The world ended at 8pm on Sunday night, with a grinding from overclogged servers. I wasn’t even there to see it; booted mere moments before the clock wound down to zero, I was frantically refreshing while others were standing around in huddled groups, waiting for the end to come on streets littered with belongings cast aside by those who no longer needed them.
I am speaking, of course, of Glitch, a delightfully whimsical massively multiplayer game that I was only recently introduced to. Almost as soon as I got immersed in the world, the game’s parent company, Tiny Speck, sadly announced that it was being forced to close the game because it simply wasn’t sustainable; it needed more subscribers and more of a following, and the Flash base upon which the game was built just wasn’t up to the task of supporting all of us anymore.
In the mythology of Glitch, eleven Giants created the world through imagination, dreaming up a far-flung series of islands and a mainland with numerous streets through which you could wind, interacting with all sorts of creatures (piggies, chickens, butterflies, sloths...) and plant life (fruit trees, gas trees, spice trees...) as well as peat bogs, rocks for mining, and more. As you gained experience and skills, you could compound elements, build things, teleport, and cook a variety of dishes.
I have to confess that I’ve never really been into games in general, let alone online games (but Lesley has some recs if you want to get into them!), especially those that involve some sort of facsimile of real-life activities; I didn’t need to cook fake things online when I could cook real ones offline, didn’t need to pretend to be a miner when I could go dig a hole in the back yard.
The thing about Glitch, though, was that it wasn’t so much about the tasks you could perform, but the world, which was so very fun to explore. The concept reminded me of Myst and Riven (remember those?), where exploring the game was the game, and your goal as a player was just to have fun and play with things. Except that in Glitch, you also met and interacted with people, sharing resources and skills to complete tasks.
I added floors to my house and built a tower and farmed and grew trees, and I met random people and gave them things and got random things in return. I scooped jellisacs and scraped mortar barnacles and smelted iron ore and rubbed ingots. But more than that, I roamed through a game world that was innovative, creative, fun, magical, and sometimes strikingly beautiful. There were frozen lands and savannas and utterly topsy-turvey dadaistic places with stairs to nowhere.
There was Shim Shiri, oh, glorious Shim Shiri, subject of so much controversy, where you teleported through dino intestines to different locations; your character would bounce around in their guts and get pooped out at Shim Shiri, and you could take another dinosaur to another place by getting sucked up its butt and spat out somewhere new. Some players said it was undignified and juvenile. Others loved it.
What set Glitch apart as a game and as a world was the sense of wonder everywhere; the game developers were totally into making it weird, silly, whimsical, and funny. It didn’t stop when they announced the closure -- they introduced helikitties, possibly the most amazing thing ever, and an entirely new location, the Vortex of Random, which took you through a series of bizarre and sometimes hauntingly beautiful streets.
They were as sad as we were to see the game go, and the last day of the game was filled with announcements from various Giants, bidding us farewell. People frantically quested to fulfill last-minute badges to add to their lists; I managed to score a First Rate Beancounter myself, to tack to the wall with my H2Oh!, Hen Hugger Supremalicious, Egg Poacher, Sprout Stroker, and more. People gave things away to each other and every street became crowded with people standing around and talking, knee-deep in items others had collected and discarded. A friend frantically raced to complete her Maniacal Foxbrusher badge while others, like me, just wondered through the world, visiting favorite spots to say farewell.
The last place I visited was Sliding Skimmers in Drifa, a frozen lake that I’d come to acquire a deep fondness for over my time at Glitch. It was packed solid with people, and then I was abruptly booted out as the server became overloaded with the sudden flood of users wanting to bid the world farewell.
I open Glitch every morning, just in case it was a bad dream. I suspect that in a few weeks I’ll start to get over it, but there’ll be a part of me that always misses it; it was proof for me that other people love whimsy with a hint of juvenilia and witty references and goofiness too. Apparently not enough other people loved it to keep it alive, but I can keep hoping that Glitch will be resurrected -- perhaps in a slightly different form, perhaps with a stronger engine than Flash, perhaps with a business model that is sustainable for long-term survival.
Until then, hail and farewell, Glitch.