Saturday, October 26, 2013

Glitch War

A curious thing happened to me the other day while playing a race on Grand Theft Auto: Online. I experienced a true vision of hell.

I took up the game a few weeks ago and once the online component of the game opened up, I plunked down my $60 for the chance to race improbable vehicles around a fictional Los Angeles. For the most part the game is fun, although I have experienced many of the same problems reported by others: the lagging, the strange system crashes, and the legions of griefers. Basically the underlying problem of GTA: Online is one of demographics. The same people for the most part online are the people I encountered during my year-long stint in Call of Duty. Aggressive, humorless, and eager to kill anything that moves. The point of a FPS is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest period of time. The point of GTA: Online is somewhat more diffuse. You can certainly play it as a shooter, joining a deathmatch or one of the more violent missions, but there's also plenty of races and opportunities to rake in GTA cash. In short, this is a MMORG for people who normally have little use for elves and dwarves.

So, the other day I quick-joined this race and immediately noticed that someone had set the vehicles to off-road motorcycles on a drag-race. Weird choice but not enough of a deal-breaker to rage-quit. The countdown started and then, right before 'GO!' three of the eight racers suddenly flickered and disappeared. I pressed the acceleration trigger but my dirtbike would move. All of the remaining drivers were in a similar predicament and short order we did what comes naturally in such moments and started an epic brawl. I was kicked to death and waited for the respawn expecting to land back in the main online session.

That's not what happened.

Instead, I found myself on the exact street where the race began but the only other players were the other people left behind after the glitch. Were in some sort of sub-realm, superficially resembling the main online game but deprived of certain key features. I could enter any of the stores, none of the other missions were accessible, and all of the computer characters simply walked and drove without the slightest indication that my character existed (which isn't how the main game operates). I immediately stole a car and tried to get away from the red dots around me on the map, as within moments of arriving on the board, the 'X' killed 'Y' reports started appearing on my screen. I happened to be carrying a lot of money and didn't want to get robbed. But as I drove I realized the true nature of the world my character was in, that I wasn't in the main game, that I was in some kind of purgatory and that the only actual people were the enraged red dots hard at work killing each other.

I have to say this thought really fascinated me. Still fascinates me. There's that famous quote, 'Hell is other people,' which seemed very appropriate to this situation. I was trapped in a world where all real human beings were intent on murdering each other as quickly and relentlessly as they could. The way you could tell that a person walking on the sidewalk was not real was it had no interest in you. Real people tried to murder you.

I drove back to the killing fields, for the most part near the airport, and got cut down fairly quickly. I respawned back in Glitch Hell. At that point, somewhat unnerved, I switched sessions which put me back in a relatively normal game. I'm still not sure if Glitch Hell was a software failure or the result of someone's modding, but I guess it doesn't matter. What does interesting me is how long the other players stayed in Hell, or if they ever left.