It happens to every gamer: The game is turned on, or a cutscene just ended, and the player is back in control… except they aren’t really in control. The game flings them across the map or under the world, and the player can’t help but sit in disbelief. Glitches are not a new thing in gaming; as with many other technologies, glitches have always shown themselves in various forms throughout the history of gaming. As a video game design student, it’s interesting to step back and take a good look at the effects that glitches have had in the world of gaming. From the interesting and useless glitches, such as the Minus World in Super Mario Bros., to the detrimental and destructive glitches, such as the game-breaking bugs found in Pokémon X and Y or the chaotic mess that was the new SimCity, glitches are here to stay whether gamers like them or not.
When Glitches Make It Better
Glitches have a strange way of destroying the immersive quality of a game while simultaneously adding an entirely new level of entertainment that the rest of the game lacks. One such glitch happened to me just last night. While playing Assassin’s Creed IV, I found the Jackdaw’s pirate crew floating in an endless abyss where the boat should be. Suddenly, they ascend to the heavens and the boat appears from beneath the watery depths! In fact, I’ve had quite a few amazing glitches occur during Assassin’s Creed games!
Glitches like the one I just described are so utterly bizarre and random, and it is this quality that can cause a player to force themselves to stop and laugh, even during the most serious game. These are the types of glitches gamers will hunt for and post all over the Internet; gamers then come together in laughter and disbelief and talk about their own experiences. In a way, glitches can be a great way of bringing a community closer together.
When Glitches Make It Worse
Unfortunately, glitches can also inflict the opposite effect and ruin the experience of a game completely. Take for example the fiasco that was 2013’s SimCity; the insane amounts of glitches and sub-par optimization turned what was supposed to be a great new game into an utter disaster. The game took months to be brought up to an acceptable working order, but the damage was complete. Kotaku hit the nail on the head when they dubbed their reports on SimCity as the “SimCtiy Disaster Watch”.
There are also glitches that show up in an otherwise nearly perfect game and either shut the game down completely or are exploited for a dishonest gamer’s unfair advantage. I recall years ago, during the early years of the Nintendo DS, gamers finding countless walls and corners that could be exploited in Metroid Prime Hunters. These players would blast themselves through the wall where they could then hide outside of the arena on a tiny amount of invisible flooring. They would then be free to hunt down and kill any player that stayed in the game. It’s these glitches that are terribly detrimental to the spirit of gaming, especially multiplayer games.
In the end, when you stop to think about what a glitch really is,–a simple mistake amongst millions and thousands of lines of code, a small gap in between textures that can be squeezed through, or random inputs that crash a game–it can be easy to understand why they still continue to persist in the highly technologically advanced state that video games are a part of. Sometimes they are harmless, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes mortifying; however, they are still something we will continue to live with.
Feel free to share your most memorable glitches, whether funny or frustrating, in the comments, and enjoy more of the great glitches I’ve caught in the last year alone!