Slither.io is a casual “io” browser game that I’ve played on and off over the last few years. It has a few kinds of fun: challenge, in order to become the biggest snake (by eating other snakes); sensation, in that the game is beautiful with its bright, space-like theme and vibrant colors; and fantasy, transporting the player into a simple world of kill or be killed.
The mechanics of the game are simple.
- The player starts out as a small snake.
- The player’s snake never stops moving.
- The player can navigate left or right, up to a certain angle.
- The ground is covered with food. Eating the food (i.e. running over it) makes a snake bigger.
- The player can activate a boost to move faster, which consumes some of the snake’s size.
- The larger of a snake you become, the more you can see around you.
- And the most important mechanic: crashing into the body of another snake will kill you, turning you into food.
The dynamics of the game then evolve from the mechanics. What strikes me is that so many evolutionary and biological phenomena arise from the free-for-all mechanics of the game.
- Small snakes hover around large snakes, waiting for them to die.
- It is usually not worth it for larger snakes to snakes that are too small, because the time spent gives too little reward.
- Larger snakes have a unique way to kill small snakes: they can wrap themselves around the smaller snake, which is very similar to the real-life method of snake constriction.
- When a large snake dies, many snakes boost to consume its remains, leading to many of them crashing into each other, which is a result of their greed.
- Playing risky and navigating into dense areas may result in high reward, yet at the risk of being killed due to the difficult navigation.