Snake with Shades

For the first hack of Hacking Remixing Design, I decided to play the game Snake with my sunglasses; I did this by using the makeymakey in order to hook an alligator clip from the clicking function to the metallic part of my sunglasses, so that when I tapped that part of my sunglasses, the makeymakey would send an electrical signal to the computer to click; clicking the mouse- or in my case sunglasses- changes the direction of the green block, and so on; each click changes the direction of the green block in order to reach the red block and add four more blocks to the green block in order to make a snake. The directional order in which the green block changes is down, right, up, left with each click.

These are the sunglasses used, although only one alligator clip was used in the end.

Surprisingly enough, one would most likely play with the arrow keys on a keyboard because that would be easier. However, hooking up the clicking function to the sunglasses not only makes it easier for using the makeymakey because only one connection from the makeymakey to a device is needed, but this unexpected change to the makeymakey alters the utility of the game. By utility of the game, I mean the pleasure one gets from physically touching an article of clothing or accessory on their head, as opposed to using the keyboard to play the game. We were talking about how using the makeymakey to change how we play alters expectations, and thus changes a monotonous game such as Snake into a game that is pretty enjoyable.

Caillois has a formulation about gameplay in his book Man, Play, and Games. They’re summarized into six qualities in which he thinks encompasses gameplay:

The first criteria is that Caillois says gameplay is Free. While this is ideally true, the dopamine one gets from playing a game with no ending such as snake makes them engaged into the game, thus adding a psychological factor of gameplay that holds the player captive inside the game; one can always leave the game if they’re playing it voluntarily, but the addictive qualities in gameplay might make it so its harder to stop oneself for playing the game for hours, and especially one where you can’t win, like Snake.

The second characteristic of gameplay Caillois states that the game fixed in time and space, and that there is an ending. This characteristic may apply to games in which you can win, but there is a whole other category of games where there is no end. In class today, we say this with Space Invaders, and Snake. I could also think of games like Pac Man, Candy Crush, and any games where you can only get a higher score. These type of games usually turn out boring, although with unexpected ways of playing them, like with sunglasses, they become more fun. However, there is truth in Caillois’ second characteristic: the fixed ending which is destroying losing inevitably.

The third feature of gameplay is that it has uncertainty, depending on the skill of the player. This is mostly true, although the result for games like Snake and Space Invaders is a score before you lose, and the game is over.

The fourth quality to gameplay according to Caillois is that gameplay is unproductive in the real world, which is pretty much unarguable, except maybe a change in emotional state of the player before gameplay to after gameplay, depending on their experience of playing the game. But the game, unless money is involved, is unproductive in terms of reality. For example, Snake doesn’t have any meaningful impact on the reality of anything that goes on with the individual playing said game, except for the emotional state, which goes on within the player, and doesn’t have a significant impact on reality in the end anyway.

The fifth definition of gameplay according to Caillois is that gameplay is governed by rules that are unique within the game. This statement about gameplay is indisputable. Like Snake, Monopoly, Uno, Chess, Checkers, Space Invaders, etc., there are rules that each player must play by. However, house rules can be made, or people can cheat. While these are exceptions, they still play off the framework of some sort of rules that make the player play the game in a certain way.

The sixth and final feature of gameplay is the idea of a second reality, or make-believe. I agree that when playing a game that is engaging, there is a new reality one steps into. Playing Snake allows you to enter a reality that has one specific purpose, which is very different to real life, in which most people don’t pin their purpose down to one thing.

These definitions that Caillois has formulated for us are pretty tight, although there are exceptions to some of his rules; they do not pin down all games that have the ability to be played. Caillois’ definition of what a game is also a narrow definition because of the game that he thinks is something in which you play to get a score, or compete against opponents or an opponent. But a game can mean many things, such as building something creative with limited tools, or making music with friends for fun. These two examples eliminate Caillois definitions altogether with the exception of some of them.

The key chain is what I used to ground and complete the circuit used with the makeymakey in a passive way, allowing me to wear a grounded device.

I thinks it’s essential to turn our attention back to the hack I made on the game Snake. By changing the gameplay, the player physically changes how they play the game. It feels different when you’re playing a computer game on a computer, but not really playing the game using the settings on the surface of the computer keyboard or mouse pad. Instead, the new mode of play of the player making a circuit from the grounding point to the makeymakey to the sunglasses to your finger as you tap the sunglasses is a refreshing feeling.

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