A special category of games has emerged in recent years, called .io games. This is a genre that owes its name to a quirk of the way the modern internet works.The letters ‘io’ have special significance in the world of digital entertainment. In electronics circles, they stand for ‘input output’. Arduino and Raspberry Pi users might think of the row of sockets that come attached to the top of the board: the General Purposes Input Output (GPIO) header. In gaming, we need inputs and outputs. An input can be a keyboard, mouse or control pad. An output might include a screen and some speakers. If you’re gaming on a handheld device, then all of these features are housed inside the same unit, and all of the io goodness goes on internally – but the principles remain the same: on either side of process, you need inputs and outputs.Coincidentally, there’s also a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for ‘io’. These are the collections of letters you get at the end of a website – for example, Japanese websites end in .jp; UK websites end in .uk; German websites end in .de. The letters ‘io’ signify that a site is hosted in the British Indian Ocean territory. Most of the websites which use this domain, however, don’t have anything to do with this part of the world; they just wanted to get .io into their urls because of the technical association it has with gaming. A similar thing happened with .tv, the ccTLD for the Polynesian island of Tuvalu (10% of whose government revenue comes from royalties from addresses).Here on Gamepix, you’ll find a range of .io games, all unlocked and ready to play in browser-friendly HTML5. You’ll be able to enjoy them on just about any device you can think of! Things you always find in io games So that explains where the name came from. But what exactly do io games have in common? At first, it might not seem obvious – but once you’ve played a few, you’ll get the idea. Players start off as a small character in a large playing area. By consuming the items around them, you’ll grow bigger. Eventually, players run into one another, and there’s a risk that one will destroy the other. Exactly how combat works varies from game to game. Sometimes, the larger player will automatically destroy the smaller player on contact (and grow a bit larger in the process), but crafty smaller players can usually outmanoeuvre a larger one. Resource gathering mechanics are sometimes built into io games, too, along with power-ups through which one player might dash away from, or toward, another. In almost every one of these games, a single false move can cause the player to die permanently, forcing them to start again from scratch. If you’ve spent half-an-hour gobbling up other players and protecting your own existence, this can be a big deal! This creates an element of tension which is perfectly reminiscent of the natural wilderness that many of these games try to emulate. You’ll need to be constantly wary of other smaller players looking to wander across the path of your snake, or to gang up on your overgrown amoeba, and you’ll need to be constantly looking to expand – because the alternative is death! Until you’re the biggest fish in the sea, there’s always a risk that another player will get the jump over you. And even if you are, being eaten is an occupational hazard. After all, when you’re at the top of the game, the only way is down! It’s hard to pinpoint what makes games like this so fun. Perhaps it’s the joy of the feeling that you’re growing and developing while playing the game; maybe it’s the feeling of domination that comes when you take out a smaller, weaker player; or it could be the tension that comes with investing time and energy into growing, and then knowing that it’s all on the line later on! Whatever the reason, all we know is that they’re great fun! GamePix’s Collection of io Games While the io formula is derived from just a few games, the principles have proven so popular that there’s now an io game for just about everyone, and they all offer their own individual quirks. In Mope.io, players control stylised animals who roam around a colourful forest floor in search of things to eat. The standard .io rules apply here: survive when you’re small, but show no mercy when you’re big! Other popular variants draw upon one of the earliest io games, Slither.io. Just like in the original, Wormax, Conquer and Wormate put the player in control of a long worm-like creature. Slither across the playing surface, eat as much food as possible, take out other players, and eat the masses of food their corpses disintegrate into. Little Big Snake takes things in a slightly different direction, with a succession of levels available for your snake to explore. Not all io games are based on traditional predation. In Hole.io, the playable character is a giant black hole in the middle of a city. Devour as many buildings, vehicles and people as you can by flying into them, and be the biggest player at the end. Similarly, there are .io games that borrow from the popular battle royale format. In Build Royale and Foes.io, players must assemble items and their presence on the map rather than simply eating food and growing. In much the same way, Moomoo.io requires that players build up a village and balance four different resources in order to expand. Fly or Die, on the other hand, is a more traditional, with players taking the role of an animal. The difference in this case is that players don’t just grow into a bigger version of the same animal; they actually ‘evolve’ Pokémon-like, into entirely different animals. Start off as a fly, then grow into a butterfly, and then a bird. It’s a system that might cause science teachers to roll their eyes and sigh, but it’s one that adds up to reliable fun!