What does agar.io do?

Very reminiscent of Pac Man, it occurs to me that agar.io might be the closest thing to a modern multiplayer Pac Man. Whereas Pac Man has a specific level design and series of obstacles the player is required to tackle in order to progress through the game, agar.io has far less structure and goal in mind, with no landmark achievements the player is working toward (like beating the level in pac-man) and an infinitely long possible gameplay time, with the player staying safe in gameplay as long as they remain the largest player and manage to eat all smaller players. Despite the competitive and sometimes intense or fast-paced multiplayer gameplay, players have the option of simply grazing on the numerous dots spawning around the gameplay grid and minding their own business (as long as a larger player doesn’t decide to make them a snack). The more open-world nature of agar.io in comparison to Pac Man seems reflective to me of a more general trend in the way games have changed since the rise of arcade games. I see games becoming more and more open-world, with the rules defining the world of a game becoming less and less rigid. Even though the mechanics of agar.io are very simple (beyond the multiplayer online aspect), the game is not one I could easily have seen being made during pac-man’s time (or at least an 8-bit version). To me, this change represents a shift to a more Ian Bogost-like “do things with video games” attitude, with the things agar.io “does” being creating an informal online community as well as simulating a sort of hypothetical biological cannibalistic relationship wiith a completely darwinistic attitude. The other players almost feel like some kind of bacteria floating in a graph-based fluid, the stronger ones preying on the weaker. The shift to more free-form open-world games allows games to make much more interesting commentary than they previously could.

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