More invasive than Facebook: ‘Mountain’ from creator of games in ‘Her’


In Spike Jonze’s movie “Her,” Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore plays a 3-D holographic video game with a cuddly alien resembling a foul-mouthed Pillsbury Doughboy. The L.A.-based animator who created that sequence, David OReilly, has now created a real game of his own — and it’s as weird as anything you might have seen in Jonze’s movie.

The game is called “Mountain” and OReilly offered a sneak peak Thursday at the video game conference Horizon held alongside this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Mountain” isn’t so much a game as an experience. Open up the app (which will be available for iOS, Mac and PC), and the game asks you a question that OReilly described in his presentation as “more psychologically invasive than anything Facebook wants to know about you.” There are questions about love and hate and how you feel about your mother.


The gamer responds by drawing a picture that expresses this idea, which the program then transforms into a living, breathing mountain on your desktop. “Mountain” is generative, which means that each peak it makes is unique. “It literally has billions of different mountains,” OReilly said.

It is also dynamic: the mountains are subject to seasons and snowfalls and daylight and nightfall. The player can shift the point of view to see the mountain, god-like, from above. Once you make your mountain, you can leave it running on your desktop and watch it evolve. The mountains in the game float, like singular sci-fi worlds -- making these earthy masses feel like ethereal forms.

OReilly said he became interested in making a game after working on “Her,” but wanted to create something that was a singular experience. “It satisfied a lot of the things I wanted to explore in patterns and iterations of patterns,” he told me.

Why mountains? “Because it’s an iconic zen thing,” he replied. “We as humans feel all big because we build great things but the fact is that mountains dwarf us.”

The animator has other games in the works, though nothing he can talk about at the moment. “Mountain” is set to launch on June 21 (give or take a few days) from