Seattle investors back Battlesnake, creators of a growing game that turns coding into competition - Start Up Gazzete
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Seattle investors back Battlesnake, creators of a growing game that turns coding into competition


Programmers looking to experiment or improve on the tools and technology they use for their day-to-day jobs are turning to a competitive game called “Battlesnake,” made by a company of the same name, to earn bragging rights among a community of coders. Now Battlesnake is turning to Seattle investors for new funding to help the startup expand its reach.

Madrona Venture Group led a $ 1.5 million round for Victoria, B.C.-based Battlesnake, the company announced Wednesday. Liquid 2, Ascend, 200 OK, and angel investors such as Jason Warner (former GitHub CTO) and Chris Aniszczyk (Linux Foundation CTO) also participated.

Battlesnake originated in the Pacific Northwest as a developer recruiting event in 2015, and for 2019 the iconic Battlesnake Tournament in Victoria drew 1,200 developers and another 1,000 viewers intrigued by the esports drama of watching competitors compete with their coded snakes.

Co-founder and CEO Brad Van Vugt told GeekWire that “Battlesnake” is at a “strange intersection between games and programming.” In essence, it is a game that experienced programmers use to explore new ideas and new algorithms and new technologies.

“It is not education, we are not teaching people to code,” Van Vugt said. “If you want to learn to code, there are many ways to get there. We are specifically serving mid-career and more advanced developers who are looking for ways to interact with new technology. It’s mostly for fun.”

When the pandemic derailed in-person events in 2020, Battlesnake went completely online, giving programmers trapped at home the ability to connect with each other and compete for prizes. The community has grown to about 10,000 developers worldwide.

Amazon Web Services hosted a tournament for all of their North American interns over the summer and AWS Program Manager Chelsea Stumm called the experience a “friendly, welcoming and challenging way to create a real programming experience both within the company and within. in the general developer community. ”

A post on the AWS machine learning blog delves into how to use Amazon’s SageMaker cloud machine learning platform to compete in the game.


As a phenomenon, “Battlesnake” the game is a kind of two-headed monster. At one extreme is a group of highly skilled developers who are very secretive about their algorithms, using a variety of programming languages, technology stacks, and cloud providers to compete and become celebrities in the developer community. At the other extreme is a less competitive and more collaborative “Battlesnake” where developers discuss technology and share resources to help each other build better snakes.

The game itself basically involves snakes in a grid eating food, maneuvering each other, and trying to stay alive as long as possible. Each snake is remotely controlled by a web server or an AI or whatever technology stack the particular programmer has chosen.

The six-person startup produces shows on Amazon-owned Twitch, and Van Vugt sees the competition as more accessible to the average viewer than esports games like “StarCraft” or “League of Legends.”

“What we have found is that the gameplay of competitive and multiplayer ‘Battlesnake’ is so simple that anyone can immediately see and understand why one strategy is better than another or why a snake is definitely beating another snake”, Van Vugt said.

The new funding will help Battlesnake, whose fall league is about to kick off, meet growing demand for events and competitions from various communities, such as college clubs or engineering teams at companies that want to use the platform to learn and test things internally. .

Van Vugt sees plenty of room for growth, mentioning massively popular games like “Minecraft” and “Roblox” and the communities that have grown around them. Learning about programming strategies and algorithms should be fun and entertaining.

The skill involved and the unique nature of competing and winning in the game can also be an additional feather on the edge of a programmer’s career. Some add their “Battlesnake” hit to their GitHub and LinkedIn profiles or resumes. The backstories and stories that come with being involved in the game build personality behind the developers, which Van Vugt said can then lead to potential employers or other communities.

“It’s really interesting for recruiters,” Van Vugt said. “This is not like a puzzle. This is not a LeetCode or a HackerRank where you are doing unique little puzzles. It is a really big, hairy, open problem that you can solve however you want and then show results against it.”

Author avatar
Joshua Smith

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