Snap Judgments: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and measures of fun in general I guess

Years ago, I was listening to a podcast, and the casters were asked something along the lines of “What’s the worst thing a game designer can do?”  They came to the conclusion that the worst thing was to make a game that’s not fun.  I took issue with that.  I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a lot of ways to get value out of an experience.  With video games, fun is the most common thing, but a game that’s not fun can still be worthwhile.  Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a perfect example to that.

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Bennett Foddy is the guy who made QWOP.  Do you know QWOP?  Good, that will give you good standing for the rest of this post.  Getting Over It is an homage to what Foddy calls B games (amateur releases made from public domain or ripped assets generally created more for the experience of creating than to actually make a good game) in general and Sexy Hiking in particular.  In this game, you control a man stuck in a cauldron, or more accurately, that head of that man’s yosimite hammer, dragging, throwing, and pushing him up a mountain.  It is brutal.  It controls very differently from nearly anything you’ve played before, the physics are nonintuitive and feel a bit random, the obstacles are design to take advantage of the limits of your abilities, and at any point, it’s possible to fall off the mountain, setting yourself back possibly to the very beginning of the game.  All the while you have Bennett Foddy himself narrating about this game or game design in general, and offering encouragement when you have some particularly bad falls.

It is not a fun game.  It is deliberately not a fun game.  In fact, whereas other of Foddy’s past games, QWOP as an excellent example, also had very nonintuitive and painful control schemes, you could pull some fun out of learning to utilize them.  I don’t think you can with Getting Over It.  It is designed to not be fun.  And yet, you go on the internet, you can find lots of people who are loving it.  It’s even been put up for awards.

That’s because the game is designed around one particular thing: frustration.  Every part of it is built to deliver that frustration.  And then it goes even further.  It examines frustration.  It makes you feel a feeling, than holds the mirror up to you and talks about it.  It navel-gazes at it.  It is clear that a lot of thought and intent in this game went into dealing and dealing with that frustration.

This would be the type of game that, much like with environmental narratives and the typical ‘art game’ is going to cause a lot of division when people are discussing it.  You’d pretty much have to appreciate both a game that derives its delivered fulfillment from something very atypical and a game that is way navel-gazey about it’s subject matter.  I think it does help a lot that the creator is really clear and up front that this game is not for everyone, rather than what’s expected from a whole lot of creators.  In all the advertising for the game, he says that this is made for a certain type of person, and even in the opening narrative he says you have to be in a certain type of mood to enjoy it.

I wasn’t in that mood when I played it.  In fact, I only gave it twenty minutes before deciding it wasn’t for me right now and sending it back to the abyss of my Steam list.  I do appreciate that it’s out there.  And it did get me thinking about the nature of games once again, which I guess was it’s intended purpose.  It wasn’t fun for me in the least.  But it did deliver a worthwhile experience, for what I gave to it.

8 responses to “Snap Judgments: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and measures of fun in general I guess

  1. This reminds me of a comic by The Oatmeal about happiness and how the term has been seriously hijacked to the point that there’s a idea that everyone’s goal and need is to be happy, but happiness and fulfillment aren’t the same things. Like I’m not a “happy person” per se, but if you met me, you wouldn’t think I was miserable (I don’t do social interaction when I’m having those days). I love my job, but I can’t say it makes me happy, but this isn’t a bad thing! I feel fulfilled because I love problem solving and my job is ALL problem solving. I play certain video games for the same reason and/or because they have awesome stories that I want to write essays about, and I feel anxious/less fulfilled when I don’t get to do that. A game that’s not fun could have a myriad other properties that make it appealing. Like The Impossible Game is NOT fun, but it makes you think, has a kick ass soundtrack, and it would be such a damn accomplishment for me to beat the first level. You’ve really hit the nail on the head with your metacritique.

    • That’s exactly it. Having fun is a great thing. I really don’t mind that nearly all the games coming out have that as a goal. But variety is a good thing, and something that’s not fun can be fulfilling in a whole mess of different ways. The world has a lot of different experiences in it, and a lot of the most fulfilling things in it aren’t technically fun. That there’s a few games out there following the same model is a good thing for the development of the medium.

  2. From your description, the vibe I’m getting from Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is indeed like the environmental narrative games I’ve played in that the act of discussing them is more interesting than actually playing them. I might end up checking it out for myself in the future so I can formally toss my hat in the ring, but I’m not entirely sure if this is an experience I want under my belt.

    By the way, in which podcast did you hear that question asked?

    For my own answer, I think one of the worst things a game can be is ashamed to be a game. If one doesn’t faith in the medium in which they choose to create their work, they can’t expect others to follow their lead.

    • I think that depends on what type of person you are and what types of things you enjoy. It’s is definitely not for everyone. It’s probably not even for most. But I can see a certain type of person actually finding value through the playing rather than the discussion. I mean, I enjoy the experience of visual novels and a few environmental narratives myself, I can easily believe there’s a certain population who would be into Getting Over It for the experience itself rather than the narrative around it.

      Of course, I got it as part of a Humble Bundle thing. If I had spent money for it on its own, I think I’d be a bit more resentful of paying for something that wasn’t built for the type of player I am to enjoy.

      That would have been the Super Best Friendcast. I’m not a big podcast listener, but I do pick up on that one occasionally. Don’t remember which episode it was, but that was years ago.

      But yeah, a lot of game creators have a really weird relationship with the industry their working in. I’ve grown pretty irritated about those that seem to be ashamed to be working in it or judgmental of their audience myself.

  3. There are videos of people completing this game in a couple of minutes. It’s amazing what players can do with enough practice.

  4. I am convinced that games like these are made because they are a) easy to develop, and b) people will stream them and put up Youtube reaction or Let’s Play videos, effectively giving the developer free publicity, and thus money, to create an actual game that’s intended to be a _good game_. Always the conspiracy theorist, I am.

    • There’s a lot of games I’d agree with that assessment on. I don’t think Getting Over It is one of those. It’s a game that obviously took a lot of thought and effort to create. It’s right in line with Bennett Foddy’s operandal modus, and real does circle around that theme. It is a very thoughtful game, not a quick cash grab, even if it is designed to deliver something other than fun in the experience.

      • It’s true, it seems like a ton of love went into it. I would call it a “cash grab” as that implies scamming people – it’s more like an investment with a smaller game so that you can work on something else.

        Kind of like when companies release remasters – it’s far cheaper than a brand new game, it’ll make some easy money, and then they can pour it into future endeavors.

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