Glitchhiker (2011)

Glitchhiker was a game submitted to the 2011 Global Game Jam by a group of six Dutch game designers associated with the studio Vlambeer. It doesn’t exist any more, because playing it – specifically, playing it badly – would corrupt it, introducing more glitches until the game become unplayable, and then extinct. (“Extinction” was the theme of the competition.)

If you go to the download page, you’ll be told that the game is extinct and can not be executed.

The game relied on a client/server architecture: like an MMO, social game or a virtual world, everyone was playing in the same “game,” albeit with different clients. This complicates Benjamin’s model of reproducible art – instead of every player having a copy, each player uses a copy to access a unitary “original” (albeit one which can be backed up, updated, patched.) Games of global persistence have their own kind of aura, but unlike a traditional auratic work, they are really only “gazed” at by the client software, which also provides the mechanism for altering–and in the case of Glitchhiker, destroying–the “original.”

Glitchhiker’s finitude is part of its poetry, as well. We participate in a fantasy of perfect cultural memory, in “archive fever,” as a way of dealing with (or avoiding) death (and perhaps as a strategy for capturing and domesticating cultural fields.) Anxiety about archiving the history of games and digital art projects, rather than simply documenting them, is a recurrent thread in discussions within new media art circles, game studies, and the digital humanities. Glitchhiker’s commitment to its own oblivion as a way of escaping it is connected also to its decision to delegate its own “execution” to the players.

Apparently, the game was killed by a “drunk Canadian.”

There’s more coverage of Glitchhiker on Vlambeer’s site.

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