Databending is the process of manipulating digital files by changing their file types, adding data, or removing data. In puzzles, this is primarily done to reveal hidden information stored within images, audio files, and certain other types of file.

Background[edit | edit source]

The name 'databending' comes from a similar practice with electronic devices called Circuitbending, in which components are deliberately rewired and short circuited to produce unnatural and erratic sounds.

To do TO DO

Databending has also been used as an art form, as alterations to media at this level often results in distortions in images. These distortions form the basis for many digital glitch art pieces.

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

A databent image of a white tiger, featuring colorful distortion in the lower half.

Databending puzzles often end up having relatively minimalist or image-heavy presentation, providing only an image or other file type and very little extra information. The idea behind this is that images or audio files that have been distorted somehow should generally indicate that something needs to be done them in turn. As a result, most databending puzzles lack flavortext, assuming that curious solvers will, even if not knowing exactly what to do, will eventually begin poking around the puzzle and discover something out of place.

The most common form of databending puzzle is 'images hiding extra information', often requiring solvers to convert an image into audio or text files, or manipulate the raw data constituting them in order to access the next step of the puzzle. In some cases, this next step is simply extraction, but databending puzzles also work well as multi-stage explorations of data, with an easy starting step that results in an instruction on how to begin the next step.

Databending puzzles are also quite common in ARGs and riddle trails, as not needing much explanation makes them very suitable for these often-minimalist contexts.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

To do TO DO

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

  • 33 RPM (MITMH 2018) (web) - In this puzzle, solvers are presented with a large, circular image resembling a vinyl record. However, the 'ridges' of the record are inconsistent in terms of pattern and color, and look somewhat distorted. In fact, the image is actually Click to reveala thin, coiled string of data representing an audio file. Not only this, but after this audio file is 'solved', it indicates that there's actually another audio file hidden under the larger one that can be accessed by increasing the 'RPM' of the record.
  • The Last Databender (GPH 2019) (web) - A databending mini-meta, in which four 'stages' each provide a 5-letter answer and instructions for the next step. The process from start to end involves turning the original image into Click to revealan audio file, turning that into a RAR file, and combining particular sets of data at each step.
  • Red Herring (MITMH 2022) (web) - A puzzle playing with the Red Herring concept, beginning with an image of actual red herring and going through several transformations, often with multiple results and only one non-red-herring result that helps lead to the next step. Notably, the instructions are much more minimal than those in The Last Databender, but are still enough for experienced databenders to complete the puzzle.

See Also[edit | edit source]