Bethesda’s Fallout 4 has received a number of criticisms for its morality system–or rather, its lack thereof. One of the staple features of previous releases in the Fallout series, “karma” (a measurement of morally good vs morally bad decisions) required a sort of moral engagement with the world of the game.
This is the second part of a discussion on glitches, black bodies, and social justice movements. You can find Side A here.
Glitches have traditionally been viewed as an error, a problem in need of fixing. As Olga Goriunova and Alexei Shulgin write, “…a glitch is a short-term deviation from a correct value…The outcome of a glitch is not predictable. When applied to software…a glitch is an unpredictable change in the system’s behavior, when something obviously goes wrong” (emphasis their own). Oftentimes, the word is accompanied by choice phrases that express complete and total frustration when, inevitably, a computer freezes and your work is lost.
For the purposes of their argument, Goriunova and Shulgin’s decision to simplify “glitch” and use it as a means to signify “error,” makes much sense. In fact, in many cases, a glitch truly only is ever seen as an error (take a TV screen glitch or a glitch in an electronic system’s hardware, endlessly frustrating experiences for both the individual trying to use the system and the individual charged with fixing the problem). However, in defining a glitch solely as an error, Goriunova and Shulgin in fact miss the nuances that come into being when one attempts to define what the term “glitch” refers to in the modern digital space, particularly in terms of digital games.
“Men simply copied the realities of their hearts when they built prison. They simply extended into objective reality what was already a subjective reality. Only jailers really believe in jails.”
—Richard Wright (The Outsider)
I begin with two moments, three months apart.
July 26th, 2015 marked the final day of activities for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives conference. Held at Cleveland State University, the conference aimed to bring together freedom fighters from across the nation in order to “begin the creation of a collective mission that matches the intensity, scale, urgency, and promise of the moment. This convening presents an opportunity for us to reflect on our histories of struggle, build a sense of fellowship that transcends geographical boundaries and begin to heal from the many traumas we face”.
This past January, I taught a week-long January term course entitled “Winners Don’t Smash Buttons: A Video Game Practicum.” This blog post is a summary of what happened over the course of the week; if you’re interested in reading a digital essay on the experience, the course website (gaming.5colldh.org) explores issues of death, reincarnation, play, and so much more. Course syllabus is available here.