09 January 2016

Pokemon glitch and Built to Spill videos of the week

I posted this on thefacebook.com the other day:

when people tell me they'd be bored if they didn't have a job to do, i don't really get what they're saying because i think could fill a whole lifetime using youtube to watch old built to spill concerts and pokemon glitch videos

And I don't think it's totally untrue. It's an exaggeration, sure; I'd probably need a little more than Built to Spill concerts and Pokemon glitch videos for whatever a well-lived life is, but there's a lot of material there! So in my ongoing quest for complete self-destruction I'm about to take some things I enjoy, and turn them into an obligation. This has had decidedly mixed results in the past, as I recline with an abundance of comforts bourn of employment in a booming field, while simultaneously not looking forward to an upcoming week at work where I'll have to wake up in the middle of the night if some dumb computer shit* breaks.

So why not post weekly Pokemon glitch and Built to Spill videos on this very website?

Pokemon Blue: Memory/ASM hack - The game is memory hacking itself! (posted by TheZZAZZGlitch)
I don't think this is what people think of when they hear "Pokemon glitch". First of all, there's no setup. In this video you're diving right into a world that's falling apart before your eyes. There's also no reward. Mew is not walking through that door. You don't talk to the Old Man, surf up and down the coast of Cinnabar Island, and encounter a MissingNo because it's represents a neat confluence of programming mishaps; you do it because you want 128 more Master Balls. Right?

That's not entirely true in my mind. What's neat about a glitch can be that it rips away the abstraction that the game is some world unto itself, and exposes it is a fallible creation where everything you see and do is just data getting interpreted and changed. From that perspective, a truly pure glitch doesn't get you stacks of Master Balls or lets you catch Mew, it reminds you that Master Balls are fake and Mew is dumb computer shit.

This glitch video is basically as pure as it gets.  A small program is injected into the game and hooked into a timer so randomly generated byte in memory is changed. What's neat about this is that the effects can be subtle or huge. A single pixel could shift, a name could get corrupted, the mechanics of a battle could be completely destroyed, or the game could just crash. Greater is that the effects can compound. Perhaps the changed byte just results in changing the color of a single tile. That won't have a great deal of impact. But if that byte falls in executable code or changes the interpretation of some data, further unanticipated effects could occur from that single modification. This cycle could continue and continue. The smallest perturbation can spiral out of control in totally unpredictable ways. Also these perturbations are occurring every 50 milliseconds.

What's even more neat about this is that while the video shows the game being run in an emulator on a computer, it's conceivable that this could be done using just a game, a Gameboy, and an abundance of time. Through the dedicated work of people stacking small glitch upon small glitch, it has been found that Pokemon basically allows arbitrary code to be executed. You can create an entirely new game. How's that for ripping away the abstraction?

For the record, my favorite part of the video starts around 11:06. Things seem to be going pretty well, with a couple of minor graphical glitches until the music ominously slows down. Then a battle ensures. As Safari Zone battle decorum goes totally out the window, the music seems to tear itself apart and the screens fills with layers and layers of misplaced tiles. Horror movie stuff.

Built To Spill - Conventional Wisdom (Live in Sydney) | Moshcam (posted by Moshcam)
If you're expecting the same level of detail of explanation as the previous video, you're out of luck. It's weird, but I've been fascinated by Pokemon glitches for far longer than I've even actively sought to listen to music, much less came to appreciate Built to Spill, much less watched a shit ton of Built to Spill concert videos on Youtube. So the response here is less developed, more visceral.

I don't even know how I ended up watching this video; I think it was in a playlist. I think Conventional Wisdom is a pretty blah Built to Spill song. It's totally listenable, but not something I'd seek out a concert video of. But, I was listening anyway and during the instrumental part at the end something sounded really, really familiar. It took me awhile to place it and I had my doubts at first, but then I realized the instrumental there interpolates parts of Shit Brown Eyes from the Built to Spill Caustic Resin EP. Pretty obscure stuff, thrown out there where you least expect to find it, a one-off ad-lib in a performance of a song written some 11 years later. Sometimes life surprises, indeed. 

*It's really useful to some people! But anything technological that wakes you up in the middle of night is totally dumb computer shit then and there.

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