Glitch Commits One Final Act of Random Kindness and Senseless Beauty
In a world where entertainment businesses defend to the death even the tiniest shred of intellectual property, the idea of an online game-maker putting the entirety of a game’s assets in the public domain seems like something out of a utopian fantasy. But that’s exactly what the creators of the late, lamented browser-based MMO known as Glitch did in late November of last year – an act of generosity that surprised its adoring fans not one bit.
You see, Glitch had always been a maverick among MMOs. The brainchild of Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield, Glitch had nearly no warfare or competition component of any sort, and zilch reference to any of the common MMO genre tropes. Instead it offered a virtual world that looked and behaved like a Dr. Seuss book as re-imagined by Cheech and Chong, in which players helped the eleven sleeping giants in whose dream this world existed by carrying out acts of creativity and cooperation.
Unfortunately, while Glitch developed a devoted and fanatical following, it never grew big enough to put the game into the black, financially. One can’t help thinking it was because Glitch was just too darned different – that the majority of adult gamers preferred more conventional MMOs with battles, bosses, and kabooms.
I had been playing Glitch for only a few months when Stoot (as Butterfield was known within the game) sadly announced his decision to call a halt to the dream. While I was surprised at how deeply this saddened me, I was even more surprised – and moved – by how both players and devs (short for developers) rose to the occasion. The forums were filled with huge outpourings of gratitude to the game-makers, plus genuine grief over losing something so rare in the world of gaming. The devs, meanwhile, feverishly rolled out tons of content they had been working on so that we could all enjoy it before the shutdown, plus additional “end-of-the-world” content that gave a real sense of closure.
Myself, I spent the last few weeks of Glitch roaming the far corners of its world, grieving all the wild and wacky beauty that was about to go pffffft in a cloud of pixels. So you can just imagine my joy over this decision to put all that beauty in the public domain, for us Glitch fans to use as we see fit. There had already been an active cottage industry of fan-created arts and crafts based on the game, the more so since its closure – but now, with the original art and even the Flash code available to all, the possibilities are endless.
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