Game: Sibilant Snakelikes

Time to Play: 5-10 minutes.

Everyone has played Snake, right? Like the classics of Pong and Tetris, Snake is one of those all-encompassing games that have made their own distinct place in modern culture. And even if people haven’t played it, its mechanics and visuals are instantly recognisable.

Game artist Pippin Barr has just released Sibilant Snakelikes on his website, and you can play it on your computer and phone browsers. It takes the general concept of Snake, and transposes it onto the mechanics of other well-known games. In doing so, it plays around with the mechanics of a whole bunch of games, and could help us ask questions about why certain genres work well for certain games.

As Barr himself says about the game:

Making the game has been a continuation of my interest in thinking about how the language of videogames works to express ideas. It strikes me that one useful experimental approach to understanding this is to “translate” one game’s expression into the language of another game. In trying to work out how the very simple mechanics and concepts of Snake can convey different sets of ideas (fighting a colossus, eating dots and running away from ghosts, playing soccer) I was forced to grapple fairly deeply with making reasoned design choices. The translation process doesn’t necessarily lead to “good games” and certainly not to games that are evocative in the same way as the originals, but I do think it shows us something about how a game like Snake can communicate more complex ideas without really changing it very much mechanically (there are exceptions to this of course). And then on the flip side it also shows us how moving the source games into the “Snake universe” alters those games and leads to new gameplay possibilities (or impossibilities, for that matter).

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Sibilant Snakes then, is an experiment. A chance to examine how the mechanics of a game can act as a vessel for its own meaning. Shadow of the Colossus, for example, has a fantastic narrative, that is only amplified by its 3rd Person adventure gameplay. What happens when, instead of 3rd person gameplay, we play it as a snake-clone instead?

And whilst this is light-hearted and a bit of a dumb fun when playing Snake, I’s an idea that could be taken on further. How do games such as Assassins Creed: Origins use their mechanics to enhance the experience? And when transposed onto a differing game genre, (such as the Assassins Creed: Chronicles series) what goes missing, if anything?

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Food for thought, that I’m now going to go gobble up bit by bit as I steadily get longer.

Quesssstions:

  • How do you feel that the mechanics of games, or their visual language, portray their message?
  • Which game do you think worked best/worst as a Snake-game? Why?
  • What did you first play Snake on? (Nokia 3310, for me.)