and occasional random events. However, it’s only a simulator in the same way a closed terrarium is a simulator. You set it going, it does its thing, and you look at it. It keeps going in the background, and every once in a while you look over at it and say to yourself “Hey, that’s really frickin’ neato.”
And then after it’s been running awhile,you find out God is living in your terrarium.
After letting the game run for a few hours, I think it is a Barnum-effect based self portrait. More on that in the impressions section.
Does it work?
Yes. Even if it takes a minute to figure out what the 4 options mean exactly, they all enable or disable what they say they do, and the game itself says “Controls: Nothing”
Could I play it for an hour?
This isn’t a fair question this time around, as you don’t necessarily play the game. That said, I’d let it run in the background for about two hours before I started actively noticing it and thinking about it.
Am I happy I have it now that I’ve played it?
Yes. It’s actually become one of the first things I open when I start my computer.
There’s a psychological phenomenon referred to as the Barnum effect, or the Forer effect. To quote the Wikipedia article “the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people.” So when the game starts spitting “thoughts” at me which all sound like;
“Sometimes I feel kind of ugly. I should stop thinking about that stuff.”
“I am invincible today.”
“What’s it all about?”
“What is beauty?”
“I feel alive inside this bright morning.”
I start thinking. I ran through a couple of ideas about what this game could be, if it’s maybe a conversation the creators had with themselves, is it the diary of mountain, is it just an avant garde acid trip? What I eventually settled on is that this is supposed to be a Barnum-esque self portrait. Whether you live on the mountain or the mountain is your soul if you own the mountain and watch from afar, the mountain is meant to be a part of you, and the developers put the “thoughts” in to try and influence you to think, to ask yourself questions, and most importantly, to relate to your mountain.