Getting Into Gaming: Glitch
I am neither a competitive, nor strategically minded person. I’m competitive in the same way that a brick floats and my idea of strategy is to hide behind a massive defence and carry on like nothing has happened. Which is why I never really got into MMOs. I tried DotA, a fairly standard multiplayer game… Once, for about 30 seconds and in that time I alternated between not knowing what I was doing and not enjoying it when I did. So I was naturally reluctant to venture forth into the massively multiplayer universe. Hearing stories like this and this didn’t do anything to improve my opinion of MMOs nor the people I expected I would encounter in them.
Then one day my boyfriend came to me proclaiming that he had finally found an MMO he was sure I would like. No, love! His pitch was: you’re a tiny person in an imaginary world and all you do is run around helping people complete quests and buy a pretty house and just be nice to everyone. (A friend of ours later described it as: game where you run around harassing chickens and biting pigs.)
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He sent me the link on Facebook and I set up my account. The word “GLITCH” appeared in big friendly letters and a little animation of a world with changing biomes ran while the game loaded. To be honest, the moment I clicked the link I had already decided I would like it. The graphics were so… Cute! And the site was friendly and welcoming. It talked to me like a nurturing parent, which made me feel like I didn’t have to try too hard with my user name and that my avatar didn’t need to be dressed like a dragon-slaying glam rocker.
As I landed in the world I was greeted by a talking rock who guided me through a series of seemingly pointless but highly enjoyable tasks, like petting trees (which talked back), digging up dirt (which also talked back) and giving people kisses with garlic breath. The world was crazy and backwards: you had to squeeze chickens to get grain, harvest eggs from trees and milk came from butterflies. But it was fine! It all made perfect sense when I got there. No matter what inconsistencies the writers threw at me, and no matter how weird the situation got, I just went with it! The people were friendly and generosity and good will were rampant. People would just give me things; plates of food, teddy bears, lumps of valuable rock would just appear in my inventory from someone I just walked past. Every type of tree and animal had its own personality and every region had its own landscape and climate, ranging from tundra to savannah, to giant blue mushrooms, to forest and meadow lands.
The further I progressed through the game the more intricate the quests got, but I never felt like I was competing with the other players and the world was entirely my own. I could go for days without actually completing a quest because I had decided to rather invest my time in growing a vegetable garden that spanned my entire property, or walking down every street in a region just because I felt like it! Playing the game made me feel happy, and the concept of an online community suddenly made so much more sense. There was the option to enter into battle, but it was always co-operative, with the avatars working together to fight off the evil Rooks who were trying to destroy the world we lived in! Co-operative was the key word for pretty much every aspect of the game. It was all about helping each other. A number of the quests were designed in such a way that they were impossible to complete by yourself. It encouraged you to ask for help and offer it in return and nobody was better than anyone else. Even the people with lots of money and big houses were encouraged to share their wealth with their neighbours, by letting them harvest from their trees or leaving useful items out for them to borrow. Sharing came naturally to almost everyone you met.
But then, having invested many hours into the game, I suddenly, and for no real reason stopped playing it. It wasn’t that I’d got bored or that I didn’t like it anymore, I just forgot about it. A year or so later I rediscovered it, and stumbled back to find the world had changed dramatically! There were new places to explore, new ways to interact with the other avatars and new quests to do. I was utterly lost for a while, until one of my fellow Glitches – a friend I had made when I first started playing – offered to teach me how everything worked. Every time I got stuck I would message him asking for help, or ask someone in the area. Either way, help would always come… That was one aspect of the game that had stayed the same.
Sadly, only a few months after I got back into the game, an announcement came from the creators, TinySpeck, saying that the game would have to close. They said there wasn’t enough buy-in to keep it running, that the amount of effort required to run the game wasn’t relative to the number of people playing it. Everyone was refunded for any unspent real world money they had invested in their account, and the last day of Glitch was set to be 9 December 2012. The saddest part is that I wasn’t even able to be there when it closed. In retrospect it seems strange that I could miss a game like I would miss a friend, but it wasn’t ever about the game itself. It was about the people behind it; other players, the writers, the creator. I feel like I forgot to say goodbye and I’ll never get the chance again.
Glitch was a unique gaming experience. It was so optimistic and so focussed on people being the best they can. There was no sense of pretention, no showing off and best of all, no competition! It was a game that was more about the players than the game itself, a social platform with quests on the side to keep you busy. It not only improved my opinion of MMOs by showing me that there was more out there than WoW type games, but it also made me curious about what else I may be missing out on in the online world! Perhaps, somewhere there is another game about being friendly and generous… perhaps with a little less chicken squeezing and pig biting, or maybe not… Whatever.