If the release of Fallout 4 and its various reported bugs tell us anything, it’s that glitches in games can prove to be quite a controversial thing – and rightly so.
Video game glitches can block players from progressing a game, corrupt their save files, utterly destroy the atmosphere of a scenario and just generally prevent the player from playing the game as intended. In a day and age where developers can patch a game without too much of a hassle, it’s debatable that this is less of an issue nowadays – but when you’ve paid a fair chunk of money for a product that does not act as it should, that matters.
You’ve seen the title of this article already (I hope), so you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.
Although glitches are a cause for concern whether they’re game-breaking or not – and they absolutely are a cause for concern – is it ever acceptable for a game to have glitches? Not game-breaking glitches, of course – they’re absolutely never acceptable and should be patched out ASAP – but is it acceptable for a game to have any glitches at all?Developers certainly have a responsibility to assure the quality of their products – after all, they’ve taken money from consumers that expect a quality product – but is it realistic to expect a game to have no glitches at all? Even with most ‘AAA’ titles going through extensive bug-testing, and increasingly public beta testing, the large-scale, high-budget games that the market demands nowadays gives more room for error. Expecting large, game-breaking bugs to not be present at launch is a fair expectation, but is expecting a game to be totally glitch-free fair?
I’d argue no – at least not at launch.
It’s impossible to expect a game on the scale of a typical AAA game to be without any glitches. A certain level of quality should be expected/demanded from developers for your hard-earned cash, but to expect perfection just isn’t realistic. Modern games are just such large projects – even for a large team – that it really just isn’t ever going to be perfect. To expect any serious errors to be fixed imminently at launch if they haven’t already been picked up on prior to launch should be expected, mind.
Now, are glitches ever more than acceptable? Are they sometimes ‘part of the experience’?
Some games are either riddled with glitches or contain one or two fairly entertaining ones that seem to become accepted by the community as ‘part of the experience’. Famous examples include Skyrim, Fallout 3, Assassin’s Creed, and the infamous GTA IV swing glitch. (Note how these are all open-world games.)
As most of these glitches are, in the grand scheme of things, fairly minor and don’t affect the core gameplay, players tend to accept these glitches. Heck, Fallout 3 and GTA IV’s glitches in particular certainly felt like part of the experience to me personally, and I feel my own experiences with the games were better for it.
Of course, one of the most famous video game glitches is the Missingno glitch from the original set of Pokémon games. Following a very specific set of instructions, this jumbled mess of code appears on screen as a wild Pokémon and, when caught, can affect your game in a variety of strange and interesting ways.
In a tight community like that of Pokémon’s, the Missingno glitch (and others like it) have proven very popular, with many players going out of their way to discover exactly how Missingno works, why it happens and all of the possibilities surrounding it, making for a very interesting addition to the game’s culture.
Whereas very few would argue that Missingno is a regrettable addition to the game, just how do people feel about video game glitches as a whole? Conducting this oh-so-scientific study, I polled my own Twitter audience on how they felt about video game glitches.
The majority of people felt that video game glitches could be acceptable under certain conditions. Some seemed to acknowledge that this was just a byproduct of modern video game development.
Some people even agreed with me on glitches potentially adding to the charm of a game.
Whereas others seemed to feel that glitches were not acceptable in the modern age at all and that better pre-release testing should be performed.
There’s no real definitive answer.
For many, glitches just shouldn’t exist at all as it’s not the product you put your money towards and consumers should expect better. For others, on some occasions, glitches can be acceptable – or, rather, a part of a game’s charm altogether.