Written by Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller // Edited by D. Matthew Beyer // Header Image courtesy of Foddy.net
There is something horrendously wonderful about impossible games. People line up to play them, hoping that they’ll be the special one who beats it. They’ll be the stuff of legends, the top of their class, the end-all-be-all of gaming for achieving an ultimately futile task. It’s the same sense of wonderful torture that keeps carnival games afloat, that keeps people playing games for years and years, and that draws people to games like Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.
I found this game the same way I’ve found several “b-games,” (a term used by Foddy himself in Getting Over It’s intermittent narration) by watching someone online get furious while playing it. The game consists of a single task: get over the mountain. You play as a (sort of) man in a black cauldron, equipped with nothing but a large hammer and the will to climb. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it would be if physics worked the way they do in the real world and if the mountain was an actual mountain instead of random objects precariously stacked together. Oh, and if the game wasn’t literally (and admittedly!) created to break you. It’s not everyday that a game claims that and succeeds on such a large scale. A YouTube search will show you rage video after rage video after rage video of people trying to get over the mountain, swearing like sailors as they try to claim that sweet, sweet reward. From a voyeur’s perspective, their pain is wildly entertaining. But I wanted to know what it felt like as the player.
So I downloaded it.
It’s free on Steam and I recommend playing at least a little bit. It’s definitely one of those games that you have to experience to understand. I could sit here and describe in Hemmingway-esque detail (or Williams if that’s more your speed) what it’s like to play it, but until you’ve played it yourself you won’t truly get it.
Yet even after downloading it and playing it and getting so so far and falling all the way back to the beginning I noticed something strange… I just was’t raging.
Let’s be clear about something before we continue. I am a rage-ridden creature. I have zero chill. I’m the same person that wrote a whole piece about how much I hated the ending of The Witness, a game literally meant to relax you, a game that was made to do the exact opposite of Getting Over it. I’m a tiny ball of fire just waiting to go to town on some sh*t at. All. Times. But I just can’t work myself up to rage against this game.
So, of course, I ask myself why? What was different? How is my experience different from those I’ve watched online and those in my life that I’ve shared this game, all of whom seem to be incensed by it?
Well, basically nothing. Except for my gender.
I’ve been wanting to write a piece about my gaming history for a while. Something that goes into detail about how I loved gaming so much when I was a kid, and then grew away from it, and then was reunited with it once I started dating my current boyfriend. I wanted to talk about how I was made to feel incapable as a kid while playing games, how I went from playing my best friend’s brother’s N64 and GameCube at every sleepover to being a young adult too ashamed to admit to her friends that she *gasp* still enjoys playing The Sims. I wanted to talk about how I purged myself of something that brought me joy because I internalized what I was told– I wasn’t good enough, girls don’t play video games, girls aren’t good at video games, blah blah blah and so on and so on. I wanted to write that piece for a long time but never got around to it because, well, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of something when you already feel like a big phony. What gives me the right to write that piece? No one really cares anyway, might as well just keep my head down. You know, all that toxic whatever that is constantly running around.
It’s easy to fall into your own personal vat of toxicity, especially when you’re young. Every cruel word pushes you further and further to the edge. Being stereotyped pushes you away from who you really are, what you enjoy, what you want to keep close to you, and now it’s easier than ever to lose yourself. But it’s funny – when I was a kid and thought I knew exactly who I was, I was actually drowning in toxicity. Now that I’m (trying to be) an adult, I realize all I really know is I don’t know anything but I like being happy and games make me happy so why didn’t I let myself have this before again?
So anyway, there I was, sitting at my kitchen table, playing Getting Over It, thinking about my unwritten piece, listening to my boyfriend play Horizon Zero Dawn in the living room, thinking about how for the first time in my life I felt represented in a video game because of Horizon Zero Dawn (we can talk about that more later), and I get to a point in Getting Over It that I hadn’t been to before. And I felt so proud of myself, the only thought in my head was, I didn’t think I could make it this far! Then I promptly made a mistake and hurled myself back down to the very beginning.
Now, if this were a rage video, this would be the point where I would throw a chair at the wall and scream about how it’s not fair, right? But I didn’t do that. Instead, I felt invigorated, like I proved to myself that I could do it. Me, the girl, the one that isn’t very good at video games, the one that is so ashamed of her gaming habit, that one that is trying to be an adult, the one who doesn’t know anything but likes being happy, the one who blah blah blah and so on and so on, me! I could do it! I could actually get that far! And then, Bennett Foddy chimes in with:
“‘She smiled in defeat,
With unconquerable eyes’
I’d like to believe that there is a distinct reason why the pronoun in that quote is “she.” I’d like to believe it has to do with why I didn’t rage when falling back down to the beginning, all the while knowing where I’ve been. I’d like to believe it’s because before getting there, I never wondered how far I could go, always believing that I could go nowhere. I’d like to believe that it’s what little me always needed to hear but wouldn’t actually listen to until I was big. I would also like to believe that it is the special joy of those who do not expect victory to never know defeat, only joy in proving themselves wrong. But hey, maybe that’s wishful thinking.
In any case, I smiled in defeat, with what I can only hope are unconquerable eyes, and got on with it.
(Editor’s Note- Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is available now on Steam)