GlitchHiker was created during the Global Game Jam 2011 by team Aardbever: Vlambeers' Rami Ismail & Jan Willem Nijman and pixel artist-in-crime Paul Veer together with Jonathan Barbosa Dijkstra, Rutger Muller and Laurens de Gier.
“It’s a mechanic as old as games themselves: perform poorly and you lose a “life”. Experimental Dutch title GlitchHiker went a little further, though: perform poorly and the whole game died.” [Kotaku]
“A fascinating instance of ephemeral software.” [Inventing Interactive]
“Emotional involvement? It was almost as if it was art. No. It WAS art.” [Control Magazine]
Players all over the world played to save GlitchHiker from extinction and failed: GlitchHiker is a game that has gone extinct. Every successful attempt at collecting more than a hundred points restored the games’ system resources globally and every failure slowly destroyed it.
As the game system withered, increased amount of glitches appeared in the graphics, music, controls and gameplay. As soon as the game would run out of its resources, it would go extinct and become permanently unplayable, not just for that player or for a limited time – it would go extinct for everyone and forever.
With deceptively simple and accessible gameplay, the game lured players to give in to the responsibilities of playing the game. As GlitchHiker deteriorated, increasing amounts of people found themselves conflicted between their curiosity towards the game and the fear that they would be personally partaking in destroying it forever.
All that remains of GlitchHiker is a pair of videos and the memories of those who were there.
GlitchHiker was a temporal game which proved that even the premise of a videogame can emotionally influence and involve potential players. The synchronization of audiovisual elements with the game design and glitches allowed for people to understand the stakes of playing – stakes that were at an unprecedented level. People were scared to play the game based just on what they heard from other players, clearly feeling responsibility towards the wellbeing of the game. Some people became proficient playing GlitchHiker, fanatically balancing their achievements against the invasion of new players failing to reach the required hundred points. Some people experienced feelings of guilt towards not reaching a hundred points while not being able to summon the courage to try and make things right again. The hesitation before actually starting was something we have never seen in games before. GlitchHiker created a new type of game outside the game: Do you want to play? Do you want to let your friends play? Would you even tell your friends about the game, knowing that they might damage it even further? What would've happened if noone had ever given in to playing the game?