SNAKE: The Most Amazing Game .Gif I’ve Ever Seen
For anyone who’s ever had a graphing calculator or a Nokia mobile phone since 1998, you’ve played SNAKE. Or one of its many, many clones. It’s the game where you’re the Snake and you eat dots, making your snake longer in the process. There’s no narrative. No characters, just a simple goal: eat dots, don’t die. The game is a momentary distraction during trigonometry class, or if your parents were too cheap to get you a proper Game Boy. It is kind of funny to think SNAKE (originally titled WORM in arcades in 1979) was one of the most popular handheld games ever made and the original developer, Peter Trefanos, probably never saw an extra dime for his success.
I present to you the most amazing game .gif I have ever seen: someone successfully completing SNAKE in 1 try. Seriously. Watch the whole amazing 5 minute play-through:
When I first started watching this, I went into automatic Internet mode where everything slightly bores me. It starts off slow, then ratchets up into super-hyper-ninja mode. Then as the playthrough continued, I started to realize that I was utterly fascinated by it. I couldn’t look away. I just spent 5 minutes of my life watching someone else play SNAKE. Why did I do that? Why was it interesting? I collected some of my thoughts below.
1. People beating hard games is fun to watch.
Snake: easy to pick up, hard to master. When we watch gaming videos, we don’t want to watch someone beat THE LITTLE MERMAID for the NES. We want to see someone perma-death run SUPER MEAT BOY or DARK SOULS. Someone very good at a difficult task is fun to watch because we’re curious as to how they can do this. This is probably a computer bot or something, but the optimist in me likes to think it’s a person performing this masterpiece.
This gif has an inherent sense of drama to it. With the PS4 involving a bunch of clumsy video and streaming sharing options, this gif is more tense and dramatic than about 90% of lame Let’s Play’s rotting on YouTube. The screen is getting more compact, the player’s moves more clever than the last.
2. I was unaware you could even complete SNAKE.
This reminds me of the “killscreens” in the original arcade DONKEY KONG and TETRIS. A killscreen is where a player breaks the games and the base code of the game literally can’t comprehend how awesome you are at it, committing digital seppuku in shame. But SNAKE is so punishingly hard until today I wasn’t ever aware that a player could even beat SNAKE. The game has such a gradual difficulty curve, I simply assumed the game would eventually scale into an unwinnable state.
3. SNAKE has elegant game design.
You chase dots and your snake gets longer. That’s it. There’s no narrative context, no leveling system, 4 bit graphics, and no characterizations. Like TETRIS, the game translates to multiple platforms easily. It’s a game experience told entirely through its mechanics. The goal is to eat the next dot and not run into your increasingly length. It’s a simple, Pavlovian urge to advance in the game, copied and applied to countless games from SKYRIM to WORLD OF WARCRAFT. We’re all greedy completionists when it boils down to evolutionary design, and SNAKE fulfills that urge to mindlessly consume. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but SNAKE achieves this desire completely. We want
When I was watching this, and then playing a few games of SNAKE myself, I noticed that the player actually starts the game when they feel the urge to. Using the directional controls, you control beginning of the experience. You can strategize and plan your first move, but after that first move, you are committed to playing that game. The constant sense of tension and movement around the board keeps the player always trying to find a new exit, a new solution to the problem. Their only enemy is themselves, a longer snake, making the game gradually more difficult. Your success is your undoing, more often that not.
Wow, SNAKE is a metaphor for consumerism.