Glitches in games can be annoying but they can be the source of humour, vital to speedrunning, and the focal point of video game art. This blog post will list a few examples of glitches, glitches in video game art, and how people have used them.
This essay from Nathan Wainstein looks at glitches—primarily within Cyberpunk—and whether they’re accidental or on purpose:
[…] As often happens in Cyberpunk, one moment you’re cruising through Night City, the next you’re falling through a white void peering up at the flimsy undersides of streets and buildings, floating textures arrayed — as in William Gibson’s description of cyberspace itself — like a “transparent 3-D chessboard extending to infinity.” Such violations of a game’s projected reality, Sam Barsanti has written, are akin to “going backstage at a Chuck E. Cheese, but instead of seeing empty mouse costumes and machinery, you’ll find vast wastelands of darkness, mysterious black cubes that serve some unknown function, and creepy close-up eyeballs.” The texture of Barsanti’s analogy — cosmic horror crossed with modernist minimalism — underscores the easy assimilability of such disturbances to quite conventional standards of good art.
Despite this, however, the critical reception of Cyberpunk’s reality-breaking glitches (I’ll leave aside the genuinely game-breaking ones for now) has been uniformly negative. In the gaming world, glitches are flaws, plain and simple. Certainly, they can be celebrated for their comedic value or exploited for gameplay advantages, and there also exists a thriving field of “glitch art,” including one artist who has used Cyberpunk to produce images — some quite beautiful — that further highlight glitches’ essentially modernist or postmodernist visual potential. But I have yet to encounter anyone who has seriously argued — as critics have often done about nearly every other kind of surface deviation in art, from continuity errors in films to spelling mistakes in poems — that a glitch in Cyberpunk genuinely improves the game artistically.
Manu Sharma spoke to four ROM Corruption artists about their craft. ROM corruption is the art of corrupting a rom file to do things it’s not supposed to. The result is usually weird graphical and audio glitches. However, the RC artists gave their own definitions:
A click of my mouse, and a screenshot from a Legend of Zelda game opens up. It is a perfectly mundane, if slightly nostalgic, image in all but one key detail: Link, the protagonist, is possessed of a face that has been mangled by a glitch, with his mouth transformed into a jumble of vertical and horizontal lines, and his eyes completely missing.
This piece of surreal videogame artistry is part of a larger movement called ROM Corruption, and Jordan Bortner, the practitioner responsible for the aforementioned artwork, was among Dawnia Darkstone, Sabato Visconti and Rudy Paganini, as artists engaged with this craft, that I approached for interviews.
To begin with, I was curious as to how each one defined and approached ROM Corruption. I had hitherto understood it to be a collection of techniques used to distort, modify or outright break the data of old videogames, with the prefix serving data copied from a read-only memory chip, as is done to transfer the contents of old videogame cartridges onto PC systems, wherein the surreal magic happens.
Ben Barnhart examined the history of glitch art and its most popular artists:
Glitch Art is becoming increasingly popular and common in the design world lately, even though it’s been around for fifty years.
And while it might look like a mistake, we predict it’s going to be sticking around for a while. Digital culture is taking over everything, and that includes the art world. Enter Glitch Art.
In the age of technology, using coding to morph an image into an aesthetically pleasing error-ridden form of itself is one of the coolest types of digital art we’ve seen.
Missingno is one of the most famous glitch entities in gaming and it has spawned a host of art pieces, prints, stickers, t-shirts, etc. There was also an instance where a Pokémon franchise artist made official art of Missingno in a few of its forms.
Peanut Butter Gamer has a lot of great hacking videos out but this is my favourite just for the song near the end.