Described by one user as “the drug of the app store” and reviewed by another as “always crash,” Flappy Bird was a point-based distance accumulator more minimalist than a bland, soulless IKEA kitchen set.
The free app was developed in two days by small-time independent studio .GEAR, and was launched in May 2013. Following nine months of obscurity, Flappy Bird mysteriously soared in popularity to become the most downloaded app in over 100 countries.
But with publicity came division – and Flappy Bird soon proved to be the most divisive talking in gaming point since players asked what the hell Nintendo were smoking when they cooked up this.
While creator Dong Nguyen heralded the game’s success as a hipster breakaway from the traditional smartphone gaming model, gamers vilified Nguyen for birthing a monstrous tool for mass public enslavement while simultaneously encouraging game addiction.
“The reason Flappy Bird is so popular is that it happens to be something different from mobile games today, and is a really good game to compete against each other,” Nguyen told Verge magazine.
“People in the same classroom can play and compete easily because [Flappy Bird] is simple to learn, but you need skill to get a high score.”
Yes, the whole point of Flappy Bird is to achieve as high a score as you possibly can without succumbing to the small voice inside your head telling you to smash your iPhone with a 16oz Stanley Fibreglass Curved Claw Hammer.
It’s simple. You tap the screen to guide the bird through a two-dimensional series of Mario pipes. Then you die. Always. Flappy Bird is inherently impossible to beat – as were the majority of simplistic arcade games designed in the way-back-when era of gaming.
But the vitriolic reaction from Flappy Bird’s player base, however, has led to its untimely withdrawl – the news of which was broken alongside Nguyen’s borderline-heartbreaking tweets which declared the sort of hopelessness one would normally associate with a man harbouring suicidal thoughts.
I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
Sure, Nguyen made up to $50,000 per day from advertising off the back of a simplistic timewaster – but he designed one of the only commercially successful games which defied the mould of generating a revenue via microtransactions; an alarmingly increasing trend.
According to Distoma, 63 per cent of revenue generated from iOS apps were games. Moreover, the microtransaction model is becoming more popular, with in-app purchases in the iTunes App Store jumping from 77 per cent in the beginning of 2013; to 92 per cent by November. Similarly, the Google Play store has seen a rise from 89 per cent to 98 per cent in 2013. (data via Lauren Hockenson)
It’s a model criticised for subversively guzzling your loose change quicker than bankers hoover lines of cocaine during their tea breaks. Particularly alarming has has been free-to-play games’ track record for targeting children.
But the bad press has exacerbated in recent weeks following the release of EA’s heavily slated Dungeon Keeper remake, which is about as fun as trying to wrangle yourself free from a hangman’s noose.
The game is so extortionate it had might as well have come packaged with a complementary Yakuza member trained to stand beside you demanding a minor cash sum following your every third button press – all while holding a shuriken against your throat.
Criticism has been levelled at the aggression which underpins this game’s microtransaction system; with reports suggesting it’s near-unplayable without coughing up at least a little.
Peter Molineux, designer of the original Dungeon Keeper told the BBC: “I felt myself turning around saying, ‘What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon. I don’t want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped,'”
I suppose that’s what we should expect from the mobile gaming industry. The easier it is to generate a profit, the less likely it is for a developer to exert any effort in the production, ergo the less fun the gaming experience will be.
Refreshingly, Flappy Bird didn’t seek to extort borderline addicts like an aggressively parasitic drinks dispenser spoonfeeding you bullshit-flavoured crack in return for swiping your credit card against its dented glass casing.
While it was about as innovative as a wet sponge, Flappy Bird didn’t really hurt anybody (aside from its creator).
And if you didn’t like it, you can just flap off.
* Extorting addicts? Not so much. Facilitating addicts? Almost definitely.