Let the Hunt Begins

Bug Hunter is a title that refers to the famous column “Bug Hunter” held in the 80s by Robert Schifreen in the famous Computer and Video Games magazine (Fig. 1). Between 1983-1985, M. Schifreen was the central figure of one of the first major glitch hunting community in gaming history. Programmers, hackers, cheaters, game creators, and players from around the world were contributing with the "Bug Hunter" to document software errors and share some workarounds. This research-creation project a tribute to this popular history.

Fig 1: Schifreen, Robert. May 1984. "Bug Hunter". C&VG, p. 56

Bug Hunter also plays on the double meaning of the word "bug." In computer folklore, it is believed that the word "bug" has entered the computer science lingo after the discovery in 1974 of the famous moth found inside the Harvard Mark II by Grace Hopper's engineering team. The moth has literally been scotched inside a log entry with the mention "First actual case of bug being found" (Fig 2).

Fig 2: Log of the moth found in 1947 by the engineers of the Harvard Mark II computer. Dimensions : 1.5 cm X 48.4 cm X 29.5 cm. Source : National Museum of American History

Since then, the parallel between bug as insects and bug as computer errors has been set in stone. This genealogy has contributed to the formation of an iconography in which chasing software malfunctions is metaphorically associated with hunting insects. In gaming culture, we see multiple examples of this overlap (Fig 3).

Fig 3: From top to bottom: halobugs.com website banner; interactive button to send a bug report in Quake Champions (id Software, 2017-); button to report a bug in Team Fortress 2 (Valve, 2007); hyperlink to the dedicated bug forum for any Steam Early Access games.

By recalling this history and iconography, the title "Bug Hunter" fulfills two main tasks. First, it sets an ambivalent horizon of expectations about which kind of bug is about to be hunted: living insects or computer error. As an extension of this idea, this title encapsulates the ambiguous role of the player in the game. Are you an exterminator killing insects? A glitcher toying with the system? A hacker chasing bug bounties? A playtester at work reporting bugs? A programmer trying to clean his code? Which hat fits you the most will depend on your playstyle.

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