Gameplay Journal 5: Mario 64 Glitch

When considering glitches we often think of them in the context of video games as an error or breakdown of systems. Games in themselves are a construct that typically creates a veil between the user and the technological systems to engross a player into an aestheticized experience. A glitch is a breakdown of that veil that for a moment that shows us a small insight into the technology behind it, in other words, “A glitch is a mess that is a moment, a possibility to glance at software’s inner structure…”(Gorlunova, Shulgin 114). It’s akin to being on a broken down dark ride at an amusement park when the lights come on, you’re seeing what’s not meant to be seen. While we often think of performance issues and the like as glitches these are often not truly glitches and often just a poorly optimized system working as built but not necessarily intended.

My chosen glitch is one created by a corruptor in the game Mario 64 as shown in the video bellow from 0:18–1:07 and it’s a corrupted render of Mario's head on the interactive title screen. This pertains to my definition of a glitch because it disrupts the welcoming cutesy aesthetic behind Mario and reminds us that this iconic character is just a character created out of polygons and pixels. While it is only the start screen it serves an important gameplay purpose, Mario 64 was the first 3D Mario game and an early 3D platformer and being able to stretch, spin, and reorient Mario’s head was important back at launch to get players familiarized with the concepts involved in playing in 3D. It was also important to get people familiarized with seeing Mario presented in a new form and not as a sprite, so taking a familiar face and distorting it into a grotesque pile of polygons without human form disrupts the slow introduction into this new presentation of a familiar would that we were intended to receive. It’s last level of disruption is also related to it’s off-putting nature in that we are expected to play with and distort Mario’s face on this screen by stretching, as many did in the mid 90s. Given that it’s already distorted beyond what is possible through conventional methods the player is dissuaded from interacting with the game as they would normally because the catharsis and fun in this destructive act is taken away when the object in question is no longer pristine and already beyond recognition.

(From 0:17–1:07)

Works Cited

Gorlunova, Olga and Shulgin, Alexei. “Glitch.” Software Studies: A Lexicon, edited by Matthew Fuller, The MIT Press, 2008, pp. 110–119.