In today’s era of day one patches, rushed games and quality assurance practices not being followed too well, it’s not surprising that articles about glitches are common. Whether it’s the Lumiose City glitch in Pokemon X and Y, the three million ways to break Mario & Luigi Paper Jam or Super Mario Maker’s invincibility bug, these things are the subject of numerous articles across an almost infinite number of gaming websites.
But how about when the glitch isn’t real?
How about when someone on Reddit makes up a fake glitch for a popular new game? Like say, The Division?
Because that’s exactly what happened. Reddit user el2mador wrote a post on the subreddit for The Division about how enemy mobs could kill the APC for you. Unfortunately for anyone who tried it, the glitch didn’t work. It was a hoax meant to see how much attention a post about a bug in the game could get.
The gaming press fell for it hook, line and sinker.
And what’s worse, I don’t mean a couple of small websites or independent bloggers fell for it. I mean the likes of IGN and Gamespot reported on it as fact. Despite you know, not actually testing whether it worked. Here’s a list of all the different sites who posted about the ‘exploit’:
The Division: New Exploit Found Hours After Ubisoft Fixes Another – IGN
The Division ‘Falcon Incursion’ exploit hotfix brings new glitch – GameZone
The Division: New Glitch Found in Falcon Lost Incursion – Twinfinite
The Division’s New Bug Makes the AI Work for You – Gamespot
‘Tom Clancy’s The Division:’ New glitch found in Falcon Lost Incursion, lets NPCs kill boss – ibTimes
‘The Division’ Falcon Lost ‘Friendly Fire’ Glitch: Let NPC’s Take Down The APC For You – iDigitalTimes
As Ubisoft fixes one big The Division exploit, players find another – Eurogamer
Note that the above links are archived, since quite a few were deleted since the hoax was revealed. Personally, I’m not a fan of that, it comes across as trying to ‘hide’ your mistakes. These sites should have done what real newspapers do, issued a correction in the article stating that they were fooled by a hoax.
But that aside, what do I think of the situation? Well to be honest, I’d say it brings to light two major issues when it comes to video games and the media.
Number 1 is how dodgy glitch reporting is in general. Think about it. Let’s say you find a glitch being discussed online and there’s no proof that it’s real.
Now, let’s assume you test it and it doesn’t seem to work. What’s the situation here?
Well, it could be any number of things really:
The glitch could be a hoax like in this situation. It’s not a massively common situation, but it does happen, and it’s happened before Th Division was even a game. Did you know that both times Maple Treeway was in a Mario Kart game, someone faked a glitch shortcut for it? Yeah, that’s a real story. People made fake videos showing non existent glitches on the track for both the Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 7 versions.
You might have messed up somewhere along the line, perhaps because the instructions given were vague or poorly written. This is a depressingly common occurrence, and a great example can be seen here:
If Paper Mario attempts to defeat one of the Paper Fuzzies before they attack, just before they attack, the game will crash, making the system reset.
That’s an item on Mario Wiki’s page for Mario & Luigi Paper Jam glitches. Don’t get it? Nor do I, and I’ve tried everything to see if this glitch works. Do you attack them on your own turn? Counterattack them on theirs? Use a specific attack? Kill them? Don’t kill them? It’s very unclear and a complete toss up as to whether you’ve figured out what the original writer meant.
The specific copy of the game used by the glitch finder could be broken. If a disc and cartridge has a factory defect, it can cause bugs. If the battery starts to fail, it can cause bugs. If it gets corrupted while being downloaded, it can cause bugs. And on a computer? God help you there, because the amount of possible operating system, driver and device combinations approaches infinite.
Glitches also aren’t always that easy to test. Like these ones:
A journalist will struggle enormously at trying to get frame specific actions to work correctly. And it’s not much better in cases like online multiplayer games, where the behaviour of other players or the AI has to be taken into consideration for some of them to work.
Lag doesn’t help either. If a game lags massively, then the effect can resemble a ton of glitches or a hacker modifying the game for an easy win. As many, many Mario Kart players complaining about people falling off Rainbow Road (then warping back on afterwards) will make clear.
And then there’s plain old human memory, which isn’t anywhere near as good as we think it is. It’s very easy for people to get fake memories if they’re convinced that something unusual actually happened, or for them to get confused and think something strange occurred when it was merely something more benign.
So that’s one thing it teaches us. That reports of glitches on forums and social media are incredibly hard to verify, and might well be utterly wrong.
The second thing it proves is how little fact checking the media does nowadays. I mean, while it would certainly be hard to prove/disprove this particular bug exists, it could be done to within reasonable doubt if the journalist went around, tried the game for a while, asked other people’s opinion, etc. But modern journalism doesn’t allow for that. It wants quickly written articles put up the second the news breaks out, not deeply researched pieces that come out at a rate of two or three articles a week. So as per usual, fact checking is ignored, comments on Reddit are taken as gospel and the media jumps on a ‘hot’ story about a game that’s already being heavily criticised for other things.
Either way, let this teach you all a couple of important lessons; the media does no fact checking, and glitches are extremely hard to verify one way or another.