Bug Hunter is inspired by games like Portal (Valve, 2007), The Stanley Parable (Wreden,2011), Memory of a Broken Dimension (Ezra Hanson-White, 2012-), The Magic Circle (Question, 2015), Bedlam (RedBedlam, 2015), and Glitchspace (Space Budgie, 2016). All those creations contain a meta-commentary about gaming as medium and culture. They are designed to raise the player consciousness about his or her material conditions inside that medium and culture. For instance, Portal and The Stanley Parable depicted players as being programmed to act in normalized ways and to do specific tasks ordered by an authoritative figure. The Magic Circle and Glitchspace invite participants to penetrate the fictional code of various objects to reprogram their shapes and behaviours in order to solve puzzles (Fig. 1). Portal and Memory of a Broken Dimension configure mind-bending navigational puzzle requiring glitch-like thinking (Fig. 2). More importantly, they all tell stories of revolt and transgression in which player-characters rebel against the system to escape its control. In those cases, the glitch is a symbolic tool to bend the rules, explore the margins, invert the power relationship with the authorial figure and redirect the experience.
Bug Hunter aligns itself with the gameplay and the glitch conceptualization of these games. However, it distinguishes itself by developing a unique meta-commentary about glitches themselves as a gaming artifact with unique ludic, creative, and rhetorical potential. By doing so, it reflects on the profound porosity that exists between game design as a production process, video games as a commodity, and glitching both as cultural practice and labour force. Therefore, glitch is not merely considered a symbolic tool to pretend to escape systemic and fictional control. It potentiates a distancing process to critically engage the material conditions of game design, video game, and gaming. From that perspective, one can start an in-depth examination of how the exploitation of glitches (through design and gameplay) is intertwined with ludo-political questions about the complex interrelationship between play, labour, and capital.
To shift the attention onto videoludic materiality to try raising the player consciousness about the economic dynamics at play, Bug Hunter takes its cues from the game art movement in the context of the first-person shooter genre. In his book Gaming. Essays on Algorithmic Culture (2006), Alexander Galloway develops the concept of “countergaming” to categorize this avant-garde tendency whose art projects go against the grain of mainstream gaming conventions. Pieces like Adam Killer (Condon,1999-2001), QQQ (Betts, 2002), dead-in-iraq (DeLappe, 2006-2011),The Velvet-Strike (Schleiner, Leandre & Condon, 2002), and Untitled game (Jodi, 1996-2001) are key examples of countergaming (Fig. 1). Galloway (2006: 124-125) frames these artworks as such because they foreground material opacity (vs. diegetic transparency), abstract aesthetic (vs.gameplay), visual artifacts (vs. representational modelling), invented physics(vs. natural physics), and noncorresponding key mapping (vs. coherent interactivity).
Bug Hunter is about confronting the conventional gaming norms of traditional first-person puzzle-platformers by remixing the formal grammar of countergaming. Nonetheless, it takes on a critique made by Galloway about countergaming being an unrealized project. According to the author, “countergaming is essentially progressive in visual form but reactionary in actional form. It serves to hinder gameplay, not advance it” (2006: 125). Here is a point of departure between Bug Hunter and the above-mentioned artworks. Bug Hunter is about exploring the sixth neglected principle of countergaming theorized by Galloway: “radical action.” That means designing “alternative modes ofgameplay” to articulate “a critique of gameplay itself” (2006: 125). That is what set my research-creation apart from its main influences.