If you're like me in that your grasp of technology is akin to that of someone six decades older, you may have found yourself wondering something recently: What is Slither.io? Just when you thought you got the hang of the beloved Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector, it appears everyone has moved on to something different (but equally pointless). And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Since the game launched in April, it's steadily remained at the top of the gaming app charts, and it once unseated Snapchat as the most downloaded free app in the App Store. Snapchat has since regained its rightful place on the App Store throne, but Slither.io currently occupies the sixth slot, putting it above apps like Uber, Pandora, and even Google Maps.
Clearly, people are more than a little obsessed, which brings back to the original question — what is Slither.io? As Tech Crunch points out, the app takes its cue from old-school games like Snake or Atari's Centipede. Like its predecessors, Slither.io's appeal lies in its simplicity: Players maneuver a brightly-colored snake around a void dotted with glowing lights. The object is to eat as many lights as possible, which causes your snake to grow longer. In the app, you move your worm friend by touching the screen, and on the desktop version, it follows your cursor.
The catch? Other worms are out to get you, and you're out to get them. If a worm crashes into you, they explode into glowing lights for you to quickly devour, but unfortunately, the reverse is also true. At first, your worm's tiny stature makes quick turns to avoid collisions easy, but as you grow bigger and wider, it becomes harder to get out of the way. Players with an Internet connection can choose to compete against AI, or against other users playing the game in real time.
Whether you're playing against a bot or a person, though, the presence of other snakes adds a layer of strategy to the game; even if you don't actively go after other players, they're probably coming for you. I discovered this within 30 seconds of downloading the game, when another player turned to block my path. I subsequently watched in horror as my shrimpy worm's life force was immediately gobbled up. A quick scan of YouTube shows that people will circle smaller players, team up against larger ones, and other warlike tactics — so basically, it's a jewel-toned, space worm version of Game of Thrones in there.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a good bit more difficult to play against other people than it is against AI, because humans are a ruthless bunch. Here's what the game looks like in motion:
It's easy to see why Slither.io is so appealing; it's both never-ending (in theory, you could play infinitely) and goal-oriented — the leader board is updated in real time, so you can watch your username move up the ranks as you quash your competition. Or, depending on how good at the game you turn out to be, you can watch other people's usernames move up the ranks while you're stuck as a tiny worm for eternity. The latter might not sound appealing, but it's surprisingly fun.
Images: Bruno Gomiero/Unsplash, Claire Warner/Bustle (2)