Game development is, when you think about it, a really bloody thankless task.
You spend months, years even, slaving over your work, making sure everything is optimized, beautiful, and fun. Then an upstart hack bastard comes along and goes, “Ergh, well it’s a little bit buggy and I didn’t enjoy the shooting blah blah blah.” So then the scorned developer goes back and painstakingly removes each little bug, and then what happens?
That same hack goes and writes an article about how glitches are actually brilliant. We really are the worst kind of scum.
Still, it’s true. There’s a beautiful element of discovery to finding glitches in games, like treading the hallowed grounds of the old library’s forbidden section, or accidentally wandering into McDonalds’ ‘Employees Only’ restroom.
One of my own earliest gaming memories is reading about a particular trick that one could utilize in Tony Hawk’s Underground. If one continually wall jumped, then one could escape the borders of the level. To an impressionable child such as I, this was the most exciting news imaginable. Think of all of the weird and wonderful areas you could explore by actually escaping the confines of the game! There’d be rampaging animals, maybe some aliens, carnivorous plants; that kind of thing.
Needless to say, actually putting the wall jump trick into action led to the first of many crushing disappointments in my life. Regardless, the love for glitches held by that starry-eyed, moronic child remains in this jaded, moronic sort-of-adult.
In order to exemplify this, let me relay to you my fondest memory of Skyrim, Bethesda’s sprawling epic of chilly dragon-bashing. Hundreds upon hundreds of hours were spent roaming through caves, harassing locals, and adding to what ended up being a distressingly large dragonscale collection. (Quick tip: By the tenth bit of dragonscale perched on your wall, you really start to hit diminishing returns on the impressiveness. People begin thinking of you less as Dragonborn and more as Dragonfetishist. Dovah-bit-too-keen.)
Amongst all of this, though, the one thing that sticks with me to this day is a glitch. I’d left my house in Whiterun, turned around, and audibly gasped at the scene before me. A bust of a man was staring up at me. I say the bust of a man because the rest of him had sunken into the cobbled paving. His blank face only served to make the situation exponentially more absurd. We looked at one another for a while – me giggling incessantly, he remaining stoic in the face of considerable adversity.
Not all bugs are born equal, though. There’s undoubtedly something transcendentally beautiful and amazing about a person stuck in the ground, but there’s a fine line that must be walked in order to get there.
Game-breaking bugs, bugs that break the game, are a big no-no. They actively hinder the game’s ability to continue being a game. For more of this insight, be on the lookout for my next book: Simple Deductions From Obvious Etymology For Dummies.
That previous joke, incidentally, is from my latest book Tortured Witticisms to Artificially Increase Your Article’s Word Count.
That previous joke, incidentally, is from my latest book Taking It Way Too Far: How To Suck All The Life Out Of A Gag.
You also have games that use bugs as a feature, which surely should be right up my alley! These particular games usually have ‘Simulator’ in the title, and they’re usually low-effort dross motivated by the sole desire of making a quick buck. Let’s take Goat Simulator as being one of the least cynical examples, seeing as it actually has some fucking content. A major draw here is the claim that ‘all non-game-breaking bugs will be left in’. Implicit in this is the assertion that more bugs equals more hilarity, which I outright reject.
Sure, it’s funny the first time you see the goat’s little old head going all wibbly-wobbly when it’s next to a wall. Hey, it might even be funny the next few times. Before long, though, it stops becoming a funny, out-of-place bug and starts becoming a feature. A run-of-the-mill, boring old feature.
Glitches are best when they come straight out of left-field; they shouldn’t be the expected norm. Games can, occasionally, rightly or wrongly, get a bit po-faced. It’s comforting to know that, however wrapped up with the seriousness of its own message a game may be, there’s a chance that you could turn the corner and there will be a person stuck in the ground.
Come what may, there’s always the chance that there will be a person stuck in the ground.
God bless video games.