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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Return to the play area
Title text: Return to the play area


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: It's possible not all of the game's secrets have been unearthed yet.

The comic features a game made to celebrate the release of Randall's his new book, "Thing Explainer". The game was made by Max Goodman who has previously worked on 1416: Pixels. The source code for the game (in a obfuscated form) can be found here. The game features Cueball on a hover board in an arena filled with coins, initially it appears the aim of the game is to collect all the coins. However, a seemingly intentional bug in the game means that the player can jump and keep jumping forever without needing to land (As is usual for platform games like these). This allows the character to go out of bounds of the "Play Area" prompting multiple warnings insisting the player returns to said "Play Area". Exiting this area reveals a hidden world similar in style to the previous comic 1110: Click and Drag, which can be explored by navigating through various obstacles and hidden areas.

There are 17 coins in the "Play Area" and a grand total of 169 in the entire game.

Escaping from the starting area is quite simple, the character simply has to navigate through one of the multiple holes in the area and them simply jump over the wall on the left or the right of the starting area, this can be done by repeatedly tapping the jump key. The player can then explore. The game is physically bounded in the left and the right direction, but is technically unbounded upwards and downwards, however, past a certain point there appears to be nothing interesting in the up or down direction. It could be possible that some unexplored hole leads deeper into the map than has been found so far, it is also possible that jumping for a considerable amount of time would allow the player to reach some additional content above the map.

As previously noted, the comic bears considerable resembelance to 1110: Click and Drag. The comic is made in much the same way, with 'drawn' images "glued" together to form a large "map", with the illusion of infinite bounds made possible through space saving techniques where blank tiles are not stored and are instead painted white. The boundary between blank squares and 'drawn' squares is made clear as any white space in the normal images has a very slight grey tint. Thus, seams between images and blank spaces can be discerned.

The tiles for the map are stored as simple PNG files in the naming scheme: X:Y+s.png. An example can be seen here: Each file is 513x513 pixels in size, one pixel is reserved as overlap to ensure seamless joining of images. So far, through experimentation, tiles in the range 928 to 1108 X and -1112 to -928 Y have been discovered, internally, the position of the player is divided by 512 and rounded down to give the position of the tile.


There are many different areas beyond the initial starting area, exploration has found so far:

Notable features include a number of large ships in the sky, with various interiors which can be entered from several places. To find them, follow the strings which several characters are holding near the first ground area.

West: Washington Monument - Volcano - Lava pools - LOTR Eagles - Elon Musk's Volcano Lair - Landing re-entry capsule - Giant spaceship / Floating rock island in the sky (x: 507163, y: -567537) Hat underground A hole which traps(?) the player unless noclip mode is used

East: Wedding - Giant bird nest - Desert - Ocean Yelper - Graveyard - Talking Rogue Wave - People holding anchor lines to a Star Destroyer, among other ships.

Quickly hacked overview - courtesy of kyledavide on reddit.


The controls are as follows:

  • Go Left - Left arrow key, a or h
  • Go Right - Right arrow key, d or l
  • Go Up (jump or hover) - Up arrow key, w, or k

Through inspection of the game's source code, it can be derived that down, j and s are also accepted keystrokes, but it is unclear if the game actually uses these or not.

This control scheme covers the three commonly used directional key sets: WASD a set of keys commonly used by modern games; HJKL a set of movement keys used by vi and applications which attempt to mimic vi key controls (vim); and the arrow keys, the most generic set of keys which is usually accepted by most applications which take movement as input, these were commonly used in older games.

On a tablet (e.g. iPad) changing the orientation of the tablet will control the left and right motion, while tapping the image produced jumps.

Cheats and Exploits

Aside from the obvious ability to move out of bounds in the game, there are some more obscure hidden features which can't be enabled through normal gameplay, the ones found so far are as follows:

Modes are activated by opening the Javascript Console (F12 to open Developer Tools, then Console tab) and writing corresponding commands:

  • Gandalf Mode: = true - jumps and runs further
  • Speedhack: explorer.opts.speed= *Value* - Speed hacking, with 1 = normal speed
  • Jump Hack: explorer.opts.jumpForce= -*Value* - Jump hacking, with -1 = normal jump (positive values cause the hoverboard guy to move down when jumping)
  • Mewtwo mode: window.mewtwo = true - disables gravity
  • Noclip mode: window.noclip = true - player is able to move around the map without collision. Combine with Gandalf and Mewtwo modes for free easy map traversal.
  • Goggles mode: window.ze.goggles() - displays a small window showing area around the player in a pixelated manner
  • Position Tracking: window.explorer.pos - Returns the player location to the console. Can be used to track position and test to ensure you are still moving. Must be re-entered to compare positioning.
  • Position Setting: window.explorer.pos.x = *Value* or window.explorer.pos.y = *Value* - Can be used to manually set a position within the world. The start is at x: 512106, y: -549612. The left terrain bound is at x: 475210, y: -553711. The right terrain bound is at x: 567281, y: -549712. Mewtwo and Noclip modes are a must for exploring in this way.
  • All the above: window.explorer.opts - Contains all the game's parameters. You can directly mess with gravity, collision (disableCollision), jump force (jumpForce) and speed (maxSpeed), among others. Run Object.keys(window.explorer.opts) to list all available parameters you can tweak.
  • List all coins: window.explorer.objects - Array containing the position of the 169 coins of the game.
  • ""Disable tilt input:"" "getEventListeners(window)['deviceorientation'][0].remove()" - on Macs with motion sensor, disables tilt input which causes problems controlling the avatar

Getting All Coins: To instantly get all coins, input the below into the console window. Does not use standard formatting of [i] to avoid conflicts with

   for (var T = 0; T < explorer.objects.length; T++) {
       explorer.objects[T].got = true

To teleport to the next coin every time you press the left or right arrow:

   var T = 0;
   document.onkeydown = function(event){
     if (event.keyCode == 37) { T = T-1 }
     else if (event.keyCode == 39) { T = T+1 }
     else { return }
     T = T % explorer.objects.length;
     var coin = explorer.objects[T];
     explorer.pos.x = coin.x1; explorer.pos.y = coin.y1;

To see a list of coin coordinates you have not yet collected:

   var L = 0;
   for (var S = 0; S < explorer.objects.length; S++) {
       var I = explorer.objects[S];
       if ( {
       } else {
           console.log(I.x1.toString() + ", " + I.y1.toString());
   console.log("You've found " + L.toString() + " of 169 coins");


By observing page code while playing, the game grabs and displays images based on location, and subsequently clears all non-visible images. The game uses what seems to be a position syntax to retrieve the intended images live, and returns an error if such an image does not exist, such as a blank area. This technically means things could be added to the world and updated live. If the player is moving sufficiently fast or if the internet connection is slow, this means that the player can get stuck in a black area that does not load in time.

This also means that the game does not have coded top or bottom limits, so any attempt to find the ceiling of the game will be futile unless the game is tweaked. The game does however have side limits.

When you get a certain number of coins, you will get one of the following messages:

  • 0 coins : You got 0 coins in (n) seconds/ You successfully avoided all the coins.
  • 1 coin : You got a single coin in (n) seconds/ It's a start.
  • 2-4 coins : You got (n) coins in (n) seconds/ Not bad!
  • 5-9 coins : You got (n) coins in (n) seconds/ Terrific!
  • 17 coins : You got 17 coins in (n) seconds/ You found all the coins! Great job!
  • 42 coins : You got 42 coins in (n) seconds/ No answers here.
  • 169 coins : You got 169 coins in (n) seconds/ Are you Gandalf?
  • All others: You got (n) coins in (n) seconds

Opening the console will display the text: what? hoverboard not enough for you!? in the log. Activating goggles mode will cause the text 'B-)' to appear in the log.

Leaving the play area will cause the red text 'RETURN TO THE PLAY AREA' to rapidly blink 3 times (150 msec duration), followed by a pause, and this will repeat 5 times for a total of 15 blinks. This will also reoccur if the player passes through the play area on their way back from exploring one side.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Something similar to 1110: Click and Drag

The game features Cueball on a hoverboard in a simple map. On the map are coins which Cueball has to collect. It appears Cueball can jump multiple times without needing to land, this means that Cueball is able to escape the designated "Play Area". This prompts a warning which soon disappears allowing Cueball to discover the world.




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