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Up Close: Mountains, mindfulness, and metaphysics: the supreme realism of Lonely Mountains: Downhill and A Short Hike

Up Close is a new, occasional and informal series here on Eurogamer, looking at the smaller points in games in greater amounts of depth. Covering anything from a single mechanic to a reoccurring theme, in praise or criticism, the aim is simply to look a little closer at the things that deserve our attention.

Increasingly, games are looking to the environment to tell their stories. It’s easy enough to see why. On one side the natural world is moving closer and closer to the centre of our thought, as the climate crisis becomes more urgent and less easy to ignore. On the other, it becomes a great device for telling a story of impending, existential disaster – or indeed one of the hope to be found in the aftermath. And, above all, pretty environments sell.

But alongside the rise of environmentally aware games is a little micro-surge of environmentally conscious ones. Which is to say, games that are less about the environment as they are about that way you think about it, the connection that forms between your mind and the world around you. Metaphysics, basically, or mindfulness, if we want to narrow it down further. In particular I’m thinking of a couple of mindfulness games from the end of last year, Lonely Mountains: Downhill and A Short Hike, which both look to use the natural world to turn your own gaze inwards, and both happen to use mountains – specifically going either up a mountain or down one, although there aren’t many other things to do with mountains in fairness – to achieve the kind of effect I think they’re after.

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