GlitchHiker: a dead game about extinction

How do you make a game about extinction? Six developers spent 48 hours during a game jam to answer that question. Their solution? Make a game that dies--and never comes back.

GlitchHiker is was a game that had players collecting coins in an environment that was rapidly deteriorating via intentionally placed "glitches." Through its unique online integration, GlitchHiker's entire existence depended on the collaborative efforts of everyone that played it.

Playing the game would cost one life from a pool of lives available to everyone that accessed the game. If the game said there were 100 lives available--those lives were for the entire game. Each time a player played, he or she was killing it, inching the game closer to its doom.

As the number of lives fell, the quality of the game deteriorated. "Glitches" would be introduced into the game--these vertical or horizontal "disturbances" that would kill the player if caught in its path.

There was a way to save the game, however. Collecting 100 coins would restore a life to the overall system. A player that collected 200 coins in a game, for example, not only gave back the life used to play the game, but added to the game's overall longevity.

Speaking at Game Developers Conference earlier this month, designer Rami Ismail talked about the guilt and remorse certain players would feel when they failed to collect at least 100 coins--contributing to the game's inevitable extinction. The game didn't take long to die, as Ramil noted that a "drunk Canadian" had managed to waste the game's final life--with no fanfare. The game's servers (essentially) deleting itself, preventing further access to the game.

While the game was alive for only a few hours, GlitchHiker managed to snag a few awards, including an Honorable Mention for the Nuovo Award at the IGF 2012 Awards.