One morning, you think to yourself: Hey, I don't understand today'sXKCD.

You don't know it yet, but this is how it begins.

2048 is a game, originally released onto GitHub before being adapted by various companies for almost every mobile platform in existence.
"Yeah, it's like this, uh, tile game," he says in your Biology class, callused fingers smacking across the screen. "You swipe and all the tiles move, and any tiles with the same number join together, like powers of two. It gets exponentially harder as you keep playing." You make a mental note, keep a file marked 2048 hidden somewhere behind the folds of your brain, plan to re-check the dossier at some point in the future.
The game is rather simplistic, featuring tiles on a 4x4 grid marked with numbers (all of which are powers of two). By swiping the board, the player can combine tiles with the same number into the next power larger. The two main catches are relatively simple: when you swipe to move tiles, every tile moves as far as it can in that direction, a new tile (marked with either a two or a four) appears after every move, and if sixteen tiles remain on the board - making it so that the new tile can't appear - the game is over.

This is fun, you think, but not that fun.

Play over your teacher's discussion of the respiratory system, then of the heart. This is information you came into the class knowing, information you don't need to learn again.

Certainly beats Bio.

The ultimate goal of the game is pretty self-explanatory: to combine the tiles and reach 2048. When the player accomplishes this, the game congratulates them, then allows them to continue playing.

Never swipe up.

Never swipe up.

Never swipe up.

It becomes a mantra, after a while. A maxim. A constant thud of fingers on screen, drumming across the folds of your brain. Never swipe up.

And it's working. You get better numbers, better numbers. Two 256s. A 512. Closer. Closer. You may not have accomplished much today, by some standards. Some standards. By yours, you have made two 512s today, and who needs the excretory system when you're so close.

So close.

Then. It happens. There.


Smile, let yourself bathe in the little victory. Then go back to the mantra.

Never swipe up.

Never swipe up.

The trouble with 2048 is the same as the trouble with Flappy Bird or Doodle Jump or any other similar app fad - it's a free, simple, hard game with no real ending. It's addictive. Like any good app, it infects friend groups like a plague, spreading through every individual until no healthy members remain.

You need to shower. You need a haircut. You need to leave the house today. But you're so close. 1024. 1024.


Every fucking game you get a 1024. But that's not enough, anymore. The little high you used to get at your first four digit number is gone, lost to new aspirations, new needs. It's not enough.

You should shower. Or open the blinds. It's been a week.

But no.

You're so close.

The game is rather hard, too. You need an amount of luck to get far, and various strategies have emerged among players to maximize any game's score. Chief among these is the "never swipe down" theory, which is exactly what it says on the tin. By having larger numbers gravitate towards one side of the grid, you can have the 2s and 4s which appear each turn combine more easily in the open space. This is how I managed to beat the game, but is (unfortunately) not the only strategy for the game.

1024. Two 1024s. New game. So close.

There are dead flies on your floor.

1024. Two 1024s. New game. So close.

  You haven't spoken to anyone for a week.

1024. Two 1024s. New game. So close.

The last face you saw was the police officer who came by, when your friends reported you missing.

1024. Two 1024s.


What's that.

This is it. This is the crown jewel. The pinnacle of achievement. The magic number.


This is the goal, the finish line. But at the same time, it's so much more.




It's so much more.



You can find 2048 either here or on your mobile platform's App Store variant, if you dare.

Your screen fades back into your game, a new line of text appearing.

Your next goal is to get to the 4096 tile!


No, no, no, no, no.

You lying whore of a game.

You are called 2048.

Your finish line is 2048.

You're supposed to be over.


Your phone flies across the room. No. You will not be jerked around by a game anymore. You will be free. You will surpass the chains placed on you. You will be human again. You will be human again.

You stand up - for the first time today - and pick up your phone, tracing a hairline crack with your index finger.

But first, let me just try once...