Friday, October 12, 2012

Glitch by Tiny Speck


My MMO history has been very briefly detailed on a previous post, but the even shorter form is that I've played nothing for more than a week. Glitch doesn't buck that trend, but it was still a damned good week.

I came to Glitch because of the news that Keito Takehashi, of Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy 'fame' was seduced back to working on video games (from his brief retirement spent designing playground structures) by the promise of this game. He even moved from Japan to Vancouver for it. Yikes! Worth a moment of my time at least.

I got on the beta invite list as soon as I could and played it, and I don't really remember it, except that it was boring and I milked a bunch of butterflies. The art was pretty, but the game was dumb. That was probably a year ago. A few weeks ago, I decided it was worth another shot and I don't think I did anything but for the next three days.

There is no combat in Glitch, and this is its genius twist. Combat can never be anything but a competition, and this competition infects all other MMO like the selfish meme it is. Even if the frame is 'us vs them' the spirit of the world is inevitably dragged into blades and conquest. By never bringing combat into the picture, Glitch has the potential of being a peaceful world about sharing and love and butterflies and nibbling on pigs.

Of course, potential could go bad, which is why it's so valuable that Glitch does everything it can to convince you to give, and give, and give. For instance, the tutorial grants you an item  called Random Kindness which enables you to bestow 50 Energy on another player in the same zone as you. One of my early experiences involved bestowing Random Kindness on another player who was hanging around mining, who jumped for joy, but then promptly wandered off. Five minutes later, she returned, accompanied by a mate. A little speech bubble popped up over her head: "this one". Her friend jumped once, then gave me a rather valuable bowl of chili, and the two were on their way.

What was the benefit of going out of their way to reward my sharing? I don't know what was on their mind specifically, but I do know that I never hesitated to share. And others never hesitated to share with me.

Glitch is a game about economy, and while it's an economy based primarily on personal accumulation, the impetus for accumulation is not a sense of competition and miserliness over the goods you have but rather endless trading. That this trade is rarely a barter per se, but rather an exchange of gifts and mainly with strangers, is a true triumph. And a triumph not just for games, but for society in general. I'm not sure I can overstate this game's effect on my optimism while I was ventured into it.