Why I Play: Glitch

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Why I Play: Glitch
The Rook artwork
As I began to write this column, it struck me that there are some people who do not actually want to play Glitch by Tiny Speck. I wanted to change the usual title of this column to "Why, of course I play Glitch!" but then I thought about my editors glaring at me from across an email. I guess I should explain my love for Glitch, the type I normally reserve only for certain wonderful titles like RuneScape, Dark Age of Camelot, Mabinogi, Wurm Online, Ryzom, MilMo, or even World of Warcraft years ago. I apologize, but it's a bit hard to explain something that seems so obvious.

Some people probably consider Glitch a game for younger players or for players who are not as serious about their digital lifestyle. Why Glitch would not be taken as seriously while a game like Darkfall or (ironically) World of Warcraft is considered a more serious gaming venture is beyond me. But then, I think all gaming is silly... that's why it's wonderful.

Glitch screenshot
Don't call it a Facebook game

First of all, there is no such thing as a "Facebook game." There are games that use Facebook's massive audience -- wisely so -- and games that are accessible only through Facebook, but to refer to any game that has any type of "energy" system or mechanic as a "Facebook game" denies all of the wonderful games, MMOs, and entertaining activities on Facebook. Second, I know that players mean any "ville" game when they use the term "Facebook gaming," but Glitch is nothing like that. Only someone who hasn't experienced the game would think so.

There is a social aspect to the game, true. In fact, the social ties you find in the game almost completely define it. Strangely, though, that social connection or even referring to it as "social" tends to provoke disdain from many core MMO players. In my opinion, it's ironic that those same MMO players have fallen into the category of "repetitive activity consumers." They raid, they grind for rep, and they grind out levels. There's almost no social aspect to many MMO players' gaming lives, unless you count their very limited guild or friends list.

Glitch is becoming more social over time. With almost every patch, there is some new way to share a part of yourself with other players. The great housing revamp scared me at first; I thought players would stay inside their homes, rarely venturing outside into the greater world of Ur. In some ways, this has happened, but players are still inviting each other into their spaces, making trades, and exploring the world as much as before. The more creative tools are added to the world, the more players want to connect with each other.

Glitch screenshot
Bittersweet makes for good entertainment

I love it when a game makes me feel something other than the rush of combat. These are virtual worlds, not just virtual combat arenas. I see combat in MMOs as a job -- an unrealistic one. Death is a joke in most MMOs; it's not scary at all. If a game can freeze me for a moment and make me feel a bit sad or can make me think "Oh." then it's done a wonderful thing. So many MMOs feature lore that mentions sad events or catastrophes, but rarely does any of them allow a player to experience one.

Glitch is not filled entirely with these moments; it's also filled with odd bits of surrealistic wonder that poke at the nostalgia nerve, just enough to bring up feelings for a time long past. Players are literally taken to zones that explore the past of Ur, to blank apartments that exist for who-knows-what reason, and to recent quests that walk players through a summer's day. These all operate on the same principle that memories of high school or that wonderful night at the beach do. The act of remembering is itself an exercise in melancholy because we will never get those times back. Even a video game that features cartoony characters and outrageous surroundings can fire off those all too familiar feelings. It's subtle but powerful stuff.

The Rook concept art
Evil does not smile

I'm so tired of smart-alec, smirking Hollywood villains. You know the type: They giggle evily as the hero is tied up and gagged. Soon they spill the beans about their secret plan while those of us in the audience think "Just shoot the hero -- he's right there!" Villains are a gimmick these days, or they're simply rehashed versions of tropes we've seen before. Evil clowns, smirking demons... it's silly, all of it. Real villains, those who truly scare us, do not smile. They do not laugh or giggle maniacally. They show up, mess up everything, and leave.

The Rook, the native enemy of the Glitchen, does not laugh or mock the players. He, she... it simply wants to destroy the Giant's imagination. The Rook wants nothing more than to tear apart everything that is good about the world of Ur. The creatures rarely show themselves, but when they do, it can be a chaotic mess just to scare them away. Players have to work together, concentrating on a nearby shrine and sending beams of power to hit the Rooks, eventually pushing them away. It's not easy and can be quite exciting, In fact, if you watch one of my old livestreams of Glitch, you can get a real taste of the chaos. (Watch soon after the 37:00 mark.)

"The giant black bird is an uncaring, cold killer. It wants nothing more than to destroy what the Glitchen work so hard to build."

Fighting a Rook is about the only combat you will see in Glitch. I love that. Even if I saw a Rook attack only every few months, that would serve me just fine. Combat, for most of us in real life, is not something we see every day. When we do see violence, it is harsh and nothing like we thought it would be. It can affect us long after we witness it. A Rook attack is a small representation of how dangerous the world can be, even if it is a world made of pure imagination. The giant black bird is an uncaring, cold killer. It wants nothing more than to destroy what the Glitchen work so hard to build. To be honest, I want to see the Rooks sweep through and do some sort of massive damage to the world, a cataclysmic event that would change everything. That sort of thing is thrilling to me because it lets me work through my fears of death and violence in a tiny, safe way. That's better than not dealing with them at all.

I want to clear up some things before I let this one go. Before, I only half-reported the reasoning behind why Tiny Speck has, at the time of this writing, not opened the game back up to more players. I speculated that the studio could have other reasons (and it could!), but the likely truth is that it is simply retooling the newbie experience. I know because I asked whether the developers might get me a brand-new account to put up in my latest Choose My Adventure series, but they told me that a new character isn't possible yet. So please, stop asking me if I know when an invite will happen. And no, I do not have any invites left... I gave them away a long time ago.

Perhaps, once the Rooks have gone to roost for a while, the game will open up to new players. Until then, this is why I play Glitch.

There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.
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