Welcome to the devlog of Bug Hunter, a two-years postdoctoral research-creation project titled: “Mapping Glitches Trajectories in Game Design Space: From the Poetical to the Political” (FRQSC 2020-2022). In this very first official blog post of the project, I give you a bit of background about where this project is coming from and where it is going. I will also touch upon the main sections of the website and the ins and outs of this blog.
I’m a gaming scholar from the Montreal School of French Video Game Studies that have recently shifted gear toward the practice of game design. All my research is fascinated by a common thread: the plasticity and transformative nature of video games both as a living art form and a vibrant cultural practice. My academic attention has always been captivated by how the materiality of games (i.e. rules, mechanics, game environment, aesthetic, agent behaviours, etc.) embeds the dialectical relationship between game design and actual gameplay. To put it otherwise, my work dissects the material conditions that trigger tensions between developers and players. From there, I explore how these contradictions can intensify to a tipping point where a qualitative shift occurs in which creating and playing turn into its opposite (creating becomes playing and playing become creating). Consequently, I focus most of my analysis on three dimensions. First, on video games as a medium with its unique technology, aesthetic, means of expression, rhetorical devices, narrative conventions, industries, etc. Second, on design and gameplay practices that blur the boundaries between producing and consuming games. Third, on the political economy that underpins the correlative dialectical relationships opposing design/gameplay, designer/player, work/play, and private/common.
Bug Hunter is a game design research-creation dedicated to the study of gaming glitches. Through the creation of an experimental first-person puzzle-platformer whose mechanics mimic radical glitch aesthetic and physics, the goal is to test the artistic capacity of software errors in relation to game design, game engine (Unity in this case), and gameplay. As explained in my Ph.D., bugs can be utilized in multiple ways: cheating, griefing, speedrunning, glitch hunting, machinimation, glitch art, patching software, etc. On one side, we see glitch exploitations that are plainly individualistic, opportunistic, and neoliberal. On the other side, we observe glitch appropriations that are communal, critical and anarchistic. Bug Hunter is designed to explore the gaming conditions under which glitches can foster a neoliberal playstyle or else an anarchistic one. Along the way, it wants to tinker with mishaps and faux pas to see how they can reshape the ways in which we think of and engage with video games as an art form.
The project follows a methodology called the Method for Design Materialisation and Analysis (Khaled, Lessard, and Barr 2018). This means that every step of the creation process is being documented and made public. It includes the art manifesto, the game design document, prototypes of the game, entries of the game design journal, moments of commitment toward new (or previous) ideas, material traces of the project evolution, etc. The idea is to track and ensure the recoverability of the whole materialization process of a game design project, from the game ideation to the technical implementation, all the way down to the final iteration. My objective is to map glitch trajectories in the game design space as I learn the ropes of making games and errors. At the end of the project, I will evaluate how these trajectories and their underlying conditions and motivations resonate with the experiences of players. TheBugHunter website is the main hub from where glitch aficionados can follow the trajectory of Bug Hunter’s development and (hopefully) engage with it. A brief overview of the website’s main sections might encourage people to brave the opacity of this glitchy platform.
TheBugHunter is divided into four main sections. The first one is the Manifesto where users can read the full research document. It contains an in-depth presentation of the project that lays out its intentions and goals, research questions and problems, basic assumptions and hypotheses, theoretical framework and methodology. Secondly, there is the Game Design Document section that exposes the game ideation process. This is where underlying principles behind the game concept, mechanics, level design, art concept, etc. can be explored. Thirdly, the site hosts a DevLog where you are right now. I use this space of reflection as a component of my transmedia design journal where I share ideas, reflect on blockages, discuss my progress, document exchanges with people that have helped me, express arguments, etc. Finally, the last section is the audiovisual Archives of the project. I conceptualize this page as a board where I pin graphical inspirations, glitches images I created, texture experimentations, GIFs of glitches that I have discovered (in Bug Hunter and other games), iconographic materials I planned to put in the game, etc. Think of this as a cabinet of curiosities for visual design. If you want to contact me and learn more about my academic background and realizations, everything you need to know is in the About section.
I hope this post has managed to get your interest somehow. Whether you consider yourself a designer, an artist, a game scholar, a glitcher, or a curious player, I think there is something in Bug Hunter that might get to you. At the very least, you’ll find challenging ideas, beautiful mistakes, innovative failures, and constructive accidents. Now that the stage is set, let the hunt begin.