Glitches peel back the curtain on computer processing allowing users to see a distorted version of the intended outcome. If you’re really lucky these glitches will result in beautiful visual artifacts. And if you are REALLY lucky you might also find a glitch with both visual and mechanical consequences. Glitches as raw computational errors can even produce a profound narrative realignment from the games intended message. Thus, changing how we look at experiences entirely. As Matthew Fuller discusses in Software Studies “A glitch is stunning. It appears as a temporary replacement of some boring conventional surface; as a crazy and dangerous momentum (Will the computer come back to “normal”? Will data be lost?) that breaks the expected flow.”, this crazy dangerous momentum can be seen distorting the realities of some of our favorites game titles including my personal favorite: Journey (2012).
Journey 2012 developed by That Game Company is to this day is one the most thought provoking and visually striking the medium has to offer. The organic nature of environmental storytelling within Journey demonstrates exactly why video games are such a unique medium. The game has players discovering time ruined stone tapestries that depict a civilization torn by civil war. These stone tapestries as well as some gameplay sequences are the only means by which Journey conveys its message. It is one of resource corruption, environmentalism, and the inherit dangers of technological progress. This anti-conflict metaphor is personified within the Scarfs. Scarfs are the life blood of the world and allow the player to soar over the orange sand dusted landscape. But thanks to a glitch discovered by players, the Scarfs that limited how far a player could fly could be turned off. Thus, allowing unlimited means of flight!
Unlimited flight falls in direct contradiction with the central narrative of Journey. It could be said that it is this unlimited potential that caused the destruction of the Journeymen’s civilization to begin with. However, this flight glitch connects more with modern societies under late-stage capitalism. It exposes the real evil of gracefully bypassing all significant progress within the world, all sacred narrative monuments, and all scarf anamalia that requires rescuing.
While it may be cruel however, it is entirely fun. And what is a game if it isn’t fun?
Fuller, Matthew. Software Studies: a Lexicon. MIT, 2008.