"Getting Over It with Bennet Foddy" is a masterpiece

Honestly, "Getting Over It By Bennet Foddy" is a fucking masterpiece. People have been talking for years about whether games are art or not. Well, if it wasn't yet, it certainly is now. When people want to discuss a word, they often look up the definition in the dictionary. I don't like posting in definitions from dictionaries to illustrate my point. That definition was just written by a person who has their own way of looking at things. So I will just be giving you my view of it.

What is art? To me, art is something that communicates a message. It may not be the message the creator intended, but all art says something, even if that something is nothing. I have always loved games. But while I was growing up, games were little more than move things around on the screen. More mature mediums were able to tell intricate stories, but games were just these things that provided a bit of fun. There wasn't much else going on.

I went through depression in 2014 and part of the fall out of that was that I quit my job in a game development company to rest and recover. I started a language focused website called Silly Linguistics in late 2014 and have been doing that ever since. I felt I had become to involved in games. I had become too close. I couldn't see the whole picture anymore, like standing too close to a painting and all you can see are splotches of red and blue and not the whole thing.

I am very happy I am able to explore my interest in languages which is something I have never done to this extent before. But my time in the world of language has taught me something about communication. Art communicates an idea. That's what art means to me. Mass Effect was very meaningful to me because it was the story of a man facing incredible odds and succeeding. I have had depression multiple times in my life and the original Mass Effect came out only 2 years after the first time I had depression. That game still means a lot to me. It told a story that resonated with me personally.

My job as the writer on a language website and associated social media means I am able to spend a lot of time on social media. I look at a lot of memes and a lot of youtube and try to work out if I can use whatever I have seen in way that my audience will enjoy. I often adapt new memes to joke about some aspect of the language learning experience I find amusing, frustrating, strange or interesting.

I was very busy in December, what Christmas and family and working on the website and developing language learning materials and things like that. I didn't notice "Getting Over it" until much later in the month. As I said, because youtube is part of my job, I get to watch a lot of youtube. A lot of people have played "Getting Over It" with varying reactions. At first I didn't think much of it. I watch a lot of stuff and not all of it gets a strong reaction from me. Sometimes it is just interesting to see what is out there.

Bennet Foddy did something interesting with his game that really made me understand what he was going for. He includes commentary at various points in the game. Not only that, but whenever you fall and lose a lot of progress, he reads inspirational quotes or muses on grief and frustration. This game isn't about a hammer, or a man. It's actually about frustration.

I would call myself a passionate person and I have had problems with anger and frustration in my life. Sometimes that anger and frustration gets so bad that I want to punch something. It burns inside you and you just want to explode. I have been seeing a psychologist since 2011 and they have helped me a lot with my relationship with myself and how I deal with emotions. I still have a long way to go. I have a lot of problems in my life that need sorting out and they are going to take a long time to get right.

I have realised the size of my task and in a weird way that has calmed me down. Neither shouting at a mountain nor kicking the dirt at its base will make climbing it any easier. I am focusing on the task ahead and getting on with it. When I first saw "Getting Over It", I couldn't imagine a game I would have less liked to play. I follow lots of youtubers and I see all sorts of games, and this one was just one of many I have seen them play. It didn't stand out to me at first. It just looked weird and funny to me.

But something intrigued me. The controls were different, just moving your mouse. The commentary too pulled me in and made me realise there was more going on then it at first appeared. This game is about frustration. But it doesn't just say "This game is about frustration". The experience of playing the game is an exercise in experiencing and getting over frustration. You either evolve your think and get used to the idea of sometimes failing, or you just conquer your frustration by conquering the challenges in the game.

Before my radical shift in life direction I used to have lots of debates with other friends that loved games about what makes a game special. What makes a game worth your time? What is good way to tell a story? I came across a talk by someone who I forgot at this very moment, but it was about telling a story. Many games have a bit of an inferiority complex and co-opt storytelling techniques from films. They insert a movie at specific points in the game because they feel that they couldn't really tell their story any other way.

But this is not where a medium can really evolve. It's like a movie that randomly pastes in 5 minutes of just words scrolling past the screen. Movies use sound, visuals and music to tell a story that it can. Games must do the same.

And, oh boy, "Getting Over It" knocks it out of the fucking park. There are no cutscenes, no long tutorials to read. You just play. Games are meant to be played, not watched or read. And "Getting Over It" succeeds in telling a story because every moment of this game is spent experiencing frustration, failing and overcoming it, or not.

It is designed to put that feeling of frustration on the player. You have one input mechanism. You have no jump button, or reload points or "auto aim". Everything is done through one interface. The game rewards certain practises, and punishes others. Sometimes swinging wildly works, but it almost always doesn't. Being careful and methodical also doesn't always work. Rocks are smooth and the hammer doesn't have enough friction to stay fixed and scrapes down it if you try to use it as a spring board.

The game is also designed as a ladder. The levels zigzag up rather than being rather linear. You could make this game easy to play and more satisfying very quickly by making some small changes to how the controls work. You could make the game much more forgiving but making negative progress impossible. But that is not this game. This game was specifically designed to punish failure and punish it badly.

There is even a spot past the mid way point where if you choose to, or accidentally end up on it, it takes you all the way to the beginning. This game doesn't fuck around. But at the end of the day, it is also fair. There are certain tricks that work again and again. Find the right spot, hang down with the hammer on the ledge and pull up quickly and you will almost always get to the next obstacle. Speed runs of this game are done in 4 minutes where a first time play will probably last hours and hours.

"Getting Over It" is about getting over "it" where "it" is frustration, obstacles and set backs. Nothing of these themes are explained in long lectures, or cutscenes. They are communicated through the act of play. All games should try to communicate a message through gameplay. That to me is art, and that to me is why "Getting Over It" is a masterpiece.


  • Agreed :)

    You might enjoy "The Beginner's Guide" if you like the tone of the narration and its content. "The Beginner's Guide" is a very different game, it's not about frustration but rather a creator's motivation and dilemma(s) expressing themselves and the expectations they place on their creation. What it shares with "Getting Over It" is that the creator is talking to the player about the game during the process, illuminating the process (which I think is one of the inspired elements of "Getting Over It").
    Thanked by 1watson
  • Cool :) I really love the narration in Getting Over It. It is both on theme and informative :)
    Thanked by 1EvanGreenwood
  • I haven't played it yet but am definitely keen to tackle it at some point. Games like this are awesome and expressive in brilliant ways. Even a game like Desert Golfing tell the story of frustration in ways other medium never could. Everything tells the story of the universe in ways other medium never could. Undertale. To the Moon. Journey. Flower. Man, I really want to make something in that ballpark, but it's... so difficult. So I make what I can with colour blocks. While I work out how to tell my story eventually one day :)
  • Nice piece. Well written! You should put this on a Steam review or blog post (if you havn't already).
  • It's refreshing to see such a passionate post on an otherwise predominantly technical forum. I might not share the extreme enthusiasm you do for "Getting Over It", but what a wonderful idea and unique execution! I loved how the "narrative" elements and game mechanics complimented and strengthened each other so well. But damn, I wasn't nearly zen enough to see it through, couldn't get past that stupid chimney! Maybe one day...

    I also agree with @EvanGreenwood, I thoroughly enjoyed "The Beginner's Guide". Its deep themes and honest approach should be right up your alley!

    @Tuism Yeah, creating a meaningful game narrative is difficult! I think it's because narratives/narrative elements, especially those that touch personal themes, reflect a little of ourselves, making us overcautious about how we convey it! Desert Golfing looks pretty interesting!
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