Hack #1

For my hack number one, I made an old digital child’s game, snake. If you are unfamiliar with snake, in essence it’s a game where you control a moving “snake” and collect objects, in this case red squares, to grow your snake. The objective of the game is to get your snake as large as possible. You can only move in 90 degree angles as well, typically using the arrow keys to change direction. However, there are a variety of restrictions that prevent the game from being so easy it’s boring. One of those restrictions is the fact that you can’t bump into an edge of the stage, or else the game ends. Another restriction is that you can’t run into your own tail, or else…you guessed it, the game ends.

Now this is the generic version of the game where the controls are normal and everything is normal. During this hack, I explored the concept of changing the norm and seeing how players deal with the obstacle standing in their way. Normally the controls are the arrow keys were up is up, down is down, right is right, and left is left. However for this hack, I inverted all the keys. Right was left, Up was down, down was up, and left was right. This inverted way of thinking truly put a learning curve on the individual’s ability to play the game.

In the beginning I didn’t think this small change would be that large of a handicap, and I more or less assumed people would get use to the inverted way of thinking after a couple of plays. However, to my surprise, this was not the case. As I showed some of my friends outside of class, and even in class, I watched as player after player struggled with the inversion. It is against the “normal” way of thinking, and truly makes you think about your movements and the how deliberate they must be to acquire the red squares. Something I noticed was that each individual who was uncomfortable with the controls kept looking down at the play-doh built board. This I found to be very intriguing. I found this interesting because it isn’t like the players didn’t know the board was inverted. They had full knowledge that left was right, up was down, and so on. However, looking at the board somehow comforted them, and made them more intentional and confident in their movements. I understand that maybe they were looking at the board itself to get a better grasp of where exactly the arrows were, but this didn’t seem to be always the case.

I personally couldn’t figure out what about the board itself made the player seem more confident and at home, so I asked one of my friends who played. He said, ” Because it [the board] is inverted, it throws me off. And when I mess up and go the opposite direction that I intended, there is a wave of stress or nerves, or something that sets in on me. To compensate for that, I look down at the board and gain security again. ”

The more I thought about it, the more the quote made sense to me. It can be applied to not only difficult games or tough situations, but I think in life in general. We can see when we are out of our element or we feel uncomfortable in a certain situation, we want to go somewhere safe, somewhere we feel at home. There are definitely many times in my life where I’ve been in a situation that I didn’t want to be in. I wanted nothing else other than to be with my friends, or be with my family, just be somewhere I could be myself and not in the situation at hand. This is what I connected to the hack I made. When each player made a mistake or was unsure of what to do, or even just nervous and stressed, they would look down. They looked down at the board to where they knew the answer would be. They felt a sense of security and peace when they looked down at the board. Something about the board made them feel safe, whether it be that the board actually has the location of the arrows, or if somehow looking at the shape of the arrows helped, but in the end something drew their eyes back to the board. I had no idea such a simple hack to a very well known game would produce such an awesome result and outcome!

Another loop hole I designed into the hack was the problem itself, having all the keys be inverted. First off, before I tell you the loop hole, we see that the board definitely has a right side up. This is due to the background of the board. The background of the board is that of Davidson basketball (cats are wild). What makes it right side up thought? Human nature wants things to be accurate, correct, and well, not wrong. This applies to the board as well. The user/player wants the basketball players to be right side up so many people don’t think to switch that around. Now if we flip the board around, we see that the loop hole is quite obvious. The keys are suddenly back where they are suppose to be, right is right, up is up, left is left, and down is down once again. However, this loop hole itself is against human instinct for normal, ride side up, images. I actually implemented this loophole because of what we talked about in class regarding how rules can be manipulated and changed. The example we talked about in class was basketball. When the game is winding down and one team is up by a couple points, the losing team will foul the winning team and make them shoot free throws. This is a desperate effort, but the logic behind it is that hopefully the free throw shooter will miss their free throws, and the losing team can collect the ball back and score. This manipulation of the rules was what I was going with when I designed my hack. Flipping the board isn’t against the rules, but is isn’t everyone’s first thought. Using the rules against the game itself is also a part of the game.