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Me in the Media #4: Singapore-made brainteaser hits cult status [Aug. 30th, 2008|04:12 pm]
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Singapore-made brainteaser hits cult status
Digital Life (Straits Times), 9 May 2006

Singapore teen Tay Wei Kiat tells SERENE LUO why his riddle is absolutely Wicked

It took only a few hours to create, is not even two months old, but has already attracted some 70,000 visitors.

The biggest surprise: this online game called The Wicked is the creation of Singapore's own teenager Tay Wei Kiat. He is only 18.

In fact, this puzzle at ( http://weikiat . ikueb.com/thewicked) is one of the biggest cult status activities to sweep the virtual world, especially in Singapore.

Solve the riddle on one level to get to the next, and keep at it until you have broken the entire code. Simple but addictive.

Blog entries by youths compare the levels they have achieved and there are even websites from Germany asking for help with some of the riddles. The game has even got a mention in online community encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

All because this junior college student, who picked up bits and pieces of computing when he was in Secondary One, felt bored one night.

'I did the first eight levels in five hours and sent it to some of my friends to test it out,' said Wei Kiat.

'Some of them were very interested and solved them quickly, then asked for more. But there were also those who couldn't get through the levels, and maybe that's why they weren't interested!'

According to Wei Kiat, more than half of his visitors are from Singapore; the others come from places like the United States, Germany, China and even Ireland and Myanmar.

The idea of the online puzzle is not new. One of the more popular ones called Not Pron has been around since 2004, has 138 levels and has had more than 8.7 million page views.

Comparatively, Wei Kiat's puzzle is but a baby - born on March 18 this year, it has 55 levels and 320,000 page views.

But it is his focus on 'lateral thinking' and his 'unique style' that keeps them coming back for more, said student Gan Soon Bing, 20, who is waiting to enter university.

'The game concept isn't entirely new,' he said. '(But it is) one that is a promising development from our country.

'I admire him (Wei Kiat) for having even thought of such an idea. This kind of creativity is really a relative unknown in Singapore.'

The Wicked requires the player to have some knowledge of computing skills, such as knowing about cookies or Cascading Style Sheets, which led to some players crying foul - that they were handicapped because they did not know computing.

Which then led to The Wicked Junior being born - a similar online puzzle, but it uses puns on language instead, and consists of contributions from some players.

People trying to solve them have formed a small community on the game's forums, and they frequently compare battle stories about how they have sat up many a night trying to break a code, or begging others for hints.

'Usually a simple level follows after a difficult level,' said 16-year-old student Terh Yee Jiunn, saying that that was a 'good tactic as it keeps players staying tuned to the game because it's not too difficult that people give up half-way nor too simple that people solving it have no satisfaction'.

Controversy started when one blogger, Mr Gabriel Seah, managed to break codes to more than half of the game and posted the answers on his blog.

'I suddenly found a lot of people solving the puzzle and wondered what was happening,' said Wei Kiat. 'At first I was real angry, because if you give out the answer, what's the point of playing the game?'

But after some discussion with Mr Seah, Wei Kiat managed to get him to stop posting further answers.

The budding programmer now hopes to be able to get advertisers, so as to support the hosting and bandwidth for his site, as well as to further his programming hobby.

Modestly, though, referring to what he calls his rudimentary skills and newbie status, he said: 'So far I'm still a noob.'

serl@sph.com.sg
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