According to The Atlantic, Mountain “invites you to experience the chasm between your own subjectivity and the unfathomable experience of something else.” It “hypnotized” the Los Angeles Times, and The Verge called it “the only experience that has ever made me feel sad about a geological phenomenon.” Meanwhile, on Steam, user reviewers are gushing: Mountain is “worthless,” “just a screensaver,” and “a fucking joke.”
There are positive Steam reviews, too, but many are facetious. Some customers are irate. Why the hell is the media so fascinated by this $1 game which advertises “no controls”—a game about a mountain that listlessly spins and talks about its feelings and collects detritus with little regard for the player? How is that interesting, or even a game, or worth any amount of money?
I’ve been running Mountain for two days now, and I’m not spilling over with praise for its ambient melancholic introspection. It’s not brilliant, but I like it. I like it because it can’t be described as “solid,” “visceral,” or “deep.”
Those words are ugly shorthand writers use when they’re tired of describing complex things, or don’t understand them. Controls are “solid,” combat is “visceral,” customization is “deep”—I’m sure I’ve been guilty of using them all (shame on my family). It isn’t good writing, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about the umpteenth iteration of ‘the sniping mission.’ In a state of fatigue, limp clichés are easy and comforting. “Look, we all know what this is,” they say, “So let’s just agree that it’s fine and move on.”