From its title to its premise, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy reads as a dark joke. Whether that a joke includes you or not, though, is impossible to say.
It’s true that the PC game is uproariously, darkly funny. It has a simple aim: climb this mountain. The only problem is that your character is a man stuck inside a pot, his only climbing implement a hammer he can swing. As such, the process of climbing is challenging to the point of impossibility; the game’s unerring physics engine punishes any deviation or mistake with a tumble that could potentially take you all the way down the mountain. On the Steam page for Getting Over It, Foddy notes that playtesters’ median completion time was five hours—and some of them took much longer. Many who play this game, perhaps most, won’t complete it at all, throwing it away after laughing over one too many calamitous falls.
And yet there’s something immensely earnest about it, too. Getting Over It is narrated by Foddy himself, a professor at NYU’s game design school who has dedicated much of his career to the unerring application of unlikely physics. His breakout hit (it even appeared on an episode of The Office) is QWOP, a game that turns walking into a Kafkaesque nightmare by mapping each of four leg quadrants—left thigh/left calf/right thigh/right calf—to a single keyboard key, and forcing to player to figure it out.
Here, Foddy appears as himself, wryly narrating the player’s failures with ruminations about failure itself, about the pain of falling down and having to get back up again, while smooth lounge jazz plays behind his voice. Getting Over It casts its creator as both a vengeful Old Testament God and an unlikely guru, both doling out punishment and consoling when the pain hits. All told, it makes Getting Over It, as funny as it is, feel at least as sincere as it is cruel.
QWOP deconstructs walking, and in the process conjures a feeling one might have upon tearing something in their knee, a sense of awe and horror at how complicated locomotion is and how impossible it is without the proper equipment. Playing Foddy’s games, you get a sense that movement itself is something that should be treated as sacred. It’s not a skill to be mastered. Enough terrible plummets down Foddy’s unerring summit will teach that much. It’s a blessing, a marvel, a gift in and of itself. A strange and terrible glory, just to navigate space at all.
So I don’t know how seriously to take Getting Over It. It’s a game that, over the past month, has been the delight of Twitch streamers everywhere who build their brand on games that invite histrionics. It’s also a nominee for the Independent Gaming Festival’s highest honor of the year. When the player character—this anonymous man with a terrible beard and useless legs—fails, he groans and huffs. Once, I heard him mutter, simply: “No.” It’s human, and tragic, but also absurd in the way that trying to climb a mountain with a sledghammer is necessarily absurd. Foddy’s may or may not be laughing with us, but he’s definitely laughing at us.
There might be an answer at the summit of Foddy’s mountain, some secret or moral that outweighs the Sisyphean comedy of getting there. I’m quite certain I won’t ever become proficient enough at Getting Over It to find out. But there probably isn’t. Hell, knowing Foddy’s games, there’s probably just another fucking mountain.
social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired https://www.wired.com/story/getting-over-it-bennett-foddy