Another Dawn: Mountain Now On Steam

I'm delighted by this blooming morning.

I think about my Mountain often, though I haven’t visited it since July. The time we spent with our virtual pet rocks was wonderful, but as my mountain entered what I think is old age, I grew concerned. Its musings had became awfully existential and it started babbling, gibbering. It’d fall silent for long periods. At times it seemed at peace but others… was my mountain dying? Not in the way that Graham murdered his either–something inevitable. I didn’t want to find out.

But as Mountain arrives on Steam (only £0.99!), I’m feeling curious. Hello, old friend.

Mountain has actually become a lot more interactive since I last looked. It now lets players click and drag objects to move and stack them, has more modes unlocked by playing tunes, and can play music on its gramophone. Gosh! I don’t know how I’d feel cultivating or curating my mountain.

In case you missed the wonder, Mountain is a wonderful and contemplative small game to keep running in the background and occasionally check on. You generate a hunk of rock floating in space, rotating slowly, going through seasons, and occasionally offering zen-like thoughts. And it’s pelted by crud from outer space–light bulbs and horses, locks and clocks, anvils and aeroplanes all crashing into it and settling. We hugely enjoyed comparing our mountains and their thoughts. And you can play piano to it. It’s made by David OReilly, who you might best know for creating the fake ‘Alien Child‘ video game for Spike Jonze movie Her and an episode of Adventure Time.

My Mountain just spoke for the first time since I started writing this post. It said, “NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW.” It seems okay with this.


  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Ya know, I feel that Johnny Castaway was more emotionally rewarding than this thing.

    • Sian says:

      Now that takes me back. My dad had it installed on his computer and I’d wait for Johnny to do something or repeat an action I liked.

  2. RaveTurned says:

    Man, those Steam reviews.

    Especially those ones that say “it’s not a game” and then continually refer to it as “the game”. What’s up with that?

    • Jalan says:

      The fundamental flaw in the “not a game” brigade’s crusade. Most wanting to be vocal about it neglect to come up with a better descriptor than the thing they claim it isn’t.

      • Frosty840 says:

        Seems pretty appropriate to me.
        Games have rules and come with certain expectations, and the “playing” of a “game” is to experience the game through the execution of those rules and by fulfilling those expectations.
        Of course, you can take a game and treat it as a toy; ignoring rules by cheating or ignoring expectations by… ignoring them.
        Toys don’t have rules, though. They may have expectations, like a Newton’s Cradle does, and which Mountain sort of does, but those aren’t rules.
        By that definition, Mountain is a toy.

        I’m not sure I care for any discussion of the topic that places greater value on “games” than it does on “toys”, but they’re fairly decent definitions, for as much as definitions are worth…

        • Emeraude says:

          Games are constraints. Most often, the constraints that make the game are going to take the form of rules. That’s not a necessity though.

          Which provokes some interesting situations: for example, in most table top RPGs, the underlying constraints that inform the games’ existence can be almost totally segregated from the defined, expressed rules of the games.

      • kwyjibo says:

        Toy or Interactive Art is a better descriptor.

        • Jalan says:

          The degree of interactivity just barely passing muster on this one, if most reviews are to be believed.

          Ultimately even something like the Pet Rock could be used to smash a window.

      • Viroso says:

        I’m open about what a video game is, there are many traits particular to video games that make them enjoyable, unique and that aren’t game-like. I’m saying this so we move away from just having two fields to the discussion, one that says everything is a game the other that’s always screaming IT’S NOT A GAME like that’s an insult.

        So, given all that, why even call certain things a video game though? I’ve seen here at RPS a text being called a video game. It had no options and ended with “thanks for reading”. It was made on Twine though. Why call that, or the mountain, a game?

        • toxic avenger says:

          People have the same difficulties with the term “art.” What’s funny is many people who loudly insist that this is NOT a game is part of the same crowd that demands that video games are ART. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me if you are going to start drawing arbitrary lines around one term, you should not be confused when people draw arbitrary lines around the other. Note: all definitions are arbitrary, in a semiotics/linguistics sense.

          • Viroso says:

            I see no problem with arbitrary lines. Like you said, isn’t everything? Also, then, on the topic you mentioned, why call something art?

          • Wulfram says:


            Those people would probably also deny that Doom is a really great example of decoupage.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      I’ll only care about these definitions when they’ll be a useful foundation for an interesting discussion.

      They mostly seem to be used by self-appointed Defenders Of Video Games to write-off or exclude unfamiliar things, which isn’t remotely interesting.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Indeed (well, totally agree with the first sentence – I don’t know enough about who is using the definitions to be able to comment on the second).

        “Is/isn’t a game” and “is/isn’t art” both seem (to me) utterly pointless distinctions to try to make about an, er, thingy.

      • Distec says:

        Not sure what comments you’ve been reading on the internet, but I’ve seen enough healthy, civil discussion on the matter. A lot of the disagreements seem to crop up around how one defines a game; not just a video game, but games in general. That this entire industry of “interactive entertainment” has always been referred to as games is a consequence of its history and perhaps lack of foresight. Titles like Mountain and Gone Home are clearly influenced and built on top of that foundation, but calling them video games does seem like an outmoded descriptor.

        Now, is that a more interesting conversation? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s unfair how critics are frequently dismissed as being averse to the unfamiliar, having a case of stuffy pants, or being a card-carrying member of some nefarious BRIGADE (Isn’t there always one).

        Basically… Just because somebody says it’s not a game, doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike it. :P

        • Jalan says:

          While true, just like people calling Dear Esther a “walking simulator” doesn’t necessarily equate to them outright disliking it but otherwise calling it “as they see it”, a number of people doing so tend to use it negatively when laying criticism on it just like a good number of those who like to trot out the “not a game” argument do. Like any critical point, it is reliant on how one delivers it.

          • Distec says:

            Very true, and I’ve certainly seen what you describe.

            Most of my game reading is done on RPS, Gamasutra, and a few others. The discussions are generally pretty thoughtful, so I always feel there’s a discrepancy when I come here and read what seems like a total dismissal of the other side of the argument.

            Maybe it would make more sense to me if I read more IGN, NeoGAF, or Steam reviews…

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      most of the people who say ‘it’s not a game!’ are actually trying to say ‘it’s not a shooty bang!’ but here… i don’t know, calling it a game seems so insincere, it’s an ‘interactive experience’ in the same way that looking out a car window is, you might see something different each time but you have no influence on what’s there.

      It’d be like calling Dwarf Fortress’s Legends mode a game, it just doesn’t sit right as all you did was press ‘generate world’ and then trawl a list for anything interesting, often there are some absolutely epic things that make it worth the while but you have no effect on it.

      Should a game require some skill or knowledge? is it a game if you can be good at it? that would mean games that are totally random (like snakes and ladders, fuck that thing) and ‘interactive experiences’ (like all ‘walking simulators’ ) not games.
      I don’t know if that’s a good thing, does that add anything to the term ‘game’? or does it just make for more clumsy lexicon and arguments on the finer points of definition?

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      The forum discussions have been the most entertaining thing I have read in a long time. Seeing people’s head explode over this thing is hilarious.

      I actually e-mailed David OReilly to thank him.

  3. frightlever says:

    The original download only ran once didn’t it? Or is that a fevered dream?

  4. Gog Magog says:

    Yes, but is it gonna end up pretzeling my inner lobes?

  5. Syra says:

    I didn’t realise this wasn’t always on steam, it was in my head to get it for ages and then last night in some weird confluence of events I turned steam on, searched for it and bought it. It’s um … Interesting… It is pretty though, I am confused by the giant umbrella, pick axe and telephone that wedged themselves into the side of my mountain.

    I haven’t figured out what influences it yet but I was watching masters of sex it seemed to punctuate the end of certain scenes with a Ping and a phrase. Could it be listening to my desktop? Further experimentation required! For science!

  6. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Mountains are douche bags. Seriously. Screw those guys.

    • Gog Magog says:

      Thats a bit harsh but you do sometimes have to take a step back and shake your head when you notice the MRA show up in some comments section.

    • Freud says:

      They rock.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    I’m gonna wait until the sales, I think.

    • Jalan says:

      “Grab it now, for the INSANELY low price of ABSOLUTELY FREE!”

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      It would be amazing if it was put into a vote during a Steam sale, even more so if it wound up beating some AAA title.

  8. Steven Hutton says:

    • JFS says:

      Seems like TB is not an aesthete.

      • Bull0 says:

        “Take our medium seriously! It’s artistic and valuable! Now watch as we take turns casually dismissing anything that subverts the form!”

        • Bury The Hammer says:

          I’m sure if TB went to the Louvre he’d be really disappointed that you can’t use dialogue trees to talk to the Mona Lisa.

          • Wulfram says:

            Well, if I went to the Louvre expecting a CRPG, I’d be pretty disappointed.

      • RaveTurned says:

        Amazing that he can make a video of nothing though. Guy’s got skills.

        • 65 says:

          I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to imply here, as the video is/was unlisted and unmonetised.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        “This video has been removed by user”

    • RARARA says:

      “I’ll still defend its right to call itself a video game.” – Jim Sterling

  9. skyturnedred says:

    “It’s fucking nothing.” – TB

    Edit: Steven beat me to it.

    • Syra says:

      Would we prefer it if it was copulating with something then? Like a lady mountain?

      • RedViv says:

        If one were not so down-to-earth as TB clearly is playing at in this video equivalent of a joke tweet, one could interpret all sorts of events striking Mountain.

  10. RARARA says:

    The clouds and rain just clip through the mountain. You’re not even trying, mate.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    This is the sequel to Curiosity – What’s inside the cube that no-one asked for.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    I like things that experiment with the form or even games that go for more of an aesthetic experience than any tangible interactivity as such, but this… I don’t get this. When it was first announced I genuinely couldn’t tell if it was meant to be an ironic jab at art games, or an actual sincere thing.

    • Distec says:

      It is both. It is everything. It’s a brilliant, bold expression of the medium and a fraudulent sack of bullshit. There. ART ACCOMPLISHED.

      Honestly, I don’t get it either. And I place it firmly in the “not a game” camp.

      • Bull0 says:

        Think you had it for a second there, and I was pleased, then you blew it and now I’m back to depressed.

        • Distec says:

          How the hell do I score points. Do I click somewhere, yell at it, sing it a song, wtf. I think it’s broken. Brb angry email to dev.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      But I actually like most “not-games”… I tend to have little patience however for art in which there is more substance to the explanation than to the artwork itself, so I don’t get on with Modern abstract art much.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    The last time I looked at my mountain, it had begun to sound pretty anti-materialistic. I assumed that pretty soon, it would get rid of all the stuff that had collected on it over time. Unfortunately, I was worried that I would miss that event, but I also didn’t want to constantly look at my mountain. So I simply never started it again since then. I think I might be doing mountain wrong. :/

  14. eggy toast says:

    Some of the reviews on Steam complain about the game gobbling up tons of system resources, is this a legitimate concern?

    If it’s a game-thing I’m buying just to run in the background I would certainly prefer if it didn’t get in the way of whatever else I’m doing.

  15. supermini says:

    It’s pretty good for a screensaver.

    • toxic avenger says:

      Is there a way to set it as screensaver? That would be beautiful, in all honesty and due respect.

  16. pupsikaso says:

    Now if it WAS a screensaver, I might have actually recommended paying a buck for it. But it’s not, and it leaks more memory than the mountain leaks rain that just falls right through it. This isn’t something that you would want to just leave on in the background and check on every now and then.

  17. rexx.sabotage says:

    so mountain supports the eyemeat heaters now. I grabbed the latest version from Humble, fired it up and beheld all it’s stereoscopic glory.

    That’s a bit of an overstatement, I just shrugged a bit and with no need to “ fill my eyes with that double vision“, simply closed it out.