Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

By Shamus Posted Sunday Feb 4, 2018

Filed under: Random 67 comments

A few days ago we got a new installment of Errant Signal where Campster talked about Getting Over It, which seems to be the game everyone was watching and nobody was talking about last month. (I mean nobody in the gaming press. Maybe you talked about it with your friends, but I wasn’t there for that. It’s getting less coverage than PUBG, is what I’m saying.)


Link (YouTube)

If you missed it:

Getting Over It is a game seemingly made from random crap from the typical asset store. That’s the equivalent of making a movie using only stock footage. The game embraces this hodgepodge approach to design and makes it central to the game’s visual aesthetic. You play as a nameless naked man in a black cooking pot who uses a sledgehammer to pull and shove his way up a gargantuan mountain of trash. That’s no story, no characters, no context, no score, no unlocks, no save points, no enemies to fight, and no achievements to earn along the way. There’s just you, your hammer, some really fiddly climbing controls, and Bennett Foddy’s calm narration ruminating on difficulty and punishment in games as you ascend to new heights and tumble back down in bitter defeat.

I haven’t played it. I’m pretty sensitive to frustrating challenges with big setbacks as punishment. I’d get too angry to have fun. But like a lot of people, I enjoy watching the game. It’s a cruel task with a lot of pitfalls, where the environment is engineered to make falling down a deeply costly mistake. In fact, let’s look at the map of the whole game:

(Spoilers?)

You’ll never see the game like this when you’re playing it, of course. In-game, your view is focused directly on your character, who would be just a few pixels tall in the image above. I imagine someone had to dig around the datafiles inside the game to make this.

That long thread-like line running down the left side is called “The Snake”. If you’re foolish enough to grab onto it (there’s a sign warning you not to) or if you accidentally fall into it (it’s a bit like the gutter of a pinball machine where’s it’s easier than it looks to get things to go into it) then you will ride it all the way down. It deposits you at the exact start of the game, thus erasing the hours you spent climbing up to that point. This setback is so catastrophically upsetting that there are compilations of streamers doing it.

People spend hours trying to climb this stupid mountain of random garbage. And yet, if you take the time to master the controls you can breeze up to the top in less than two minutes. Or at least, some people can. Okay, one guy did.

I feel like we need a name of this genre. “Games that are designed to make the player miserable as a way of entertaining a passive audience”. It’s a videogame that generates television as a byproduct of being played. The jump-scare craze from a few years ago (Five Nights At Freddy’s et al.) was probably the first example of this phenomena, but now it’s branching out into new ways of harnessing negative emotions to create tension and strong emotional reactions on the part of the streamer.

 


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67 thoughts on “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy

  1. Paul Spooner says:

    So, “Getting Over It” is a kind of parasite then? Living off of the grief it causes, unable to give anything back. Is there an upside for the player?

    1. Redingold says:

      It has the same upside as climbing an actual mountain: once you’ve done it, you can take pride in having done it.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Except one of these activities has a high chance of heart attack and death if you spend too much time trying without properly taking care of your body, and the other is a mountain.

    2. Alrenous says:

      Symbiote. Videogame videographers get paid to suffer through it, so there’s give and take.

    3. Nope says:

      I think I’ll blame owls for why you’re bad at analogies.

    4. Syal says:

      Is there an upside for the player?

      It’s even sexier than Sexy Hiking.

    5. EmmEnnEff says:

      But that’s fine. Everyone likes being a little bit sad sometimes, like when they are watching the rain on the windowsill.

      1. Geebs says:

        Whenever I watch the rain on the windowsill, I’m mostly feeling sad about the fact that I left the window open.

  2. onodera says:

    The first video of the game I’ve watched was the two-minute speedrun. I couldn’t stand watching any other gameplay video afrer that other than failure compilations.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The thing the speedrun lets me see, is that some later areas are (or seem to be) easier than earlier ones. For example, the metal girder at the beginning of the game appears to be more slippery than the snow-covered mountain late in the game. Pretty impressive, though – I’d never play this game myself! ^^;

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The speed run is deceptive like that. The snow is far worse. You can see that in the snake fail compilation. Plethora of people just start sliding from the snowy top and can’t stop till they fall of the bottom.

  3. NilkadNaquada says:

    I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to claim that Getting Over It is designed primarily for streamers. Obviously it’s very good stream fodder, but I think that’s a by-product. After all, Bennett Foddy has been making these kinds of games since before streaming was a thing, and rage games similar to the ones he makes date back to before YouTube was a thing, let alone Let’s Play videos. It seems like the masochism needed to really enjoy playing such a game is the point of the game, it’s designed for the type of player who takes a perverse pleasure in being repeatedly and often unfairly punished while playing, and who will find that much more satisfaction in having reached an ending that many wouldn’t have the willpower to. (Worth noting that in order to see the ending of Getting Over It, the game makes you promise that you aren’t recording or streaming it. If it was primarily meant to be viewed vicariously, I don’t think it’d explicitly wall off content from people that aren’t playing themselves.)

    That said, there definitely are games which were clearly designed to pull in a streaming and Let’s Play audience for the sake of free publicity and easy sales. FNAF, as you mentioned, is probably one, even if it didn’t start that way at first it almost definitely became that as the series went on, Goat Simulator is another example that comes to mind.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I always thought Goat Simulator was made just so people could mess around in it, and the streaming was a happy accident.

    2. Felblood says:

      Masochists who revel in failure as a sign of a worthy challenge? Often, with no promise of any extrinsic reward?

      So you’re talking about independent video game developers.

      You sink a few hundred hours of your time into a project, only to discover a critical bug that blows up your entire architecture? “Ah, now it’s getting interesting,” you murmur pouring yourself a seventh cup of tar black coffee. The children will be awake soon, and there’s no time to waste.

  4. Yerushalmi says:

    Where would the Stanley Parable fall? It’s not as schadenfreudian as the games you’ve discussed, but it definitely does a good job of keeping third-party viewers engaged due to the consternation it engenders in the player. The more you watch different people play, the more you become familiar with the subtle and not-so-subtle ways the game messes with the player’s head. Hearing somebody go, “That was different last time! …or was it? I don’t remember. Argh!” is always hilarious.

    And that’s not even getting into the fascinating psychological choices the game forces the player to make. Which of the two doors do they go through on their first playthrough? Do they jump off the moving platform or ride it to the end? Red door or blue door? It can be amazing to watch people’s reactions when confronted with these choices – or maybe that’s just me.

    1. Amstrad says:

      The original mod version of Stanley Parable came out before streaming services like Twitch had really taken off. I’d agree however that its the type of game that plays well on such services and wouldn’t be surprised if some of the changes made for the commercial release version were made with streaming in mind.

      1. RichardW says:

        I’m not sure that it was really chasing the streamer crowd. Stanley Parable has way too much dialogue involved, and the main draw of streams is usually the personality of the one who’s controlling the game. Their reactions and commentary are what I’ve observed keep people watching, the content is secondary.

        So a game like Stanley, where the narrator would essentially upstage the commentator, makes me wonder if it was really all that much of a hit on the streaming scene. The novelty of a game that talks back might have gotten some views, likewise the multiple choice story, but I still get the feeling that it made for not very great streamer bait.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I’d say that Stanley Parable is way too philosophical to have been created with streaming in mind. Not to say that I have an issue with people playing games like that or having involved discussions on stream but it’s not something that generally pulls in a big crowd.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      If you’re into this kind of thing I’d recommend Verde Station, it’s absolutely delightful in how it messes up with the player. Personally I’d recommend playing it yourself first for the full experience before watching others and admittedly the only streamers that I know offhand that did it are the Loading Ready Run people (twice, with different players).

  5. Yerushalmi says:

    I feel like we need a name of this genre. “Games that are designed to make the player miserable as a way of entertaining a passive audience”. It’s a videogame that generates television as a byproduct of being played.

    If you limit it to games that actually make the player miserable, I suggest the word “schadenfreudian” that I used in my previous comment. But if we want any game that generates television as a byproduct of being played, even if it doesn’t make the player miserable, I suggest something along the lines of “spectatorial”.

    1. Droid says:

      “Schadenfreudian” just sounds so wrong for me as a German. It’s for one because it looks as though it was constructed as “schaden-” + “Freudian”, i.e. pertaining in some way to Siegmund Freud. While the latter might be true in a most superficial way, “Schadenfreude” is not really related to Freud in any grammatical way. It just so happened that some Austrian official gave Freud’s ancestors (we’re talking grandparents or great-grandparents here) this specific surname in 1787 because it was the first thing that came to his mind, or because they suggested it and the official approved.

      Anyway, if we’re going full German here, the right term would be “schadenfroh”.

      1. Yerushalmi says:

        I wasn’t even thinking about Freud. I just took “schadenfreude” and attached “-ian” to it. Perhaps “schadenfreudeian”?

        1. MichaelGC says:

          It’s the odd way words work – “schadenfreude,” unlike “schadenfreude,” (or should that be “Schadenfreude?”) isn’t a German word – it’s been thieved from German, but as the original German word is still there, it was a victimless crime. So, although you can’t make “schadenfreudian” from “schadenfreude,” you can go ahead and make “schadenfreudian” from “schadenfreude.” I trust that’s clear.

          It’s a bit like “kindergartner,” actually – in German I think that means the teacher, whereas in USian I believe it always means the child. Once a word has been co-opted into a new system, it’s the (crazy, inconsistent and forever-shifting) rules of that new system which apply to derivations of it, not the old…

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Here’s a fairly spectacular demonstration of the kinda thing…

            Languages are bananas
            by @mewo2
            https://twitter.com/mewo2/status/959120452575809536

          2. ehlijen says:

            But “Freudian” meaning “related to Freud’s theories” is also an English construct. It doesn’t really matter if you deal with the stolen or original version of “Schadenfreude”, if you turn it into “Schadenfreudian” (or anything that sounds like it), you will connect it to Freud, whether you intend to or not.

            How about Schadenfreudish or Schadenfreudy?

            1. MichaelGC says:

              Aye – I like ‘-ish’ myself, but these things tend to take on a life of their own, so specifying in advance which way the language should change (even when based on eminently sensible suggestions like yours) tends to be a bit of a non-starter.

              If a single term along these broad lines were to gain wide currency, we’re almost bound to end up with something like ‘schadenfrauds,’ which will completely satisfy no one, be based on nothing particularly sensible, and probably infuriate a group ever-so-slightly smaller than would be required to make a difference… ;0)

              1. Mephane says:

                Why does it need to be turned into an adjective in the first place? Plenty of genre names are nouns anyway, so why not leave the world just as it is and call them “schadenfreude games”.

                Edit: Not sure if new since the site move, but whatever is causing it inside WordPress I deeply detest the practice of replacing regular quotes with typographic ones, especially when using a sans serif font where this old-fashioned style of quotation marks looks quite out of place.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  ‘Schadenfraud’ wouldn’t be an adjective, and I haven’t suggested any changes to the world. I speculated on hypotheticals and ruminated on what happens when languages borrow from one another, because it was Sunday and I was having a chill time doing so.

            2. Felblood says:

              “Schadenfreudian” will always make me think of the Schadenfreudian Slip, an item from Super Munchkin 2.

              It’s a lace negligee that gives you a level whenever someone else loses one. Very powerful.

  6. MichaelGC says:

    But like a lot of people, I enjoy watching the game.

    Oof – I enjoyed Campster’s vid, but watching the gameplay began to cause me something like physical-adjacent pain, and I eventually had to move the screen out of my vision and just listen to Chris’s commentary. I had something of an empathic misfire in that my mind assumed extreme frustration on the part of the player, and couldn’t stomach it ‘on their behalf,’ as it were (an obvious misfire, as if Campster actually had been commensurately frustrated the video would have ground to a sudden halt a maximum of five minutes in).

    I’d guess that if I actually played it myself I’d find it less frustrating than I did to watch, but the experience of watching was so bad that I’m not about to test that out! None of this is to be critical: if one of the aims of the game was to engender thoughts on how we approach frustration then certainly in my case it was supereffective.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I feel like we need a name of this genre.

    Games that are totally fair,and if you are playing them carefully and observing the clues they give you,you can finish them with ease.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I know – we’ll call them I Wanna Be The Guy clones!

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Nah.I wanna be the guy clones are a special level of sadistic.Compare the relatively forgiving parts of this game to the utterly miserable I wanna see you suffer,which starts killing you before you even see the character.

        Also,this is the perfect time for me to link this list of all the IWBTG clones.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          If the main point is memorization of patterns, and gaining world knowledge you could call them Memory Games, but that’s a bit cumbersome. In the case of Dark Souls and similar, it’s also noteworthy that a lot of this knowledge lets you bypass a lot of the systems of the game. e.g. If you know enemy X is weak to Y, and you know their patterns of attack, you don’t need to spend a lot of effort dodging.[1] Every game involves that to some degree, but the Souls-style games seem to take this up a level. Games Which Seem Extremely Difficult But Which Become Easier Once You Know The World’s Secrets?

          [1] I’ve not played these games myself, but watched a few let’s plays, reviews, and critiques. They indicate that this type of knowledge / other-systems-difficulty tradeoff is a key feature.

    2. Decius says:

      Hot garbage.

      I exclude Dark Souls and its ilk, which are in a category of “The stuff about gameplay mechanics that should be in the manual is in the strategy guide”.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Hot garbage.

        The mountain is made out of garbage,and the protagonist is hot….Hey,it fits perfectly.

    3. Philadelphus says:

      That seems like a kinda long and unwieldy name…

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And yet, if you take the time to master the controls you can breeze up to the top in less than two minutes. Or at least, some people can. Okay, one guy did.

    What I love about that video is that once he manages to do it,he immediately uninstalls the game.

    1. Sunshine says:

      It’s like “Right! Done it! Now —— this game and —— Bennet Foddy!” and he can stop clenching his teeth.

  9. Iunnrais says:

    I think the name for this genre has already been set, as “Masocore”. As in, a combination of “Hardcore” and “Masochistic”. If you do a google search for it, you’ll see that the term is fairly widespread in use, and has been written about by quite a few journalists, including non-videogame-centric journalists.

    1. Christopher says:

      I was reminded most of romhack games like Kaizo Mario World. It’s giving the player an unfair challenge and then having an enjoyable/frustrating time with it. Compare to when some people make Super Mario Maker levels for their friends. I don’t think masocore platformers are a bad fit, but one thing merciful thing they often do is have you start right at the screen you died in.

      Well, I’m not very familiar with other types of masocore than the platformers.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Getting Over It is entirely fair, however.

      2. Iunnrais says:

        The key defining feature for “Masocore” games seems to be pitting yourself against an unforgiving challenge that cannot reasonably be expected to be overcome your first time through it, that can nevertheless be defeated by greatly increasing player skill of that game. Lacking mastery of this specific game, not even games of its genre, will mean repeated and constant failure, with significant punishment.

        Platforming, 1st person, 3rd person… doesn’t matter. What matters is difficulty plus punishing failure that can be overcome via game mastery and system mastery.

        I distinguish the two (game vs systems mastery) because although these games do require systems mastery, they ALSO tend to require getting good at overcoming SPECIFIC challenges, often requiring memorization and failure first. A good kaizo mario player STILL fails repeatedly on a new kaizo game, despite having very good system mastery. You need to be good at the game systems and controls, and then ALSO figure out the SPECIFIC traps in a masocore game.

        I’d argue that yes, Kaizo and Cat Mario are masocore, as is “I Want to be the Guy”, but so is Dark Souls. And… so is Getting Over It.

        I think many masocore games are fair (though not all)… but that doesn’t mean they aren’t punishing. Punishing plus difficult seems to be the defining feature of the genre.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Getting over it is also a rarity for me in that I watched the entire series of PewDiePie playing it.Seeing him struggle to maintain character while visibly being more and more frustrated was a delight.Also the edits he used for the game do indeed enhance the experience.Say what you want about the guy,but he does know his craft well.

  11. Redrock says:

    I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to label either Getting Over It or FNAF as “Youtube fodder”. WHile I’m by no means a fan of the FNAF series, mostly on account of being a big wuss, I think it was quite neatly designed, especially the second one. Yes, it relies on jump scares, but it does have a decent set of mechanics to build pressure and force the player to manage their time and attention. Getting Over It, well, I haven’t played the thing, nor do I intend to, but Foddy seems to have put a lot of thought into the theory of game design, challenge and frustration, as evidenced by his earlier work. I think he is more of an itch.io type of developer, someone who makes games for the sake of making them first and foremost. But hey, that’s the reading of someone who really dislikes most streamers and sort of assumes that anyone who develops games does too. Which is a big assumption, I have to admit.

    1. Thomas says:

      I think it’s fair to label the FNAF sequels as YouTube fodder. I don’t know if that was the original intention of the first or a happy accident.

      1. Redrock says:

        Intention matters, I’d say.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      sort of assumes that anyone who develops games does too.

      Seeing how twitch integration has become so popular,thats not true.The only one who actually hates streamers is nintendo.

      1. Redrock says:

        Quite possible. I don’t really go for the kind of games that make for good streaming, so I’m pretty isolated from that whole segment of gaming culture. I’m pretty sure I’m unnecessarily harsh towards streamers, but what they do is just not my thing and, in my mind, pretty harmful to the industry in general. Still though, neither FNAF nor Getting Over It are exactly PUBG, so I think my point still stands in those particular cases.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Why exactly is it harmful “to gaming in general” to have people build an internet community about responding enthusiastically to games? I can see negative consequences possible out of this, but many positive ones too.

          1. Redrock says:

            As I said, that’s a personal opinion and I’m not really on a crusade against streaming. But if I were to justify my stance, I’d focus on two things. 1) streaming doesn’t really gel with story-rich single player gaming. More often than not you want something light on story and/or multiplayer oriented, like DOTA or PUBG. 2) streaming seems to be low-quality content on a general basis. Sure, there are exceptions and sure I haven’t conducted an exhaustive search, but I think it’s fair to say that streaming has more PewDiePies than Campsters.

            Maybe a more accurate statement would be that streaming may be ever so slightly pushing gaming culture in a direction I personally don’t really like, that I personally find harmful. Because it pushes the industry away from your Deus Exes and Jade Empires and to more PUBGs and Fortnites and, hell, FNAFs. More often than not streaming, to me, seems mindless and empty. But hey, if people like it, all the more power to them, I say.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              streaming seems to be low-quality content on a general basis. Sure, there are exceptions and sure I haven’t conducted an exhaustive search, but I think it’s fair to say that streaming has more PewDiePies than Campsters.

              I have issue with that.People constantly put PewDiePie into the “low quality” box,but he really is not.Say what you want about his humor,his voice,his tastes,his style,but the man actually does have skill when it comes to making videos.Its definitely not low quality.Low quality are the streamers who give you just dead air for minutes at a time,constantly uming and erring and coughing.They just slap their face in the corner and consider their work done.Felix edits his stuff significantly,and constantly tries to engage the audience.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    This game seems really, really hard, but I’d hardly call it “unfair”. Meanwhile you have games like “Super Mario Cat”, that takes the exact level layout of Super Mario Bros. and puts deadly traps, one after another, in places you’d never expect them if you’re familiar with the latter. That game is specially designed to mess with your muscle memory, so I think it fits better the “designed to make the player miserable” role since, well, that’s exactly what it is.

  13. Tektotherriggen says:

    Games that are designed to make the player miserable as a way of entertaining a passive audience

    I thought I would never be this kind of audience, but then I remembered how much I enjoyed Ruts vs. Battlespire. Not quite designed, but a very “happy” accident.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Back in the day I had a lot of fun watching Rutskarn throw his troopers against the original X-Com on some higher difficulty. “Oh, a terror mission… all of these people are going to die!”

      On the other hand after playing the game myself watching people attempt Dark Souls turned from funny to frustrating.

  14. Sleeping Dragon says:

    For the sake of anecdote my personal experience with Getting Over It.

    I got the game as part of the Humble Monthly package, turned it on having no foreknowledge whatsoever (to be fair the dev makes it very clear what kind of game that is). After the next 3-4 hours I got to the slide(s) (that would be the dark blue lines on the left side of the map, about 1/3rd of the way up). Right below that is a gap with a grey block under it. That block is deceptive because it makes you feel like you’ve reached a spot with some sort of safety net and, admittedly, it can work like that… at times… at other times you drop down, slide right off it and are back at the start… this can happen repeatedly. By this point I had several instances when I just started flailing around angrily (spoiler: that usually ends badly) but I could see I was making progress and I was genuinely interested in what the dev had to say. I’ve decided I had enough for the day and it would probably be most prudent to return to the game in smaller bouts not letting the frustration actually ruin my ability to play it.

    Predictably perhaps I never did turn it on again and watched an LP soon afterwards, though I will say I honestly feel not getting through the game myself was detrimental to my experience of what the dev was saying.

  15. Blake says:

    I don’t really think Getting Over It was designed for streamers, it’s just an extension of all of Foddy’s work dating all the way back to QWOP.
    He’s just a philosophy major who likes his games to be about overcoming difficult challenges.

    While I doubt I’ll ever want to play Getting Over It, I do see it as a very interesting art piece.
    Everything from the art, to the title to the almost Sisyphean challenge is about letting go of things that usually bug you, and just doing what you’ve got to do.
    I honestly just think that’s the sort of thing Foddy’s into and would have made the game exactly the same if streamers and YouTube didn’t exist.

  16. Kylroy says:

    I will say that it was very entertaining to see something that models abusive relationships/cult programming in the context of a video game.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      My impression is that you’re reading into the game a bit. Care to elaborate?

      1. Kylroy says:

        You’re doing an incredibly difficult, frustrating task that the designer has deliberately made as difficult and frustrating as possible. But there’s this constant soothing voiceover about how *you* relish the challenge, and *you* are special for persisting in this difficult effort when so many other games would have already rewarded you for your barely trying. It’s “Cognitive Dissonance: The Game”.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thing is,people who play a game like this till the end actually *do* relish the challenge.No one is forcing it on them,which is why so many people either never got the game,or uninstalled it after a brief few minutes.Its more like a sadist-masochist relationship than an abusive one.

          1. Kylroy says:

            Nobody forced people to join the Branch Davidians, either; there’s a reason getting people out of cults involves not just physical separation but outright deprogramming. I realize the game has no more nefarious endgame than getting YouTubers to throw chairs, but the psychogical tools it uses to convince people that this deliberately aggravating trifle is in fact deep and meaningful are regularly used for much, much darker goals.

  17. I watched the Errant Signal a few days ago and on the basis of that decided to stay the hell away from Get Over It – too much like real life for me right now. Oh, to be one of those happy people who need frustration simulated for them!

  18. Retsam says:

    I saw this and thought “huh, that might be fun, but I don’t think I could justify spending any money on it”… then was looking through my humble bundle library and saw that I already own the game, (from the October Humble Monthly, apparently). That’s been happening a lot, recently…

  19. wswordsmen says:

    Getting over it is a game I have wanted to see for a while. I wanted to see a game that was nothing but, or close enough, reused assets because I thought it would be interesting to see. While it might sound easier than developing everything yourself that is the same as saying it is easier to do things one handed.

  20. Sunshine says:

    An angle I’ve heard wasn’t “frustrating you for the entertainment of others” but “setting a frustrating challenge for people compelled to take on that challenge”. From Rock Paper Shotgun‘s podcast:

    “The game sets up a hurdle and says ‘You can’t get over that hurdle,’ so you say ‘I’ll get over that hurdle! You watch me get over that hurdle!’ Only it turns out the hurlde has teeth.”
    “It worse than that, the hurdle is actually a catapult that flings you back ten hurdles.”

  21. Dragomok says:

    You play as a nameless naked man […]

    Isn’t the character’s name Diogenes?

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