This game is not fun. This is made clear right off the bat. Nor is it intended to: As the designer of the game says in the trailer: “I made this game for a certain kind of person. To hurt them.” I wonder what this says about me.
I usually have a (and it’s always singular) distraction game that I launch when I’m too absent minded or tired for some grand narrative, an epic adventure or – way too often – actual work. For a few weeks now, Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy has served this purpose.
The protagonist of the game is a muscular guy wielding an oversized yosemite hammer, trapped from his waist down in a black cauldron. You, as the player, control his hammer with your mouse, attempting to climb a seemingly impossible mountain range built from a collection of increasingly random graphical assets. As the name promises, you are accompanied on this journey by the voice of Bennett Foddy, the designer of the game, who lets you in on his reasons and motivations for making the game, as well as occasional words of encouragement. You will fall a lot. Sometimes you get to hear music.
At one of the occasions when the game has distracted me for far too long, my son comes over to observe my stumbling advance. You’ve played this too, I ask? Yeah, I’ve beaten it, he replies offhandedly, with no smugness in his voice. I’ve long since resigned to the fact that my children are superior to me at all games that require even the least bit of reaction speed or hand to eye coordination. Yet I am startled, not due to his accomplishment, but because I had not thought the game could be beaten. Even the possibility of finishing it seems wrong. After all, Sisyphus is doomed to roll his boulder up the hill, only to always see it fall again, for all eternity. And if this game were to be described in one word, it would certainly be “Sisyphean”.
Hard games are, if not a genre, certainly a class of their own. They don’t let you off easy, but they reward practice and flawless execution. Getting Over It is hard. Physics are accurate and the controls are precise enough, and while the obstacles are brutal, when you fall, it’s on you. The game is a celebration of failure and repetition.
I hate hard games. I do not have the patience, determination, nor the aforementioned reflexes to practice the precise jumps or the lightning fast headshots from impossible angles. Yet I keep coming back to the foot of the mountain, and sometimes my attempts take me little further than they did before.
In The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus writes that we should imagine Sisyphus happy. Life is meaningless and all our attempts are futile, but by embracing this truth we may find momentary happiness in the tasks we choose or are assigned to. As I reach a new peak, only to swing my hammer just a little too carelessly, consequently watching the mountain range fly past me as I feebly try to reach out for a protruding cliff, I wouldn’t say I feel happy, exactly. Yet, back at the start, as the narrator once again recites one of his many quotes about overcoming hardships and failure, and soothing jazz starts to play, I notice I’m smiling.
Title: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy
Publisher: Bennett Foddy
Developer: Bennett Foddy
Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux
Release Date: October 2017
Tags: indie, hard, experimental
Screenshots of the game taken by the author.
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