Okay, hear me out on this.
Last year, ‘Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy’ took the internet by storm. Every online personality played it, and everyone soundly hated it. For good reasons, I might add. The game was designed to be infuriating in every possible way. Both in terms of the level design and controls. Everything in this game was made to anger the player.
But today, I ask the question: was this point a good one? Was the decision to be as infuriating as possible secretly genius? Did Bennett Foddy create a modern work of art, or did he just create a game more infuriating than QWOP for no other reason than to make people suffer?
For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember, ‘Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy’ was a simple but rage inducing game. You play as a man stuck in a cauldron with a hammer. With those, you must climb up to the top of the level. Of which there is one. That is exceedingly long.
Along the way, the voice of Bennett Foddy himself will chide in with his philosophy. He’ll explain that the man is always on the brink of falling and losing tons of progress. This is what he centers the game’s message around. Losing isn’t falling itself. It’s the act of staying down.
He’ll even quote real historical figures, like Abraham Lincoln and Ice T. Or was it Vanilla Ice? I can’t remember, and I can’t be fucked to look it up. And god knows I’m not playing the game again to get it.
‘Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy’ is all about failure. If you push too far with your hammer, you will lose a ton of progress. In order to succeed, you need to pull yourself back up and try again. As you do, you’ll master the controls and memorize the level. By the time you’ve finished the game, you will know it from front to back.
TL;DR: in order to succeed, you must fail over and over. This is a philosophy that I strongly agree with. If you ask me, or Bennett Foddy, winners are simply people who fail over and over again until they succeed. And in terms of execution, the game does manage to communicate that message.
When you combine the controls with the level design, you get a recipe for failure. Maneuvering around every obstacle would be challenging in a game with good controls. But you’re stuck with QWOP: Hammer Edition. This is easily translated into the message. Life is hard, and because it is, you are almost certainly doomed to fail.
So now we get back to our original question. Was this game actually genius? Is Bennett Foddy’s ‘Getting Over It’ secretly an artistic masterpiece?
No! What? Why would you let me convince you that it is?!
It doesn’t matter how perfectly your message is communicated via the gameplay. So long as that gameplay isn’t fun, then your game isn’t genius. Making a smart game should never be priority #1. Making a fun game needs to be the first thing you think about. Then you’re allowed to be smart.
‘Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy’ has a smart, interesting and uplifting message. Unfortunately, he forgot to make an actually fun game in order to communicate said message. Instead, he made one of the most rage inducing games of the last decade. One that has been rightfully forgotten.
Except by me. I will never forget the pain.
Because here’s the thing: failing by default is not fun. It is not fun to fail over and over until you succeed. Sure, the success feels good. But the satisfaction is painfully short lived, and you’re right back to the pain and suffering.
Hard to enjoy success when you’ve had your soul beaten out of you, isn’t it?