Grad Research: Carrie Andersen writes on videogame glitches and joy in Flow

A videogame glitch

Apparently we have quite a bit of publishing going on this month in the American Studies department. Last week, Carrie Andersen published a column for Flow about the joy that arises from discovering absurd videogame glitches, centering on a YouTube personality and gamer named Dopefish. We’ve posted an excerpt below, and the full article can be found here:

Unsurprisingly, videogame designers and coders have been concerned with creating virtual, realistic, immersive spaces where the glitch is similarly undesirable (although perhaps not as world-ending). As designer Toby Gard writes, “When we are creating worlds in games, immersion is only possible for the player if we can convince the players that the space is authentic (whether stylized or not.).” The code that underlies the videogame holy grail—the authentic, immersive gaming world—is demystified if a character or background looks warped in such a way that players no longer buy into the illusion.

In line with Gard’s concern with the immersive virtual space, media scholar Eugénie Shinkle describes how videogames ideally use sophisticated simulations to hide their intricate, sublime technological codes, but failure events—glitches—make these codes visible and thus rupture bonds between player and game space. Consequently, players can lose control, meaning, and their senses of self. The game shifts from being a virtual arena for exercising player agency and posthuman subjectivity back into a clunky object, as lifeless as any piece of furniture.

In all of these cases, glitches occupy a space on a spectrum that spans from the minor irritation to the colossal fuck-up. But constructing the glitch so negatively ignores the real pleasure that can arise from encountering a hiccup in the technological system. What happens when failure events, rather than provoking a loss of our post-human selves or the literal end of the world, instead evoke happiness?

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