Glitches Defining Games

Games require a great deal of care and revision in their coding of mechanics, which still has yet to be perfected. When things don’t go as expected, glitches arise and can range from harmless, visual bugs, to mysterious and entirely game altering ones. Whatever they may be, they are “often perceived as an unexpected and abnormal modus operandi” that can catch players off guard during their normal gameplay (Menkman 341). However, some glitches exceed that of a temporary defect, and can expand into iconic occurrences that become intertwined within the community surrounding a game. One of the most notable examples of this stems from the original Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Blue (and Yellow). This is the glitch Pokémon known as “MissingNo.” and is only encounterable by performing specific tricks that confuse the game and spawn a Pokémon that doesn’t exist. The player deliberately has to perform these tricks, and MissingNo is not an intended factor within the game, solidifying its status as a glitch.

The case of the MissingNo glitch and its notoriety in the Pokémon community stems from its accessibility and the atmosphere around the games it originates in. The glitch is not very difficult to perform, with plenty of guides being available online, and the rumors that surrounded the games in the past created a mood that MissingNo fit into perfectly. Its scrambled, L-shaped sprite and accompanying jumbled text belongs right in with the likes of “Lavender Town Syndrome” and “Mew Under the Truck” legends of the past. Rather than act as an obstacle that interrupts the experience of the player, it’s often sought after and studied to see the effects it produces after being encountered. I think that many glitches fit into this description. We know that they are a result of programming mishaps, but many often follow their curiosity to examine glitches and see them through (as long as they aren’t game-breaking or progress hindering). When it comes to MissingNo, it is embedded within the memory of the original games by many fans, and acts as a historical part of the franchise’ existence.

Menkman, Rosa. “Glitch Study Manifesto.” Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011.

Video showcasing the history of the MissingNo glitch.