Formal Assignment 2 – Tetrageddon

Tetrageddon is a beautiful mess. The website serves as a catalog of games made by its creator, Nathalie Lawhead or Alien Melon, and is a game within itself. The landing page is a busy mess of popups with a design reminiscent of Windows XP.

Gif of the home page of Tetrageddon. it is chaotic.
Image from Tetrageddon

This theme of old-style tech is present throughout the website. Some pages look like the Windows XP desktop and others are just raw HTML.

The website has a linear progression with many branching off paths that will open up new pages. Most of the site can be accessed through a singular page, but by design, it is hard to find anything. That is mainly due to the fact that it is a game. To steal a concept from game design (I am now somehow on topic for my website) Tetrageddon seems to be aiming for a discovery aesthetic by using the mechanic of numerous branching and parallel paths. As a video game, it is a good design to make things difficult to discover. It encourages the player to explore. As a website, this is the worst possible design. To highlight this let me describe how to get to the games catalog. 

Getting to the Games Catalog

gif of a pixel art monkey in a white jacket with a gold watch.

After clicking on the CYBERMONKEY the desktop is clear and the monkey turns into a pile of bones. On the desktop, there are four icons and the start menu.

image of pixel art ghost

Clicking the light switch icon in the bottom left activates dark-mode where the user meets Tatghoul. There is a dialogue that ends with Tatghoul saying that if you want the password you must sacrifice bones to the BONE LOARD… why should I want a password?

Going back to the desktop and opening the start menu you see a button labeled “The games.” Clicking on this will take you to a different menu that shows off ten other games made by Alien Melon. Some of the games are locked behind a password that you can only get by talking to Tatghoul and sacrificing CYBERMONKEY’s bones to the BONE LOARD. The reason why I am describing the process of accessing the catalog out of order is, that is the order I did it in.

Now to get the password click and drag CYBERMONKEY’s bones into the recycling bin and speak to Tatghoul again. She will show you the door to the bone lord who will give you the password “sorry”. You have now accessed the games catalog.

user experience and accessibility

My first time on the website I was on my laptop and the BONE LOARD did not work. My laptop has a 16:9 resolution. The page was designed for 16:10 and so the BONE LOARD’s head was cropped out. This is a problem as to progress you must click the BONE LOARD’s head. Unless you are on a desktop with a standard monitor the website will not work. It does not work on phones as well. 

Gif of the bone lord. it is a skeleton  moving back and forward
Image from Tetrageddon

This site is hardly usable to a general audience and is much worse for a differently able audience. The main page is more or less a JavaScript game forced to run in the browser and so most accessibility programs will not be able to parse that page at all. Even if things like alt-text were possible the multi-path design would make things difficult because there is no good way to go back. From being infected with cyberzombies to getting the password from the BONE LOARD the page does not change meaning that pressing the back button will reset progress. There are some pages that one can get to through that are more HTML based but most of them are just a catalog of links to images and .exe files that I did not wish to run. The images on these auxiliary sites don’t have any alt text as they are download links. Overall the site is more or less completely inaccessible to the differently abled.

design takeaway

Tetrageddon is supposed to be an experience. The website describes itself as “the weirdest most tortured not-a-game game you will ever experience.” I feel that the site also has an unannounced second purpose as a portfolio. For all my misgivings about the websites web design its game design is quite good especially for an in browser game. It is a great example of show don’t tell. Nathalie Lawhead could have made a normal portfolio where she describes the games she has made and the awards she won, but instead she made something with the same chaotic energy as the rest of her work.

For all the bad of the site design it has greatly inspired me to add interactivity to my own design. My site is about game design and it would be a shame if there weren’t any games on it. I don’t intend on making something as chaotic as Tetrageddon but I intend to make something like a game like. Tetrageddon sacrifices good web design for good game design. When it comes to integrating games to my own site the compromises in my design will always lean toward good web design. 

The design makes heavy use of the affordances and assumptions of a computer desktop not a website. This is because the website is actually able to be downloaded off of and run off of the desktop. 

gif of Tetrageddon's itch IO page
Image from

The website knows that the user probably knows what a popup is and how to interact with it. It also knows that the user will try to click the icons on the desktop and that text that is a different color and underlined can probably be interacted with. The site also makes use of multimodality using text, video and audio to convey its chaotic themes. 

most of the links to Tetrageddon just link back to the start of the website because much of the website takes place on a single dynamic page. All the images in the “Getting to the Games Catalog” section are from Tetrageddon. I was unable to use captions for that block.

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