I'm the 5,322nd person to download and play Curiosity. I know, because 22Cans's first experimental foray into the App Store tells me when I load it up. It's all part of the smoke and mirrors surrounding the game - another distraction, another line of questions.
Are the 5,321 other people already chipping away at the cube my allies or my enemies? Only one person can find out what's lying in the centre of the black shape that constitutes the entire Curiosity experience, after all.
So I start to dig. It's a simple, repetitive action that rewards me with chimes, and the occasional coin to add to my coffers, all in the name of some far off, probably unreachable goal. And all around me others are doing exactly the same.
In a way, then, Curiosity is a game divested of all the frippery that we've come to expect from our digital entertainment. You have a motivation, however far off and spectral it may be, and you have one action.
At first you might stand back and marvel at the shape, hovering there in a white space, its black fascia already eroded by uncountable other fingers. Some have left crude or uplifting missives, or carved glyphs in green that sparkle as you swoop over them. In a way, it's inspiring.
And so you take the plunge and you perform your action. You find a bare space on the cube, somewhere unmarked by the efforts of your invisible foe-patriots, and you begin to chip away at the black blocks that make up the first layer of the structure.
Perhaps you take the scattergun approach to begin with, using as many fingers as you can to hammer at the screen, clearing space in angular pockets rather than a useful, uniform whole. Or maybe you leave your own impermanent mark - a jagged signature or some childlike image drawn on a canvas that will soon be wiped clean.
Cube your enthusiasm
Because that's exactly what Curiosity is right now: a blank space pockmarked with nothings and somethings that, in a matter of hours or days, will be replaced with another blank space, another set of images, words, and neatly cleared tiles.
The coins you unearth can be spent on a variety of tools to enable faster clearing. Bombs, firecrackers, and pickaxes made out of a variety of materials are all available, some for a reasonable price, others for a staggeringly exorbitant one. The fabled diamond pick axe costs 3 billion, for example.
But whether you purchase them or not comes down to that original question - are the other people here, the other people cracking at the shell of this conundrum, allies or enemies? Do you want to be first to the centre, or are you just here to scrape out a groove of cubes that looks a bit like your name?
The cat's still alive
I have no idea what's in the centre of the cube. But, in the end, that nebulous maguffin that lies at the end of our hacking and tapping is a remarkable piece of sleight of hand by Molyneux and the rest of 22Cans.
It's a distraction of the first order, a reason to drop us into an entirely empty space and let us smash it to pieces in whatever way we see fit. Curiosity is a game about compulsion, it's about how and why we play, and, ultimately, it's about impermanence.
Does it matter what's inside the cube? To someone, yes. The rest of us are creating their journey for them, one square at a time.