Nibbler (video game)

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1982 arcade flyer
Developer(s) Joseph H. Ulowetz and John M. Jaugilas
Publisher(s) Rock-Ola
Datamost (home)
Designer(s) Joseph H. Ulowetz and John M. Jaugilas
Platform(s) Arcade (original)
Apple II
Atari 8-bit
Release 1982
Genre(s) Snake game
Mode(s) Single player, 2 player alternating

Nibbler is an arcade game released in 1982 by Chicago-based developer Rock-Ola, in which players navigate a long snake through an enclosed maze consuming food along the way, while the length of the snake increases with each object consumed. Home versions were produced in 1983 by Datasoft for the Atari 8-bit and the Apple II. The game gained fame for becoming the first to include a nine-digit scoring system that enabled players to surpass one billion points during gameplay, which sparked numerous attempts to set high-score records in competitive play over the course of several decades, in turn inspiring the 2016 award-winning documentary Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.


The gameplay of Nibbler has some similarities to Pac-Man[1] in that it features a player-controlled snake that continuously navigates 32 enclosed mazes, eating all food in its path while growing in length as the game progresses. The game features no enemies, and a life is lost whenever the snake bites its own tail.[2]

Competitive play[edit]

Nibbler world-record attempts by Tim McVey and Dwayne Richard at MAGFest 7 in 2009.

Nibbler is notable for being the first video game to feature a nine-digit scoring system that allowed players to score one billion points.[3] The first to achieve this feat was a seventeen-year-old named Tim McVey, who scored 1,000,042,270 points on January 17, 1984 while playing continuously for 44 hours over two days at Walter Day's Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa, Iowa.[3] A local news crew arrived to film him on location as he closed in on the record.[4] McVey stated in a 2016 interview that he quit playing on his own accord due to exhaustion after setting the mark.[5] For his achievement, McVey, an Ottumwa native, had the day of January 28, 1984 declared in his honor.[2] He additionally received his own Nibbler machine as a prize, which he later gave to a rival arcade in exchange for two hundred game tokens.[6]

On September 27, 1984, Italian player Enrico Zanetti topped McVey with a 1,001,073,840 score, but it was not officially recognized by Twin Galaxies,[7] who ultimately stopped verifying record scores for the game altogether.[8] In September 2008, Dwayne Richard of Grande Prairie, Alberta gained media attention when he fell short in his attempt to become the first player since McVey to officially surpass one billion points.[1]

McVey's mark consequently stood for nearly three decades before it was surpassed twice, including once by Richard in 2009,[6] but McVey was still recognized by Guinness World Records as the official record holder because these scores were never submitted for verification.[8] Rick Carter of Glen Burnie, Maryland officially claimed the new world record with a score of 1,002,222,360 on July 31, 2011.[3] McVey regained the mark on December 25, 2011 with a score of 1,041,767,060.[8]


In 2013, filmmakers Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy used Kickstarter to fund a documentary titled Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler, about the difficulties of achieving a one-billion point score on Nibbler.[9] The film had been a work in progress since 2008 and reached its funding goal on September 16, 2013.[9] Man vs. Snake premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas on September 27, 2015, winning the Jury Award for Best Picture Documentary.[10] On April 17, 2016 the film made its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival where it again won the Jury Award for Best Documentary. On May 24, 2016 it was announced that Man vs. Snake would be distributed internationally by leading independent film and documentary publisher Filmbuff with a release date scheduled for June 24, 2016.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ a b "World record attempt foiled". Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune. September 15, 2008. Retrieved June 14, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Keith (October 12, 2012). "The Story of Rock-Ola Video Games (Part 3)". The Golden Age Arcade Historian. Retrieved June 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Gach, Ethan (October 22, 2016). "Man vs. Snake Documents One Man's Obsession with Nibbler". Kotaku. Retrieved June 12, 2017. 
  4. ^ Stokstad, Paul (July 1984). "The 1,000,000,000 Point Game". Computer Games Magazine. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. 
  5. ^ Topel, Fred (June 19, 2016). "Filmquest Interview: Tim McVey and Dwayne Richard on Man vs. Snake". Nerd Report. Retrieved June 12, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Bearman, Joshuah (January 3, 2009). "Because It's There". Retrieved June 13, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Interview with Nibbler Billionaire Enrico Zanetti". Retro Uprising. January 31, 2002. Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Seay, Hayden (June 23, 2016). "Documentary 'Man vs. Snake' explores quest for gaming immortality". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved June 12, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy. "MAN VS SNAKE: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler". Retrieved December 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (June 24, 2016). "Remember the Video Game 'Nibbler'? It's Now the Subject of a Documentary". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 12, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Announcing The 2015 Fantastic Fest Jury Winners!". Fantastic Fest. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  12. ^ "Man Vs Snake: The Long And Twisted Tale Of Nibbler". Calgary Underground Film Festival. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 
  13. ^ Brown, Gentry. "Documentary Feature MAN vs SNAKE: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler Coming June 24th". TriplePoint Newsroom. Retrieved 2016-05-24. 

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