Games We Need: Getting Over It

 

This article is cross-posted with permission from the wonderful Screen Therapy.

 

This is one of the hardest games in recent memory and its taking over by storm. The controls, or rather “control”, is difficult to learn and master and the obstacles seem almost impossible to surmount. However, the hardest part of this game is deciding to keep playing.

 

There isn’t much to this game on the surface. You play as a man in a cauldron and you can only move using your hammer. There is no motivation to move forward other than sheer curiosity and no reason to overcome the obstacles, of which there are plenty. This is it. You are isolated in a strange towering world of junk where physics, regretfully, only seem to apply to you.

Check out this trailer to learn a bit more about the game’s tone and its creator:

 

A Traditional Review

Getting Over It, by Bennett Foddy (the creator of the infamous QWOP), is a game that pushes us to the limits of human patience. Despite there being no fall damage the stakes can truly feel very high. When we’re dangling off a corner over the abyss we can truly begin to sweat and fret. When we fall and lose an hour of progress with a quiet clunk we might not hear the inspirational quotes Foddy reads for us over the ringing of frustration in our ears or, in some cases, our yelling.

 

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Getting Over It was created with complete self-awareness. This game was specifically created to be as difficult as possible – to make you grimace and grunt with frustration. Whether the calming jazz and quotes that Foddy included were truly meant to take the edge off or to add some a layer of taunt is unknown, but sometimes it feels like the latter.

If we intend to play this game to completion we might feel like masochists – why do we keep coming back for more punishment? We might ask, “Why was this torture machine created?” However, by the end of his in-game narration, Foddy makes it quite clear that he did not make this game as a sadist. He is a fellow masochist.

 

This game is a love letter to failure and frustration, and to those of us who value both.

This game reminds players that overcoming failure is intrinsically rewarding. It is for those who want the opportunity to fail and those who want to practice how to withstand failure. This game is for the curious and the steadfast in training. 

It is not a game about story or graphics, it is a game with one mission: to create an experience that helps us feel how awful failure is and remember why we need it.  

 

What Do We Get From This Game?

 

Practicing Resilience

Resilience is our trust that when we fall we can get back up. It is our added understanding that falling isn’t going back to square one with nothing but that we have learned something important we can use when we get back to where we were. Resilience is our ability to stay relatively calm when we’ve endured loss, disappointment, or humiliation.

Everything about this game, evident even in its cheeky name, was made to both test and bolster our resilience.

Foddy starts the game with the very clear statement that this game could make a bad day worse. He recommends only playing it when we’re feeling particularly calm or at least ready to practice some failure.  He makes it clear that the experience of the game we are playing is not going to be pleasant. True to his promises he knows he has made a game that will hurt, anger, and exhaust us.

Something that is very important is that he doesn’t apologize for this. Far from it, as the player slowly and painstakingly progresses through the game Foddy’s narration (if we’re lucid enough to listen over our deafening rage) tells us that this game exists to help us remember that challenge is a good thing. Furthermore, that challenge is natural and meaningful.

 

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This game is a guided meditation on difficulty and perseverance. Failing in a video game is safe, it won’t affect our lives, it is one of the most perfect stages to practice failing, getting back up, and trying again. If we are willing to listen and play mindfully, we might learn something about ourselves and our views of failure.

It might take us several hours to finish this game, but when we do we might feel stronger and somehow world-weary. We might secretly wear our victory over this game as a medal that tells ourselves and others that we have persevered through something that many others couldn’t or wouldn’t.

We develop an understanding of ourselves as determined and hardworking even when we have to start over several times. Holding this helpful perspective of ourselves increases our self-esteem and self-efficacy when we face other obstacles in real life. If we believe we can withstand failure we will find it much easier to do so.

 

Calmness

In one of the most effective but cruelest catch-22’s, the only way to beat this game for the first time is calmly and patiently. 

When we’re upset or frustrated we tend to flail around and try to rush through. We try to regain our dignity by running up the mountain we just fell from, only to slide back down even farther. Although you can make some segments of good progress very quickly in this game, it is impossible to overcome some obstacles swiftly. You could have been screaming a minute ago, but in order to progress you will quickly need to relax and very carefully and very patiently move your mouse to position yourself in just the right way.

This game can help us practice how to stay calm when it is most difficult. When we usually meditate on how to remain calm we take a quiet moment to listen to nature or soft music, but the real test of our ability to remain calm is when we’re not in a quiet moment. This game creates unrest and tension out of thin air for us. Nothing truly important is happening, but we feel as though it is. We are given a stressful situation and invited, challenged, and exhorted to practice how to keep our cool.

 

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Some games teach us how to practice being calm through beautiful vistas and quiet exploring. This game teaches us calmness through trial by fire. Either we remain calm and move forward or let our anger send us into fits, flinging our hammer and catapulting us off into oblivion for the 100th time.

There is probably no one who could finish this game without becoming angry, but only those willing to practice how to process anger and disappointment calmly will make it to the end emotionally intact.

 

Appreciating Art

As an adjacent therapeutic use of this game, when we listen to Foddy’s commentary on game development he has some very interesting points to make about the creation and evolution of games. The way he discusses them, so carefully and with critical reverence, he invites the player to consider video games with the same eye that we consider art.

Getting Over It is something of a virtual example of modern Dadaism. It is an amalgamation of bits and pieces of ready-made materials and its creator scoffs, once or twice, at the current traditions in game development.

His references to Diogenes (see picture) also create another philosophical layer to this game. Diogenes, the Cynic and Stoic, is a part of philosophical families that focuses on remaining cool-headed in the face of adversity and questioning the status quo.

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Foddy’s commentary on game development and digital culture adds a layer of complexity to this game. The references to Diogenes, both in narration and the painting you see in this screenshot, also evoke from us contemplation of Stoic philosophy. What started as a silly rage game evolves into something else for the mindful player.

 

Foddy also delivers some poetry about games and culture that gives the player something to chew on as they maneuver through the desolate chaos. He invites us to use our focus and investment in his infuriating game as a sorely needed exercise of mindfulness. It is precisely because this game is so hard that you must approach it mindfully.

If we listen carefully (which can be difficult), his narration helps us stay aware of something we often forget when playing games: it was created by someone for a reason. Keeping this in mind intensifies the lessons we learn. We grade the game and our performance more harshly, which Foddy seems to welcome, and we begin to take what looked like a silly and unnecessary game about a man in a pot with a hammer as something bigger; something we might want to call “art”.

As we progress through the obstacle course we’re forced to take it more and more seriously. As we fling forward the obstacles and stakes become more and more real, we become more invested and more mindful. We begin monitoring our performance, our participation in this game, our talent, our mood, and our ideas of game development in general. This game and the hours of quiet, painful diligence it requires can inspire quite a few interesting thought-conversations with ourselves.

This game has quite a bit to offer. We might want or need to play this game when we feel like contemplating our relationship with failure and self-worth, when we want some time to quietly and exhaustively contemplate how to remain calm in the face of disappointment, or when we want practice some intense and rewarding challenge.

 

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