Posted on Friday, July 11 @ 17:00:00 PST by Paul_Tamburro
I stare at my mountain as it rotates on its axis, slowly pirouetting in the sky like an overweight ballet dancer. It has a horse sticking out of its peak and a dazzling, golden nugget clung to its rear like a benign cyst. This is my mountain. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.
I began playing Mountain in the wee small hours of the morning. Upon first loading, the game asked me to draw how I felt right at that moment. I painted the screen black. It then told me to draw death. I painted the screen black. The game then told me to have “patience” as it proceeded to generate my mountain. I am uncertain as to whether or not my somber scribbles were in any way linked with the creation of my mountain, but nothing about its appearance suggested that they were. It was coated in lush, green grass, a complete contrast to my implied bleak existence.
I stared at the mountain as it floated all alone in the vastness of space. I clicked on it only to be met with more silence. I dragged it with my mouse, speeding up its rotation though revealing nothing new about it. I zoomed out, only to discover that there was nothing nearby other than the distant twinkle of stars. It was a mountain, that was all it was, but was that all it was ever going to be?
Artist David OReilly’s Mountain is billed as a “mountain simulator,” though this isn’t true as the mountain it is supposedly simulating is unlike any other mountain you will encounter in our Earthly realm. In actuality, it has more in common with virtual pet games such as the Tamagotchi, albeit without the need to feed and clean up feces. All that Mountain requires of you is that you leave it running on your desktop and, if you so wish, check up on it when you hear the audio cues informing you of an event. Needless to say, the 24 hours I spent with Mountain was an experience unlike any other I have encountered in this medium.
After your mountain has been generated, you will be left with no other tasks to perform. Being a dolt, I immediately pressed Escape to look for graphics options to see whether or not I could improve the texture of my mountain, but I was met with a simple menu which enabled me to turn the audio on/off, while also informing me that my mouse and keyboard did “NOTHING.” That wasn’t true, though. My mouse could swivel the mountain around and for some inexplicable reason the game had transformed my keyboard into a piano, which I could use to create my own makeshift soundtrack. So I created the ‘Mountain Song’.
After creating ‘Mountain Song’, I then found myself wondering what else there was to do, so I tweeted David OReilly asking him for some advice.
He didn’t reply. But then something happened; a golden nugget appeared on the underbelly of my mountain.
What did this mean? I clicked on it but nothing happened, so I double-clicked on it but still nothing happened. I then right-clicked, but nope, nothing. “What if I zoom in on it?” I thought to myself, but that only allowed me to see the nugget with more clarity. I waited to see if anything would happen, whether the nugget would transform into some kind of golden enemy that I could shoot, but after roughly 35 seconds of waiting I minimized the game and checked Twitter instead. Then a loud noise echoed through my speakers. It was the game. I hurriedly opened it up, hoping to see some sort of development in my mountain’s world, but I was met with nothing more than a line of text reading “IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE?” “Quite,” I concurred, before checking over my shoulder to see whether anyone noticed me talking to my PC monitor. I was alone in my house at that moment in time, save for my dog who was now looking at me quizzically. “Don’t judge me,” I said to her, ashamed, and she left the room. Dogs are empathetic creatures.
After a few more hours of leaving Mountain running in the background while scrolling through Reddit, my mountain began to spontaneously develop more scenery. For one, there was now a horse sticking out of it. I didn’t even bother clicking on it, for I knew that this wouldn’t achieve anything. The horse was window-dressing, to be looked at but not touched.
After getting some beauty sleep, I opened Mountain up the next morning to see whether anything had changed, and to my surprise my mountain’s peak now had a giant pie sticking out of it.
In my weariness I had perhaps failed to notice this new development the previous evening, but now there was no escaping that my once untainted mountain had been sullied by pastry. Feeling deflated that my beautiful mountain now looked like some farty modern art piece, I minimized the window once again, until another audio cue prompted me to take a look at the game. That bastard pie, which had previously sat so smug and erect, was now positioned at a more horizontal angle. What had happened here? Had my mountain grown sentient during my slumber, trying to rid itself of the doughy treat that had defaced it? Or was this simply another instance of Mountain playing by its own rules, continued to abide by no laws of logic?
It was almost certainly the latter. I concluded as much when another horse spontaneously surfaced on my mountain, accompanied by a traffic cone and a biplane. Mountain was doing whatever the hell it wanted, and I could merely spectate. “David OReilly is an artist,” I thought to myself. “Do I not understand art?” No, that couldn’t be true—I’ve been to at least three art galleries, and not once did I fall asleep walking through their endless corridors of splotchy nothingness. I also have a Banksy coaster somewhere in my cutlery drawer (the one where Mickey Mouse and Ronald McDonald are holding hands with that young, naked Vietnamese girl, because fuck capitalism or something I dunno), so I even own art. I must’ve simply been missing something, I concluded, and so I stared intently at my mountain once more, my last desperate attempt to figure out its underlying meaning.
But I couldn’t. I had failed. There was nothing to find in my mountain other than pie and horses. And a golden nugget. And a biplane. I took one last look at it, before resting my hands upon the keyboard. I began to orchestrate a little jingle with its keys, in what would be my final Mountain ballad. I then closed down the game.
I will never visit my mountain again.