March 25, 2014

Why 2048 is addicting

Why 2048 is addicting

Yes… that is my phone. 2048!

Over the past few weeks, a game called 2048 has hit the scene. In a short time, there’s been many spin offs and variations of the game. It has become some sort of “a thing” in the dev community. It even has its own XKCD—that’s when you know it’s made it big. This is why I think it has gained so much traction.

1. Fine line between thinking and button mashing

2048 is an addicting game because it occupies this powerful and difficult to find space. It’s brainless enough to where you can play for hours on end without putting in much effort, but not brainless enough to where it’s boring. You use your brain just enough to feel like you are working hard at something, but you aren’t actually working hard so it’s all good.

2. Little achievements, one at a time. Sometimes.

When you play 2048, you can sense that you are making progress towards the goal. Numbers combine to make higher numbers, maybe there’s even some fun sound effect (I don’t know, I mute all my games). The achievements come often, but at random time intervals. You may get a small combo pretty often, but the big combos are more sporadic. Random level ups keep us going. It’s the same theory they use in slot machines (you win a little often, but you win at random).

3. Open source >> developer meme

The developer made this open source, so other developers are riffing. Some developer made a version in sed, an AI version, and of course the Doctor Who version. It’s a meme based on meatier derivatives. It’s not just slapping some funny text onto a picture (well, with the exception of the Doctor Who version).

4. HTML5/Javascript as Game Engines

You don’t have to muck through Game Libraries and C++ to tweak and modify this code. You just need to to know HTML and Javascript. And guess what, shittons of people in today’s world know HTML and Javascript! It is one of the foundation of modern web design.

5. Building off of shoulders of giants

Surprise, surprise. This game is not original. It is based on 1024 which is based on Threes. And that’s perfectly ok. You can recreate something that’s better in some way, but not original in all the ways. The gameplay isn’t original, but 2048 had a more modern “webby” looking design than the previous versions, it’s open sourced and hack-friend, and it uses a web-friendly platform. That said, the tweaks to the gameplay were pretty spot-on. When compared with its predecessor, 2048 brought more button-mashing into the mix and nudged it closer to the sweet spot.

So, what else can we rebuild, tweak? People don’t change—they like the same mechanics, but design aesthetics and technology changes. I wonder what else has great mechanics, but needs a more modern facelift. I wonder what games lend themselves to being tweaked, with a platform more tweakable—perhaps—than HTML/JavaScript.