In the System: Glitch Impressions
I’d love to be able to tell you Glitch was a good game, or even a mediocre one. I wish I could tell you that Glitch kept up with its lovely description: “The goal of Glitch is not to win over others or to drive your agenda. The goal of Glitch is to be happy.” And god, how I want to be happy, and not need the other things. I’d love to tell you that Glitch, a browser based MMO made by newcomers Tiny Speck with assistance from “Mr. Katamari” Keita Takahashi was anything like the playgrounds the latter wanted to create. Nothing would make me happier than that.
Unfortunately, Glitch shows us some hard truths of gaming: no matter how much we love happiness, how much we love socializing, there’s no substitution for a good treadmill, a good victory. The problem isn’t so much that Glitch removes the competitive aspects of play. It’s that it removes anything that feels like achievement from a game squarely in a genre where long-term achievement is the only draw.
The plot of Glitch is utterly incredible: you’re a figment of some giant god’s imagination. So is the world you live in. You’re not real, not really; you’re just a dream. It’s lovely. The game’s aesthetic both contributes to and detracts from this fantasy. On one hand, every so often you’ll be teleported to strange, wonderful places like beanstalks sticking into the sky, places that don’t exist in the world. Sometimes you’ll end up in seedy back alleys, and you’ll wonder why the gods are dreaming of this. The worlds themselves, when you go further out, are fabulous and creative, filled with odd mushroom houses and jellyfish merchants.
But on the other hand, the gods have dreamed up pigs you have to pet, chickens you have to squeeze, fruits trees, and a ridiculously boring starting glade. So there’s that, too.
The problem with Glitch is that there isn’t really a game here. Your goals are to collect varieties of items: chicken bits, pig bits (you nibble on live pigs to get meat. Delicious), balloons, phials of gas, everything under the sun. You get more if you do these activities with friends, which is apparently the big hook of the game: do things with friends, have fun, and get more stuff. The problem is, this is as far as the developers thought. You collect hundreds of useless things, then you craft them into other useless things or sacrifice them for the favor of the various gods so you can level up your skills faster. Higher level skills let you collect useless things faster.
You can see the problem: there’s no endpoint. There’s no point in this vicious circle where you can say, “I’m not grinding,” and instead say, “I’m having fun!” By cutting out all the traditionally “grindy” elements of the MMO, the kill ten boars quests, the instances with 3% drop rates on crucial items, what they’ve managed to leave behind isn’t so much a game as it is an exercise in repetition for no reason. You’re just picking choices from menus because that’s what the game exists to let you do: it is a choices from menus simulator.
There’s no compulsion, in other words. You’re not going to want to go back to the game because there’s no real reason to. Sure, the whimsey helps, but the movement of the character isn’t satisfying, the actions you can perform aren’t satisfying, and there’s really just a minimum of fun to be had here. If I wanted to experience the sort of things the game has to offer, I’d grab some friends and go to the park. That’s kind of what Glitch is: going to the park, the game. You’ll get to play with a dog, jump on a stone wall, and sometimes get called to assist a bug living under a monstrous table. It might be fun to hang out with your friends in it, but you wouldn’t dare go it alone.