I’m tiptoeing around. I peek around a corner. All is clear, so I make my way down the empty corridor. I should feel safe in this moment of stillness, but I can’t let my guard down. Because with every safe step I take, I know that I can only be one step closer to my unseen enemy.
That’s when I see him. At least 10 feet tall. Confidently pink. Does he see me, too? I won’t know until it’s too late. My stomach drops as my only recourse sets in--I need to make a break for it. If I can only make it to the power pellet in time …
This is the experience of FPS-MAN, by Tom Davies, and even if videogames aren’t exactly your thing, it’s an excellent lesson in how a functionally parallel experience can feel completely different with the most basic decisions of interface.
Because while Pac-Man is generally a giggle-worthy, fast-paced strategy game, FPS-MAN is a borderline terrifying experience of survival horror. By limiting your perspective, the kiddie maze that’s so innocuous in the original becomes a treacherous labyrinth. And the colorful, pesky ghosts become terrifying monsters when you can’t see them coming until WATCH OUT!
The game also reminds me how top-down the apps of today are built. For ease of consumption, all of our relevant choices are right at our fingertips. And so like Pac-Man, we may strategize, but we never really explore. It’s unfairly heady for me to propose, but I do wonder if there would be value in interfaces (and content consumption) that leaned more toward the lines of limited perspective and surprising media. Snapchat achieves some of this, in a sense, as does Rando. But what could Facebook be through another lens? It could be 100 different experiences. It could be a recipe service, a shopping network, a collection of eulogies, or a parody site that made fun of new babies. Or it could just be a place where a 100-foot Zuckerberg appears on screen at any time to consume your friends.
[Hat tip: Prosthetic Knowledge]