Glitchhikers Preview: Together In The Dark

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Living in a city allows you the luxury of forgetting that the world wasn’t made with you in mind. Sure, life may be a constant struggle to survive and civic society may openly resent your continued existence, but a hostile world is still better than one that doesn’t even know you’re there. Get in your car and drive out of the city, out of the suburbs, away from the satellite municipalities and predatory oases offering the choice of a hamburger cooked five different incorrect ways, keep going until the streetlights fall away and the city’s light pollution fades from the sky like a healing bruise.

If you go far enough, eventually your headlights will be the only thing pushing back a darkness that blankets the earth from horizon to horizon. You’ll find yourself ensconced in the true darkness of a world that has turned its back on the sun, a primal night whose silence and emptiness is so complete it insults our senses, defying us to find meaning in its yawning void. The immensity of this night erodes our defenses and invites our questions, revealing an elemental loneliness that’s so fundamental to what we are we don’t even notice its presence until the din of normal life is hushed. It can be a dangerous time, with your Toyota Tercel becoming a diving bell for plumbing the inky depths of life’s absurdity.

It is at this point, where normal, sane human life ends, that Glitchhikers begins.

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The Glitchhikers Beta seeks to capture the peculiar existential questing that comes from driving in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night: the unease, the questioning, the weird radio DJs who broadcast between midnight and 5 a.m. It places you in the driver’s seat of a nondescript mid-size sedan that’s cruising through a landscape rendered in cool shades of violet and blue. You have no body, the wheel moves of its own volition. You can change lanes, you can speed up or slow down a bit, you can turn your head right or left, but you can’t fundamentally alter the course of the car. It’s a lot like a theme park ride that way or, alternately, the trajectory of life towards death) The time is a little past 1 a.m. Your radio is tuned to 104.3FM, a station broadcasting a program called Night Drive that plays ambient, experimental music with periodic interludes from a pensive DJ whose breathy voice offers trivia and encouragement.

As your journey into the night progresses hitchhikers will appear and disappear in your passenger seat, each one materializing with their own distinct point of view on the shadowy universe you inhabit. They’ll tell their stories, they’ll ask you some questions, and the answers you give will determine the kind of hitchhiker you’ll pick up next. After 3 hitchhikers and about thirty kilometers, the game will end.

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The Glitchhikers Beta is being developed by Silverstring Media using the Unity Engine, which lends its own distinct visual flair to the proceedings. Everything in Glitchhikers is rough and angular, rendered in the jagged Glitchhikers (7)crags of a flint blade. The game’s color scheme and dark absurdity bear a passing resemblance to the popular Welcome To Night Vale podcast, but Glitchhikers distinguishes itself by a more measured, personal, meditative, approach to life’s carnival of horrors. There definitely are some horror elements, but the game doesn’t seek to elicit terror so much as a kind of thoughtful pathos, both for yourself and the world you inhabit. Glitchhikers accommodates both grim and hopeful attitudes, its only demand is you take it seriously as it dives headfirst into the weightiest topics of human life.  And death.

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Glitchhikers‘ attitude reflects the night sky your nameless character drives beneath: whether you see the light of the stars or the darkness between them is a matter of your own peculiar perspective. Glitchhikers doesn’t seek to judge, only to commiserate; to articulate the fear and despair and hope that flourishes in the kind of darkness that drew stories out of our ancient ancestors as they huddled around their guttering fires and struggled to impose meaning on the void around them. When the Glitchhikers Beta concludes none of our questions will have received a satisfactory answers, but we may feel a little less alone. The fire has done its work.

Note: You can download the Glitchhikers Beta by signing up for the Silverstring Media mailing list.

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