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Vol. 2 No. 2 (2021): Mediating Mountains

Thereness: Video Game Mountains as Limits of Interactivity

May 19, 2020


This article theorizes the abstract quality of "thereness," or a challenging presence that both invites and resists being engaged by humans, which is central to the ludic and symbolic function of a number of related video games in recent years. I will discuss games that deliberately resist the mimetic approach of an ever-increasing "realism" in this popular medium but rather explore the allegorical aspects of the mountains, notably without turning them into "mere" metaphors but insisting on their own distinct existence as something beyond ourselves. As virtual mountains that are not really to be played with, they invite a philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic interpretation as human mediations of what resists both mediation and the human, as something always just beyond our full cognitive and epistemological grasp, a limit rather than an object of our consciousness. I will discuss how games such as Celeste (2018), Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (2017), and Mountain (2014) use their unique audiovisual, tactile, and ludic qualities to convey this elusive "thereness" of the mountain as something that both challenges and rejects human interaction. Instead of offering their players the fantasy of power and control that so often underlies contemporary video games, these games evoke the otherness of mountains to take their players to the limits of interactivity within a medium that is fundamentally defined by this very interactivity.


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