YouTube videos and Flash games are probably the two biggest distractions on the internet. If someone were to combine them, it could be the most glorious and destructive thing to happen in this modern era. Companies would go bankrupt from the loss of productivity. Well, the addictive union has arrived, and it's an art game called Howard Glitch.
Howard Glitch is about a space shuttle hurtling into the maw of a monster. You're on the shuttle, along with several other passengers, but there's no driver or controls. The shuttle is being controlled far away by someone who isn't paying attention. While you're rushing toward your doom, you have some choices to make. The first: should you sit by and await death, or delve deep into your mind to escape reality?
Designed by Robert Allmand, Howard Glitch takes place entirely within a series of YouTube videos. You'll get a bit of sparsely animated story and then be confronted with a choice or a puzzle. Click on your choice or what you think is the solution and you'll be taken to another video. What emerges is a strange little game that's one part choose your own adventure with a twist of an escape game.
Analysis: What Howard Glitch is all about is doing something new. First attempts at something different can be hit or miss and are always looked at with a skeptical eye by us, the general public. When you think about the limitations of making a game via YouTube. it's surprising Allmand was this successful. By the very nature of the game, puzzles are somewhat limited in scope, although one involves using the mute button, which is kind of clever. You can see a lot thought went in to each turning point in the game.
Looking beyond the artistic portion of the game, Howard Glitch doesn't offer a great challenge, nor is it a very long experience. That's almost expected, as watching a YouTube video generally doesn't tax your brain too much.
Howard Glitch probably won't spawn a new wave of YouTube games, but Allmand says he intends to turn this into a series, so perhaps the concept could be further refined into something even more interactive. Until then, browse YouTube in a way you've never done before, and see what a modern Choose Your Own Adventure novel might be like.
Turning a collection of YouTube videos into an interactive experience (we like to use the word "game") is a lofty goal. Howard Glitch takes a few steps away from passive entertainment and engages you a bit more, asking you to make choices, hunt and click hotspots, change settings on the video, skip forwards and backwards in time, etc. You'll be hit with a lot of "oh, neat" moments during the game, smiling at the novel use of video controls and how well they're integrated into the experience. And the story Howard Glitch tells is a good, miniature psychological thriller, which is a genre I can never get enough of.
One question remains at the end of the day: which side of the line does Howard Glitch walk? Is it a game or is it a bunch of clickable videos? You would really have to open up that old chestnut about games being art to define this one, but I'm confident saying Allmand is taking the postmodern art approach to game creation, using new media in new ways to shake up an old industry. It provides something a little different from the rest, and while Howard Glitch may not be "different" enough or "game" enough, the end experience is a good, though not perfect, one.
Thanks to Robert and Simon for sending this one in!