A Life in-Design Blog series
In this blog series, I talk about things that I’ve done or have been thinking about, and analyze them in terms of design while relating them to games.
Crispy, Crunchy, Salty, Sweet
If you’re like me, you love your snacks. I usually like to have a salty snack when I’m relaxing, with a sweet snack nearby to balance it out. As I write this, I’m munching on a freshly popped bowl of popcorn, with a bag of M&M’s sitting on the table a foot away. Why do we snack? I believe it’s a combination of different senses: first we have the obvious taste to it, then the texture in both our hands and mouth, and then the sound as we bite down. I’ll go over each sensation in more detail, then try to see if I can compare then all to a game or two.
The Taste you can taste
I’m probably different than most people in such that I like my food to be bland. Well, maybe BLAND isn’t the right word for it. It’s more of a one-note. I don’t each many things with complex flavors, it tastes like one thing and that’s good enough. Take for example my favorite snack (and food): popcorn. Popcorn has little to no natural flavor to it, it is merely a vehicle to carry butter and salt.
If we think about the one ingredient, salt, it is in a lot of snack foods. Just think of all the chips, pretzels, popcorn, and nuts that line the snack food aisle. The parts of our tongue that favor salt take up most of the area on both sides. There’s a reason why salt is a very popular ingredient in snack foods. The ingredient itself is very easy to prescribe: I just take the salt shaker and tip it over some food I need to flavor. The same can be said for sugar, but powdered sugar is less commonly used, and not many foods need sugar as much as they need salt.
The Sound you can hear
Whatever movement takes place, there’s sound that happens. Most of the time, we don’t think about the sound we’re making when we’re eating, unless you happen to have Misophenia towards mouth noises. Crunch is a widely popular sound among snack foods, because a lot of the snacks we eat must be ground down to chew and swallow. If you think of it in a way, our mouth is like a mortar and pestle; the top part of our mouth is like the pestle, that pushes the food into the bottom part of our mouth, like a mortar. The ways we hear the sound is determined by how we shape our mouth. Think of the mouth as a kind of cavern, however the inside is shaped determines the reflections of sounds that echo inside. Companies use the sounds from snack foods to their advantage in marketing. If you’re interested in finding our more, check out this cool article: https://www.good.is/articles/watch-your-mouth-the-sounds-of-snacking
The texture you feel
Here it is. This is the most important sense, I believe, in terms of snacking. There are multiple times we “feel” the food: when we hold the container, when we bring it up and out of its container, when we place it in our mouth, and the little parts we feel when we chew. I think we are drawn to certain snacks is mainly by “mouth feel.” What I mean is that certain foods, like say a banana, feels a lot different in my mouth than a chip would. This goes back to why crispy and crunchy snack foods mainly dominate. When a crunchy food is chewed, it is broken down into smaller hard bits of itself, kind of like when glass breaks into smaller pieces. When a soft food is chewed, it kind of forms into a soft string. When we smash a chip apart, it almost has the same consistency of sand.
Many people find sand relaxing, like walking on the beach barefooted. This is mainly because it is many little hard rocks that push against our skin, massaging the many little tendons in our feet (I’m not scientist, but this seems like a viable reason). Since crispy food turns into a kind of sand when chewed up, it can have positive feelings within our mouth.
Snack foods and games
So one of the popular games people have played with small snacks include who can catch it into their mouth. The game is fun because it takes skill and coordination between both your hand and your head. The challenge is trying to figure out the actual trajectory the piece of food will take as it leaves your hand and flies into the air. Since every piece of food weighs slightly different, there’s no way in correctly determining where to place you head exactly so the food falls into your mouth. While this is a solo game, it is enjoyed by others around because one: it is impressive if someone can catch the food, especially if it is thrown from a great height; and two: it’s funny to see people jerk their heads widely, only to miss.
While playing with food can be fun, there can be games that resemble food. The most notable one that I can think of is jacks. It’s a simple kid’s game when you bounce a ball off the ground and while it’s still in the air, pick up as many jacks as you can while also catching the ball as it comes down. The reason I relate this game to food mainly has to do with the shape of the objects. The jacks almost resemble popcorn, as there’s a center part with limbs that stretch randomly in all directions. The act of picking up the jacks is reminiscent of scooping popcorn out of a bowl. It’s a little bit of a stretch to compare the two, but I hope you understand what I mean.