My first time playing Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, I put in twelve minutes before getting frustrated and deciding to do something else with my time. A few hours later, I came back to it and put in eighteen minutes before deciding the game had kicked my ass enough. I did this many times, and I’ll probably do it many more times with presumably similar results.
If Getting Over It were a lesser game, I probably wouldn’t have touched it again after those first twelve minutes. What made me come back to it was a sense of encouragement. The idea that I could come back and go further than I had the last time I played. This sense of encouragement didn’t come from my own optimism, however. Instead, it came from the voice of the titular developer of Getting Over It, Bennett Foddy.
Foddy is well-known on the internet for creating absolute bullshit in video game form. QWOP is a game about seeing how far you can run as an Olympic sprinter, using the Q and W keys to control the runner’s thighs and the O and P keys to control his calves. Most playthroughs went as well as you’d expect with a control scheme like that, regardless of the player, which made it prime YouTube material shortly after its release.
But I didn’t go back to QWOP to try and improve my progress, encouraging myself to push on even if I ended up back where I started. I did it with Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, and that with Bennett Foddy part of the title is the real key to why it works.
Getting Over It has just as ridiculous of a control scheme as QWOP did. This time it’s completely mouse-focused as you attempt to move your pot-residing protagonist’s hammer, usually in a way that unintentionally launches you off the nearest cliffside. Falling and losing progress creates a feeling of dread, but is also its own method of progression as it leads to the segments of voiceover that Foddy recorded for the game. Foddy muses about failure, talks about his thought process for the game, and reads motivating quotations from a variety of figures.
These voiceover segments aren’t DLC commentary. They’re not walls of text that get added onto the game for you to read through. Foddy as your in-game mentor is an intrinsic part of Getting Over It, and the game would feel empty without him.
What sold me on the game wasn’t its bizarre control scheme or its implausible player character. (How did he get in that pot? Why does he want to climb this increasingly frustrating collection of obstacles?) What sold me on the game completely was when, as I was grappling with the strange controls, Bennett Foddy’s voice came through my headphones along with some jazz piano, telling me that he made this game for anyone who had ever found themselves down on their luck. It was such a human moment for me in a game that is so often interested in absurd cruelty.
I didn’t think much of it until I turned the game off, and then found myself coming back to it a few hours later. Foddy continued his story of the game as if I had never left, now talking about B-games and Sexy Hiking, the inspiration for Getting Over It. The anecdotes are sparse, so much so that my motivation for progressing was no longer to get to the top, but to hear what Bennett had to say. This means sometimes hearing more from Foddy, and other times it means falling back to the bottom and hearing a new quotation, or hearing an old bluesy song start up as if Foddy is pulling a metaphorical storm cloud over your head.
I’m not failing, though. I’ve put in a few more fifteen minute chunks and I’m still in the same spot, but I’m not failing. For starters, I’ve climbed a lot more than I had before. I’ve just happened to fall down a lot more too. Getting Over It seems like the gamification of the phrase “if at first you don’t succeed…” This is why Foddy uses the anecdotes, the quotations, the music. There’s a lot more to it than “these things are about failure and this game is also about that.” It creates a sense of empathy with all of the artists mentioned, including Foddy, and if he can get over all the dread this game is plentiful with, there’s no reason why I can’t do it too, given enough time.