Most of the time, all I see is this question used by traditional ‘hardcore’ players to deride experiences that don’t lie within the realm of what we traditionally have grown up with; to dismiss experiences where you don’t jump or shoot as ‘not real games.’

The question ‘What is a game?’ is disingenuous and fundamentally flawed. It serves mostly as a way for people to dismiss or argue away the type of experiences they may not personally favor. It limits us; it keeps us from achieving as much as we could with this medium.

—  Extra Credits, What is a Game?

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.”

On Mountain.

Watch on

Episode 88 - Opening the Gate with Brendan Keogh

BRENDAN KEOGH, video game critic and journalist, returns to Debatable to iron out a major controversy hitting the industry right now. We talk GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian & Feminist Frequency, misogyny, journalistic ethics, and we explore the many sides of one of the highest profile movements in the history of video games. This is where detractors and progressives are really butting heads. We also get a chance to chat about “Alien: Isolation.” Deep conversation. Enjoy!
I was having a conversation with a fairly polite gamergater…
Brendan Keogh’s Website
Brendan Keogh on Twitter
Watch Brendan play “Alien: Isolation” on Twitch

Feminist Frequency

A smattering of GamerGate-related articles:

"Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign” by Nick Wingfield
“Anita Sarkeesian on GamerGate: ‘We Have a Problem and We’re Going to Fix This’” by Sean T. Collins
“On GamerGate: A letter from the editor” By Christopher Grant
“10 Lessons The Gaming Industry Must Learn from #GamerGate” by Jordan Ephraim
“#GamerGate – An Issue with Two Sides” by Allum Bokhari
“Gamergate: The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back” by Richie King

Music on this podcast:

Artist: De La Soul - Song: Keepin’ the Faith - Album: De La Soul is Dead
Artist: Bright Blac - Song: Come on Through

Copyrights are owned by the artists and their labels. No money is made from this podcast.

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Much research has been done on the topic of CTGWTMNB (Calling Things Games When They Might Not Be). Some scientists believe that, if current trends continue, [in] as little as fifteen years, seventy percent of all things in the world will be referred to as a game.

If this is allowed to continue, we will approach what the scientists call the Linguistic Singularity. Words will lose all meaning, understanding will turn to slurry in our minds and humanity as we know it will be destroyed.

—  The hilariously satirical Twine game Is This A Game?