Back in the 90s, I used to visit this (to my young eyes) very cool shop in my very uncool hometown. It was cool because it sold vinyls, endless Heavy Metal CDs, pin badges and large, embroidered patches bearing the name of bands you wanted everyone to know you liked. Every time I visited the shop it was a test of my coolness – and one which, now I think about it, I definitely failed.
As it turns out, picking up a copy of H.I.M. and giving the guy at the till a knowing, “we’re both real metal fans, aren’t we?” look does not make you cool. Especially not to a man twice your age who could probably tip out the contents of your pencil case and disembowel you in increasingly creative ways with every utensil inside.
But my point is this: even though I definitely wasn’t cool, I really loved owning those patches. I would deliberately rip holes in my denim jacket so I could get my mum to sew on a Nirvana badge.
I feel sort of similarly about video games, if only because the word “patch” reminds me of being that (very cool) teenager. Sometimes it feels like glitches are the equivalent of buying a pair of artistically ripped jeans, too. Older people will guffaw, and say things like “you children are stupid, buying jeans with holes in. In my day, jeans had no holes. We had to push our feet through the ends of the denim tubes ourselves”.
I like holes in jeans. I like jumpers that sort of look like they’re inside out. And guess what? I like glitches. Not the game-breaking ones, but the ones that either benefit you (free money, infinite items, extra legs so you can scuttle around like a spider) or provide you with many hours of good-quality laughter and, if you play your cards right, a semi-viral hit on Reddit.
Take Fallout 4, which was patched by Bethesda this week. The Fallout games are notorious for being released with so many bugs it would make Pest Control uneasy. Some of those bugs break quests and need fixing, such as framerate problems, or the time I shot someone so hard they flew through a wall and now I can’t find their corpse to put a calling card on it.
But what about the less problematic quirks, such as the infinite bottle cap glitch which was stamped out in the 1.02 patch this week? It’s a funny little bug that can be exploited if the player wishes, but it’s of no harm to the overall gameplay experience.
Would we also have wanted Game Freak to have fixed the infinite item cheat in the original Pokémon games? Or was it better that it lived on to be as fondly remembered as the games themselves?
Many of the bugs in Fallout 4 are enjoyable, unplanned quirks, like watching creepy synth detective Nick Valentine adopt swimming as his main method of travel, or seeing a body caught in some kind of strange post-death spasm that makes them twerk in ways that would make Miley Cyrus envious.
These kind of glitches are endearing – like a drooling baby – and personally I wouldn’t want to see them stamped out.
There are some people in the world that want to fix games to be all uniformly perfect and shiny and great. – but would you want that to happen to people? Would you want to iron out all their quirks and weirdness? Glitches remind me that the world isn’t perfect, that perfection is dull, and that sometimes there can be unexpected, unintended layers of fun inside things that are already fun.
And sometimes, glitches show us the developers’ sense of humour – like with The Witcher 3’s Bovine Defence Initiative being introduced as punishment for players attempting to exploit a cow-based glitch. Some have become legendary, like Pokemon’s missingno – so legendary, in fact, people are even buying missingno plushies – and the ‘Press X to Shaun‘ glitch from Heavy Rain.
And how could we forget Lord of the Rings Online’s rocket chair glitch? Let’s also not forget that (Spoiler alert), it’s glitches that save the day in Wreck-It Ralph.
YouTube : www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWfPx2VkdWI
When they’re not ruining the overall experience, glitches can become a positive part of a game’s identity. They can also make for a lot of unintended fun. So I say stuff your patches, give us the bugs.