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This online blob game has reduced me to a shell of a man

To blob or not to blob

I started playing an online game called agar.io a few weeks ago, and by now it's swallowing up almost all my leisure time. I've stopped reading, watching movies — it's weird! I probably have a few more weeks until my interest burns out, or my loved ones get worried enough to stage an intervention.

The game is pretty simple. You're a blob, and you go around eating little pellets ("food") and absorbing blobs smaller than you without getting absorbed by a larger blob. That absorbing usually happens by splitting in two, which lets you launch out half your mass and swallow any small enough blobs in front of you. There are also virus blobs that explode the bigger blobs, and if you hit "w" you'll eject your own pellets. It sounds complicated, but it makes sense pretty quickly once you start doing it.

I've gotten really attached to the strategy of the game

All of the blobs are directed by actual people somewhere on the internet, often with racist usernames.

It's one of the more addictive games I've played, I think because it's effectively real-time (multiplayer waits for no man) and the graphics and gameplay are so simple that it's easy to lose yourself in it. But as I've spent more and more time in the game, I've gotten really attached to the strategy of it, and the deeper meaning behind that strategy. The decision to split your blob becomes a really profound decision: to grow bigger, you must first become smaller and more vulnerable. More size makes you harder to eat, but it also makes you slower and makes you more likely to be targeted.

It feels like all of this should mean something, even if it's not clear what it actually means. A few competing theories:

Agar.io as biology: The blobs are single-celled organisms absorbing "food" and dividing through self-triggered mitosis, with the individual players struggling to reenact the elemental formation of life as we know it. The green blob-splitters are officially known as "viruses," which seems to support this theory.

Agar.io as web sociology: Players will often play as "Reddit" or "4chan," signaling their allegiance to a particular community but also suggesting the game as a microcosm of the internet at large. The blobs represent various sites and communities within the internet itself. Notice the game's resemblance to the Internet Map, in which sites like Google and Reddit grow by siphoning users and content ("mass," in the lingo of the game) from competing locations, eventually swallowing competitors whole.

Agar.io as geopolitics: Players will also adopt the names, flags, and faces of world leaders like Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Angela Merkel. So while the blobs can be microscopic cells or web properties, they can also represent entire nations, competing to swallow up the fruits of private-sector enterprise and civil society alike. Diplomacy just means staying out of range.

Or maybe it's just a game about blobs? I don't know; I'm in too deep to say for sure.