First released in July 2004 by David Münnich, a German artist, musician, and game creator, Not Pr0n is billed as “the Internet’s hardest riddle.” Not Pr0n was conceived after seeing an earlier game, This Is Not Porn, which, in Münnich’s opinion is “pretty unfair and rather boring.” To make a more fair, more enjoyable game, Münnich put a lot of effort into molding the progression of levels to teach the player to play. He began posting just a few levels in July of 2004. By July, 2005, Not Pr0n officially ended, comprised of 139 levels.
Coming up on its second birthday, and the anniversary of its completion, it’s a perfect time to take a look at Not Pr0n, play it again, and consider it as a well-established Web game.
Each level of Not Pr0n is a puzzle or riddle based on geeky web-based knowledge. There’s little that gets incredibly complicated here, but a savvy websense in needed to proceed. The first few levels introduce the basic mechanics of the game: Level One requires you to click the door in the image. Level Two requires you to change the URL in the location bar of your web browser. The player is immediately taken away from the traditional point-and-click puzzle game and required to interact with the browser and the larger Web. Some puzzles feature Google search boxes, making clear that users are expected to mine for specialized knowledge in addition to using their own smarts.
Playing Not Pr0n is a a roller coaster of difficulty. Some levels are easy, some are maddening. There is plenty of help online. In the year since it’s completion, over nine million players have attempted it. Only 101 have completed all 139 levels, which gives it a completion rate of 0.001%, putting Not Pr0n in a category of difficulty usually reserved for niche Japanese twitch-shooters. (Full disclosure: I am NOT in the elite 101 who have finished Not Pr0n.)
Not Pr0n is, in many ways, like a hardcore computer geek’s Myst. Like Myst, most of Not Pr0n’s gameplay centers on still images that give the reader a view on a fictional world. And, like Myst, there is a fairly obscure and difficult to follow narrative that emerges from the play. Even according to Münnich’s own admission, Not Pr0n’s story loses focus after level 13 or so.
Not Pr0n has been successful: nine million players is no small feat, but by Münnich’s own admission, most of his players drop out after the third level. It is consciously targeted to players with computer knowledge, but that fanbase has grown to worldwide proportions. Still, Münnich has kept Not Pr0n free, and has not polluted it with loads of in-game advertisements. In an interview from August 2005, Münnich said he has made as much as $360 from the Google search bars, which double as gameplay elements and revenue-makers. It is not enough to live on, but it is enough to keep Münnich happy about having created Not Pr0n, which he says he would have gladly done for free.
No plans are underway to continue Not Pr0n or create a sequel to it. However, Münnich remains busy with other game and music projects.
If you’ve played Not Pr0n, take some time this summer to work through it again. And if you have never tried Not Pr0n, it’s a must-play. Nobody expects you to finish it, but it is certainly a classic of alternative gaming.
Plasma Pong is a completely tripped-out version of regular Pong that incorporates fluid dynamics. In addition to deflecting the ball with your paddle, you can now use jets and vortices of fluid pressure to help guide the ball. And all of this is rendered in a super-colorful “plasma” style. If you love the visual style of games like Geometry Wars, Mutant Storm, and Darwinia, then you need to check this one out. Click here to download Plasma Pong, free for Windows PCs.
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Alternative Games is an independent webzine focused on all forms of unorthodox gaming, eccentric game culture, and problematic play.
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