Apologies for the potentially alarming headline! Lights Off is actually an iPhone game, but unlike PopCap’s Web-based Bejeweled (see “PopCap Pops iPhone Productivity,” 2007-08-06), Lights Off is the first truly native iPhone game. Created by Lucas Newman and Adam Betts of Delicious Monster for the Iron Coder Live hack contest at the recent C4 conference (it took second place), the free Lights Off provides a deceptively simple set of puzzles to solve. You’re faced with a grid of lights, some lit, some not. Tapping a light toggles it, along with the four adjacent lights. Your goal is to switch all the lights off, at which point you move on to the next level – there are 200 levels all told.
Lucas and Adam developed Lights Off with Apple’s UIKit development framework, which is what Apple used to create the iPhone’s built-in applications, but they also leveraged the various community efforts to open the iPhone to independent developers. So although Lights Off is an entirely native iPhone application, installing it requires opening access to your iPhone with iActivator, uploading Lights Off to the iPhone with iPHUC, installing an SSH server on the iPhone, and changing the permissions of the Lights Off application (full instructions are available on the Lights Off Web page). Of course, because Lights Off is such a hack, it’s likely that installing an update to the iPhone software will render Lights Off inoperative. Installing Lights Off could also violate the iPhone’s warranty, but it seems to me that in the worst case, you could simply reset the iPhone to factory defaults and restore data from your computer.
I’ve heard a number of early iPhone users complain about the lack of games, though most seem a bit embarrassed by their desire to play games when Apple didn’t see fit to include any. Perhaps Lights Off – and other native iPhone applications that are coming – will be sufficiently popular to encourage Apple to open up the iPhone to developers of both games and more useful programs that can’t be developed as Web 2.0 applications.
And, with apologies to Arlo Guthrie, if just one iPhone user walks into an Apple Store and says, “Why can’t I get anything I want on my iPhone?” they’ll think he’s really sick and won’t help him reinstall his game after updating the iPhone. And if two iPhone users do it, in harmony, they’ll think it’s a stunt, and they won’t help either one of them. And if three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking into an Apple Store and asking why they can’t install anything they want on an iPhone, and walking out, they may think it’s an organization. And can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in and asking why they can’t install anything they want and walking out, why friends, they may think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is, the iPhone Application Anti-Massacre Movement. And all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar. With feeling.