2048 (the game, not the year)

About five years ago, an app swept through the casual gaming community. It peaked and went away so quickly that you might not have noticed, but it’s been out there ever since. I’m talking abour 2048, which could either be thought of as the dumb person’s Sudoku or the smart person’s Tetris. Take your pick.

In 2048, the object is to move numbered squares around so that two identically numbered squares move into each other. You can only move in the four basic directions and when you move, every piece moves. In the image above, moving down would combine the two number-2 squares into each other and make a single number-4 square. Do this over and over again with regularity and the twos turn into fours which turn into eights, et cetera. Combine enough of them to make a 2048 and you win.

It’s a pretty good time waster and free, too

2048 can help you pass the hours quickly. Because the game will inevitably take 1,024 steps or more to win (usually more) most games take a while. If Sudoku leaves you frustrated and the increasing pace of Tetris leaves you stressed, you’ll find 2048 a gentle time-waster that doesn’t get too addictive and doesn’t require the kind of incessant in-app purchases that doomed Candy Crush Saga. Unlike most time-wasters, there’s no annoying animation or sound, and the game doesn’t push you to move quickly.

2048 was created as open-source software so there are many different slightly different free versions out there. There’s also a web page where it’s free to play. If you accidentally run into a version with a lot of ads or a bunch of strange sounds, it’s easy enough to find another free version that’s just as good.

The recent rebirth of 2048

For a game that came and went five years ago, 2048 is doing pretty well. Thank Elon Musk for that. The tech visionary decided about a year ago that his cars weren’t just driving machines. He started rolling out the ability to game on the cars’ tablet-like dashboards. He started with classic Atari arcade games (leading to the feature being called Teslatari at one point) but quickly moved to newer games. Among those second-wave games was, you guessed it, 2048. Its inclusion has led to a rise in popularity for a game once thought to be past its prime.

If you’re looking for 2048, check out your device’s App Store or Play Store (or whatever you wish to call it.) Don’t blame me if the rest of the day is shot for you, though.