Vlambeer‘s Global Game Jam jury and audience awards winner GlitchHiker is now dead on arrival at the virtual footsteps of the IGF 2012 judges.The developers took the Jam’s theme of extinction literally and created a game that at once existed but had eventually become permanently wiped out.
GlitchHiker’s life hinged on the abilities of its audience; every time a player played GlitchHiker and died, a life was deducted from the system. For every hundred points a player scored in GlitchHiker, a life was added. But as most people do as newcomers, they sucked. Yes, they literally sucked the life out of GlitchHiker until it became unplayable… extinct.
Vlambeer hinted that players reacted genuinely to GlitchHiker’s fluctuating life force. The idea and emotions surrounding the game seemed too intriguing to pass up, compounded with my curosity as to how or if a non-executable game should be judged by the IGF. While officials have not yet responded to GlitchHiker related questions, Rami Ismail offered his opinions and observations.
Are you reviving GlitchHiker for the IGF judges to play with and eventually kill it? Otherwise, how can someone judge a game that has gone extinct for everyone forever?
Rami Ismail: We feel that GlitchHiker, in being unplayable, is playable. That might sound odd, but it comes down that its death is part of its gameplay and of its purpose. Basically, if you have the IGF line that says ‘At least one level of each Entered Game must be complete and fully playable’, the game’s death state would be the current level and the playable aspect would be to not be able to play, as you are participating within the designed ruleset.
If we were to revive it, we might as well not’ve submitted it: after all, if you can revive it, it’s not dead. We protected the game databases with a randomly generated password and disposed of it, so we have no way to revive it beyond trying to figure out how we made those databases in the first place, which, given the fact that the game was made in 48 hours without sleep, might prove more problematic than it sounds.
What kind of responses did you get from people who actually played Glitch before it “died?
Well, that was the amazing thing. People were actually empathic towards the game. The moment the first person said, “I’m not playing this, I could kill it!” was the moment we realized we made something unique. There was guilt with those that failed to score the required 100 points to break even the life the game spends when you start a game and a feeling a responsibility in those that succeeded to try and sustain the game system.
What was really cool was that the game itself actually degraded as its lives diminished. By the time there were 25 lives left (of the 100 it started with) the game had turned from perfectly clean and undamaged into a glitching mess with audio-stutters.
What inspired you guys to create this game that causes all these difficult choices for the player?
Glitch music and the Global Game Jam theme of extinction. It all kind of came together after an hour or two of brainstorming during the Global Game Jam with a team consisting of me and JW from Vlambeer, our pixel animator Paul Veer and our friends Laurens de Gier, Jonathan Barbosa Dijkstra and musician Rutger Muller.
Where did this premise come from: (premise of a videogame can emotionally influence and involve potential player)?
The premise of the game was seeing the amount of lives it had left on the website / second screen. The game tries to lure people in with flashes, its music, the vibrant colors and the seemingly simple gameplay. It all seems playable and fun, but the moment you sit down you’re confronted with the reality that what you do could potentially withhold that experience from everyone else, forever. Some sat down and decided they couldn’t do it. Some were scared. Those that scored new lives tried to score more. Those that lost lives felt guilt and scurried away.
What can you tell me about the “social/human” experiment aspects of GlitchHiker?
We think GlitchHiker is proof that there’s potential to reach out to peoples emotions beyond the typical game emotions (such as stress or excitement) through game mechanics instead of narrative techniques. GlitchHiker, if it had any narrative, was its own narrative through its mechanics only. A completely self-contained entity that depended on us, the players, to keep it alive.
What more can we know about Glitch’s past and future? Will anyone else ever get to play it?
GlitchHiker took 48 hours to create. It was played by 52 people and died 6 hours after launch. At the moment it died, we were sitting in a bar having some post-game jam drinks when someone texted us that there were only three lives left. There was this one guy who had fanatically been playing the game, trying to save the game – and we’re assuming that he earned the two lives that raised the amount of lives to four. On our next refresh of the website, the game was gone. Believe it or not, our table fell silent for almost half a minute.
Like I said, nobody will get to play GlitchHiker again. We can’t restart or revive it, and if we could, we shouldn’t. We wouldn’t. GlitchHiker is dead. The dead cannot return.
Do you think your game will be more difficult to judge than IGF Pirate Kart? I find that both games present challenging issues for the judges to face.
Well, it will most certainly take less time to judge. It’s a totally different thing than the Pirate Kart – in GlitchHiker, there is only the concept to judge. The IGF Pirate Kart, on the other hand, while we think it is an amazing initiative that allows every game to be seen by a larger audience, is 300 games that need judging. We think everyone should download the Pirate Kart, though, if only because it has Murder Dog in there.