Difficulty is fake.
I have beaten the likes of “I Wanna be the Guy,” “Ikaruga,” “Space Channel 5,” “Death Stranding,” “Psychonauts,” “Drakengard,” “Castlevania,” “The Mysterious Murasame Castle” and “Flower, Sun and Rain.”
I have gotten all 50 medals in “Rhythm Heaven Fever” and 100% completion in the Switch version of “Celeste.” As someone who has played games for more than a decade and now regularly plays all the way through games for articles, I can whole-heartedly say that difficulty in games — and in fact in most things — is an illusion based on the social concept of inelastic competence. This is not a novel idea, and it hasn’t been for a long time. The idea that one will inevitably improve and succeed given an unlimited number of attempts at a challenge has been a core component of video games since “Spacewar!”
Difficulty is fake. “Getting Over It” is not difficult.
For the uninitiated, “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy” is a “psychological horror game” deriving from the long-running internet tradition of slapstick comedy via “Let’s Plays” of extremely annoying and difficult games. The central concept of the experience is repeatedly falling down a mountain and having to climb back up with nothing but a mouse-controlled hammer — a long cycle of comical discouragement and disempowerment.
The player character cannot walk, jump, collect anything, or even die from the falls back down; visible progress is at most a temporary boon in the longer journey toward mastery of the game, and failure is likewise temporary. The graphics are relatively unremarkable save for an abundance of visual gags. The soundtrack is a collection of pre-existing public domain songs used for cheap jokes. The gameplay is itself an admitted retread of an earlier, less popular indie game. Bennett Foddy’s narration is deliberately made as sarcastic and annoying as possible. Most of the game is specifically designed to infuriate the player over and over and over again. But why does it make people angry?
Why is the apparent loss of progress in “Getting Over It” so frustrating for some people? Why are Bennett’s quips so grating? Why do “rage games” push people to the point of screaming?
The answer to these questions seems to be that people perceive failure (or at least lack of “progress”) as a waste of time — a rule that becomes completely paradoxical once applied to leisure activities with no visible end benefit, of which video games are an example. The primary gain expected of video games is that of entertainment, of reassurance that one’s inherently frivolous in-game efforts have paid off — a power fantasy meant to make effective use of one’s free time as stress relief.
People dump thousands of hours into “Minecraft,” “Skyrim” and “Harvest Moon,” but rarely feel they are “wasting time,” while games like “Death Stranding,” “I Wanna be the Guy” and “Flappy Bird” regularly drive players to the brink of violence. Once you stop caring about falling down the mountain, “Getting Over It” ceases to faze you. It becomes a very zen experience, a form of fidgeting or twiddling one’s thumbs. Playing music or talking with friends online while playing the game turns it into a relaxing background activity.
“Getting Over It” teaches patience in a subliminal fashion. “Getting Over It” is not difficult. It is merely time-consuming.
At 14 hours for my first successful run, two for my second, and 11 minutes for my fastest out of a total of 50 successful runs, I’d say it’s worth $8, though it shouldn’t be considered revolutionary (after all, its entire premise is an homage and “Flower, Sun and Rain” beat it to the punch by 16 years). Try it out sometime. Maybe you’ll like it.
Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools, and has developed a number of free games. He is a neutral game reviewer.
If You Play
Game: Getting Over It
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Internet Usage (accounts for download size): 2GB plus an online feature
ESRB Rating: E
Release Date: Oct. 7, 2017
Genre (if applicable): Psychological horror, platformer
Developer: Bennett Foddy