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.
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.