My fondest videogame memories involve breaking them

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[Dtoid community blogger JoyfulSanity has rediscovered the joy of gaming… through breaking his games. Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! –Mr Andy Dixon]

I’ve gotten hundreds of hours’ worth of entertainment out of Borderlands 2, yet I’ve never laughed harder than when my motley crew of friends discovered an exploit that turned a quest NPC into a Garry’s Mod style rag doll. And when I say “never laughed harder,” I’m talking about those laughing fits that have you keeled over while you desperately gasp for air, with tears filling your eyes as your lungs start to hurt with every giggle that escapes your mouth.

Videogames have made me laugh and cry, but rarely do they send me into complete euphoria unless there’s a glitch and a few friends involved. I know bugs are the bane of a developer’s existence, and occasionally they can ruin everything for gamers as well. But for those lapses of judgment that lead to unintentionally amazing gameplay experiences, I can only extend to the creators my sincerest thanks.

Actual footage of JoyfulSanity and co discovering glitches and dying of laughter. This may possibly be embarrassing.

Gamers love to push a game’s boundaries. When we find a glitch or an exploit that doesn’t crash a game entirely, it’s hard to just leave the discovery alone and continue with the experience the developers intended for us. Instead, many gamers like to push bugs further to see what hilarity or anarchy might ensue, like, say, catching MissingNo in Pokémon just to see what it does to the game. The joy in these seemingly banal glitches lies in treading uncharted territory: the developers never intended for you to stumble upon these particular bugs, so whatever happens next is completely unpredictable. In some cases, you may even find beta assets or areas that the creators never intended to be discovered.

The Warthog Launch from Halo (see above) is the quintessential example of this principle. Strategically placing grenades on vehicles to blow them into the air was such an enjoyable and beloved pastime that it inspired its own Flash puzzle game. Knowing that no programmer intended for vehicles to vault thousands of feet in the air due to a few explosions, the goal becomes seeing how badly the code can be abused to continuously more hilarious results.

But really, examples of great glitches throughout history are as numerous as they are hilarious. Even David Cage’s harshest critic would have a hard time disparaging Heavy Rain after witnessing this wonderful bug. (WARNING: MAJOR HEAVY RAIN SPOILERS!)

And then there are some games that are so barely functional that they might as well be considered glitched. I mean, Amazing Frog is just… it’s Amazing Frog, okay?

Dtoid Blogger Script recently talked about how gamers enjoy making games within games, and I think bug abusing harnesses that same kind of joy. Both involve pushing the rules and fundamentals of a game to the limit, so the player is creating and playing a game simultaneously. It’s one thing to talk about something funny that a developer coded into a game, but a totally different story to share how you broke a game to hilarious results.

I know this is a cliché to say at this point, but discovering amusing bugs makes me nostalgic for how unpredictable games seemed to me as a kid. As a child with no knowledge of technical limitations or tropes, it was hard for me to predict what would happen next in a game. Going to the moon in Final Fantasy IV or discovering there was yet another stage in Wily’s Castle were all genuine surprises to young JoyfulSanity, but it’s infinitely harder for older and cynical JoyfulSanity to recapture that magical feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing ominous Latin chanting at final bosses and seeing everyone who you helped along your journey give you strength to overcome the final obstacle, but that’s become stuff I expect from gaming. It’s hard to appreciate what a trend setter Final Fantasy VII was when you’ve been smothered by the trends it set.

Going back to my Borderlands 2 story, the footage from the video marks the 4th time I’ve completed that quest across different playthroughs and characters, so the thought of anything surprising me was the last thing on my mind. Humorously, abusing the game the way we did made me appreciate the game more as it gave us a reason to explore different areas that aren’t along the usual quest paths. We no longer knew what to expect from the game, which made every additional absurdity that much more amusing. We were as much to blame for what was happening as the game was.

Fortunately, there is evidence that game creators have become privy to how amusing certain bugs can be. While Skyrim surely had plenty of bugs that were more of the annoying variety, Bethesda infamously said before release that they promised to keep in any glitches if they’re fun. Also, considering that my footage for the Warthog Launch comes from the Halo Anniversary rerelease, it’s clear Bungie was quite okay with retaining that pastime as well. As I’ve discussed before, games are not always meant to be beaten, but to be fun to play. Fun bugs and glitches are excellent reminders of this. Sometimes it’s not enough to just go off the beaten path; you have to destroy it completely in the process.

As long as games continue to be made, there will surely be bugs to discover. In a way, hunting for bugs can even be beneficial, as particularly noxious ones can be reported and fixed by developers. While I’ve been slighted by more than a few frustrating glitches in the past, I hope gamers embrace these fun bugs as much as I do. It may be strange to think that there could be something in a game that not even the creators know about, but that makes the discovery of it that much more exciting. So go out there, get your recording software set up, and discover some quality bugs to share with the world. You’ll never know what you’re going to find.

And that, my friends, is interactive drama.