arXiv vs. snarXiv

This isn’t a game set in an academic location, but as it’s a game about academic publishing and research I’ll just about include it here.

You can play arXiv vs. snarXiv online. It’s quite simple; guess which one of the two paper titles presented is the real one from the arXiv.org e-Print archive. And try not to pick the one which has been pseudo-randomly generated.

It’s slightly worrying (but also personally comforting) that, looking at some of the accumulated scores, many papers have a success rate of only just over 50%. Maybe hardly anyone from the world of physics has played this game, making the quotients of plays mostly guesswork. Or, maybe a lot of physics academics do play the game and they are just as confused as the rest of us; I don’t know.

arXiv vs. snarXiv

Anyway it’s good fun for a while, until I finally remind myself that I am completely guessing and any feelings that I am applying intelligence on my part are delusional and false.

Particle Clicker

From last summer, Particle Clicker (PC) is a resource accumulation game in the same mould as Cookie Clicker – but this time with particle physics research, academics, and funding. Click repeatedly on the collider to generate data. Turn data into research to gain funding and increase your reputation. Spend your funding on human resources and upgrades – don’t forget to buy beer to keep your research students happy, and coffee to keep them awake!

Clicker games are, in functionality, about as simple as you can get. There’s usually not many decisions to make (Particle Clicker has more than most), some clicking to do when you feel like it, and things happen in the background whether you click or not. In essence, you accumulate some attribute that is measured purely numerically. As you gain more of this attribute, you can decide what to spend it on; often, these are elements which increase the rate at which the attribute accumulates. And that’s it. There’s usually no end goal or target; you just accumulate more and more of whatever the base attribute is, and you stop playing when you lose interest.

One of the aspects of Particle Clicker which makes it more interesting than most clicker games is the technical/content accuracy within; the game was developed at the CERN summer student webfest by physics students. Expand (ironically, by clicking on it) this screenshot which was taken a few minutes into a new game:

Particle Clicker screenshot

In the centre is the particle collider, the thing you click on to get more of the ‘data’ attribute. In the left-hand column are technically accurate physics concepts; expand on these and you can read more detailed information, often with links to academic papers. In the right-hand columns are essentially power-ups which you can attain to increase attribute generation; as you can see, these are sometimes a satirical nod to academic physics research. Here’s some screenshots – [1] [2] [3] [4] – from when the game has been played/left running for a while.

Particle Clicker is free and online, and is instant and about as easy as you can get to play. You just … click. It’s a neat way to both slide some optional knowledge about physics under the noses of players (in effect, your rewards for leveling up are access to this knowledge), and to make some remarks about the academic research process. Give it a go.

p.s. as an amusing side-point, one comment about playing Particle Clicker was:

“There is something inordinately depressing about procrastinating by fake doing the things that I should be real doing.”