According to an interview with DIY Gamer, Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman (the Dutch development duo better known as Vlambeer in the global indie-game community) were sitting in a bar with the rest of their team when they received the news that their baby was about to die. For a few seconds, silence hijacked the group’s conversation.
Vlambeer had named their child GlitchHiker, and although it only lived for six hours, it managed to come into contact with 53 people.
Unlike normal games, GlitchHiker was born with a serious medical condition: Each time the player lost a life, it would lose one as well. Extra lives could be earned by scoring 100 points, but it would only delay the inevitable.
The game was dying. With each life that was lost, the graphics and sound would deteriorate more and more, and once they were all gone, it would be permanently deleted and no one could ever play it again…which is exactly what happened.
(Image via DIY Gamer)
"There was guilt with those who failed to score the required 100 points […] [and] a responsibility in those who succeeded to try and sustain the game system," Ismail told DIY, describing the interesting reactions the "illness" received. He also noted that some people had chosen not to play at all rather than risk killing it.
For the designer and his team, this was proof of the potential for games to shake players’ emotions without resorting to narrative techniques.
GlitchHiker won the first-place prize at this year’s Global Game Jam in the Netherlands (where the main theme was "extinction"), and was programmed in such a way that not even its creators can bring it back. All of the game’s databases were locked behind a randomly generated password, which was then disposed of by Vlambeer, making them irrecoverable. The game is literally gone forever.
Surprisingly, an untimely death hasn’t stopped GlitchHiker from going to the 2012 Independent Games Festival, where it will have to be reviewed by the judges in its current — and permanently deceased — state.