Glitch Stories: Liar, Liar, Goblet of Fire.

I used to lie a lot as a kid. Which isn’t to say that now I’m a bastion of truth, but my childhood feels like a broad tapestry of clumsily laid deceptions in comparison. Some of those lies are easier to remember, especially ones that went wrong. They’re the ones that stuck, when I was left with the fallout of my cunning deceits unfolding in real time, and thinking in kid voice “oh shit, they know.”

One specific thing I would lie about were videogame glitches. I was about eight or nine years old at the time, and between me and my small group of friends glitches were a big deal. While videogames were god, glitches were the addictive interludes of the devil. They represented a space existing beyond the magical realm of videogames, something totally unique, bizarre and forbidden.

For instance, dating my childhood to the mid-2000s exactly, the glitches me and my best friend exploited most came from the buggy AI police cars in Driv3r, that haven of bizarre object interactions.

To me glitches in play can still have that effect they did then, turning the prescriptive ‘made’ reality of a game space into something unique to my experience, it’s the equivalent of an absurdist freakout, or an orgasm (as put brilliantly by Legacy Russel, in 2012).

So as an anxious prepubescent these moments of captivating sublimety were something I had to recreate. That adulation was the goal behind claiming a ‘glitch’ in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the PlayStation 2 had caused Ron Weasely to fall down a cliff and then come back with a limp, wearing a cast on his leg. This total illogic was bought by my friends for a time, but on the demand for evidence of this remarkable find, I’d had to admit that it was a story.

What hurt about that was the response, my friend taking me apart utterly as they stated that all of my glitches were stories, and that everything I said was a story. Being unique and interesting was important to me, consistently in fear of being unloved by everyone around me, and so that day I was hollowed out. Kids are weird.

Thinking about it now it’s easy to see how my lie had fallen apart though. If this were truly a glitch, Ron wouldn’t have returned with a cast at all. By adding that detail I was trying to up the ante, make it clear that my otherwise kind of unremarkable idea for a glitch was actually something special. I wasn’t thinking of the differences between easter eggs and glitches, how it would be an extremely odd programming error that ended up altering the Ron mesh to include a fully rendered leg cast, or even thinking that programming was a thing.

To me games were living things almost, and glitches weren’t down to programming errors or faulty hardware, they were a form of magic. They made things happen that weren’t meant to happen, they broke reality. Trying to conjure that magic in fiction failed, I didn’t see that a glitch didn’t need to have a punchline, that the magic was their unscripted intrusions on the world, exposing an unruly and ungoverned place for just a moment.

I wanted to be the glitch, but it turns out, I was just a kid.

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