The truth behind the wild TikTok videos meant to hack your attention
Strangely satisfying or strangely chaotic?
If you spend any time on TikTok, you may have noticed a certain type of video collage popping up all over your For You page. Maybe it has a clip of the cartoon for adults Family man in there, or socialist Twitch streamer Hasan “Hasanabi” Piker talking about Black Lives Matter. But regardless of footage, it’s likely that one of the other panels will feature mobile endless runner gameplay Subway surfers. And if you’re confused about what the hell is going on, well, great! Because I was too.
A likely offshoot of the #corecore trend meant to comment on society’s oversaturation of stimulation, these collages feature anywhere from two to four videos playing simultaneously, none of which have any connection to the other.
In one example posted on January 17 by British power metal band Dragonforce, there are videos of Family man and a live show by the band. Left side? It is completely dominated by Subway surfersit temple race-like endless runner developed by Kiloo and Sybo Games that has been out for over a decade. That video got almost 15,000 likes and almost 200,000 views. And it’s just one of the many videos now circulating with unexplained features Subway surfers.
A strangely satisfying combination
So why is that Subway surfers appear all over TikTok?
Dr. Natalie Coyle, a psychologist with a Ph.D in mental health research and author of several articles covering the psychology of video games, believes the concept of “visual tactility” comes into play here. By juxtaposing “exciting” or “relaxing” content—like perfectly frothy foam or endless running montages—creators can hold the user’s attention for longer periods of time.
“In the videos of Hasanabi’s that I’ve seen that adopt this collage format, there tend to be two types of videos shared with the main one: Subway surfers, and then content that is considered “strangely satisfying,” like cutting foam in perfect symmetry, Dr. Coyle says. “This is sometimes called ‘visual tactility’ in research, but it is still a growing field of study.”
Coyle suggests that each part of these collages can promote different effects in a viewer. Although she notes that it is not yet known whether simply watching game footage can induce the fabled “flow state” activity, she believes that if any type of game video can do it, it is footage of an endless runner that Subway surferswhich continues down a determined path with few other distractions to consider.
“If focusing on a video game and achieving the optimal route isn’t your thing, oddly satisfying content/visual tactility content [that is playing alongside it] can increase your receptivity to the main information in the video,” she said. “So in a nutshell, while recording games like Subway surfers has the potential to increase auditory attention, the ‘strangely satisfying’ video has the potential to relax viewers, improve their listening, and increase their chances of remembering the content discussed in the main video.”
Subway surfers is gaining players, thanks in part to TikTok
Developer Sybo Games seems poised to capitalize on the chaotic trend by posting similar TikToks on Subway surfers‘ official account. CEO Mathias Gredal Nørvig told us Kotaku that thanks to this “user-generated content era,” the game is seeing “a new wave of eyes” as well Subway surfers‘ millions of existing active players.
Hasanabi’s editor Ostonox told Kotaku that he calls the TikTok trend “retention bait”, with one panel in the video collages being “main content with audio”, while the rest of the clips are only there as a means of capturing the viewer’s attention. Originally satirizing the #corecore videos he’s seen across the app, Ostonox said every time he’s used the format on Hasanabi’s account, the videos do extremely well in the first 30 minutes, in part because they lead people to watch longer and listen to the entire video. message.
“Pairing together three different videos shared screened in the same TikTok works really well on a shorts-based platform because TikTok encourages users to swipe away from a video the second they get bored,” Ostonox said. “So, when your attention starts drifting on one of these ‘retention bait’ videos, your eyes can simply scroll to another panel of someone cutting colorful kinetic sand or mobile game footage where a character collects coins. This strategy is used by many accounts on TikTok that seems to only post TV show clips like Family man, but since I posted about it, I’ve had other creators comment on how successful it’s been for them as well. In fact, many of our commenters said the format helped them absorb information better, which reminds me of the fidget toy trend from years ago that claimed students were able to learn better if they could do something with their hands while listening .”
It is unclear about the video collages, especially those containing Subway surfers, actually have any influence on a viewer’s attention span. One thing is clear, though: While these videos may look unhinged, they’re extremely popular, with creators from Hasanabi to Philip DeFranco using them on their own TikTok accounts. So be prepared, it could be a lot more Subway surfers in your TikTok future.
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