Curiosity: What’s Inside The Cube

Is this a simple time-wasting game, or possible one of the greatest social experiments ever performed?

If you haven’t heard about it yet, “Curiosity: What’s Inside the Cube” is a new iOS/Android game by 22Cans, an indie game development team led by Peter Molyneux. You may have heard of Peter Molyneux from his work with Microsoft, developing games such as the popular Xbox title “Fable”. 

The game is technically an MMO (short for Massively Multiplayer Online game), but it is far from the norm in the genre. The idea is to hack away at a gigantic cube, pixel by pixel. By zooming in on portions of the cube, you can see the individual “pixels” and tap on them, one by one, to clear them away, peeling away layers of the whole. The “Massively Multiplayer” part is that there is only one giant cube in the world. That means that every single player, regardless of platform, is peeling away the same layers. The twist that turns this from a simple time-waster to an incredibly intriguing social experiment is that the cube, eventually, has a last layer. Nobody knows when, it could be weeks, months, or years, but there is an end, and someone has to break the final pixel to finish off the project. That person, and ONLY that person, is sent a link to a video of the 22Cans devs explaining what’s inside the cube. What they do with the link after they receive it is up to them. 

So what does this teach us? What can we learn? Psychologically a lot, from multiple perspectives. Firstly and most obviously, we observe how hard people will work with only the promise of something. By creating this extremely simple game, 22Cans has created a mystery that will take the entire world to solve. The entire world, needless to say, was enthralled. The game had almost a million players immediately after release, so much so that servers were crashing for quite a while. Naturally, these millions of players have put in time, and the total amount of time it takes (time spent by each player all added up) will be astounding. On that path, it will also be interesting to see the average amount of time spent by a single player. Secondly, it raises questions about what else people could accomplish with projects similar to this. I believe this will spark a slew of other “entire world vs. the issue” apps, and who knows what could happen because of it. 22Cans didn’t create the most technically intricate game ever, they simple established a goal and said “have at it”.

On the other side, there will only be one winner of this “contest”. After having put in so much time, I imagine quite a bit of the world is going to be disappointed. By giving only one person the link and then allowing them to do with it what they will, it’s setting up a situation where an entire world’s worth of players can be angry at one person based on what they choose to do with that link. How quickly will teamwork turn into mob mentality? Hopefully, the winner and other top players will be interviewed, and those interviews will be important. They betray how it would feel to succeed after performing such a menial task for so long versus how it would feel to fail. 

The entire process should be incredible to follow and be a part of, but personally I believe that 22Cans has created something much larger than a giant onion-cube.

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