Beating 'Threes' turns out to be a thing you can do.
Threes balances brick-simple mechanics with a staggering level of strategic depth, and an intoxicating sense of accomplishment. It's one of those games that folk sink days into, and once they feel like they've gotten pretty dang good, quickly discover that someone on their Twitter feed has summarily thrashed their high score.
"There used to be a few exploits and hackable saves in the old versions of the game," Vollmer told us, "but I think this is the first True Win."
Gideon locked in a final high score of 1,594,458, as seen in the video proof of his accomplishment. For comparison, this reporter's personal best is 29,310, which is still very respectable.
Vollmer also provided some meaningful statistics for Threes: The app has been downloaded 4 million times, which has resulted in roughly 1.5 billion individual games of Threes. Of those 4 million downloads, only about 100 people have been able to make the "Volleo" tile, which is the highest scoring tile in the game. Gideon is the only person of those 100 to have successfully combined two Volleo tiles, thus completing the game.
Threes illustrator Greg Wohlwend pointed out that it took exactly 3.33 years for someone to find the end of the game, which wasn't even originally in the game, according to Vollmer.
"People flew past our personal best scores within the first week … we scrambled to add in an ending," Vollmer said. "I decided that an actual ending would be better than just adding in higher numbers because I wanted it to feel like a real, tangible, delightful accomplishment after the long cold Sisyphean experience of playing high-level Threes. It would be so dull and existentially troubling if there wasn't a proper ending."
And were Sisyphus ever to accomplish his task, would he know what to do with himself afterwards? Does the dog that chases a car have a plan for when they catch it? Now that Gideon has accomplished what few even knew was theoretically possible, let alone considered humanly possible, what's left?
"The game over screen includes a 'time' score," Vollmer said. "Bringing that number down is technically a game that people could play."
EDIT: Asher Vollmer reached out to draw our attention to this video from a few months ago, which also shows someone beating the game. Asher can't verify whether this was a legitimate run, but it's possible someone else has managed this feat before.
Patrick Klepek also contributed reporting to this article.