An oral history of Snake

Few games are as iconic and addictive as Nokia’s Snake. The game, in which a snake eats pellets until it is too big to maneuver, is a classic, a nail-biting bit of fun that turned the early Nokia phones into blockbuster hits.

But its creator, Taneli Armanto, was not a game designer. Instead, Nokia simply tasked him with sticking a game – any game – onto the Nokia 6110, a candy bar phone that was probably your first brush with mobile.

“People might think Nokia was the first manufacturer to have games on their phones, but they weren?t. It?s just that the earlier non-Nokia handsets that had them didn?t sell in big numbers like the 6110 did,” said Armanto in a wonderful post on Mel Magazine. I had played a Snake-like game in my Apple Macintosh computer before. It was for two players controlling their own snake with a keyboard.”

Armanto wanted to add Tetris to the phone by the game owners wanted a cut for every handset sold. Armanto hunted for the “owner” of Snake, couldn’t find one, and decided that it would be the game of choice for millions of Nokia owners.

Luckily, Armanto had a heart. He know the 6110 had many limitations and if the game got too frustrating people would quit.

“While testing the early versions of the game, I noticed it was hard to control the snake upon getting close to and edge but not crashing ? especially in the highest speed levels. I wanted the highest level to be as fast as I could possibly make the device ?run,? but on the other hand, I wanted to be friendly and help the player manage that level. Otherwise it might not be fun to play. So I implemented a little delay. A few milliseconds of extra time right before the player crashes, during which she can still change the directions. And if she does, the game continues,” he said.

Read the rest of the post here or play the game here. Just don’t eat yourself!

John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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2 thoughts on “An oral history of Snake

  1. Snake predates Nokia or Taneli Armanto… as Armanto lets on, “I had played a Snake-like game in my Apple Macintosh computer before. It was for two players controlling their own snake with a keyboard.?

    But even that wasn’t the first Snake game. The first iteration of this game I ever played was on an IBM PC in 1982, in the form of Hoser! – where you played exactly the same single-player gameplay, but using the cursor keys on the mechanical keyboard. lets you play it today in its original glory. Nokia ripped it off very successfully. It was invented by Roger C. Ferguson.

    The only problem with playing it in that emulator is that even emulated, it relies on the slow speed of the 8088 processor, running it on a modern processor makes it too fast to play.

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