Neuendorf: Flappy Bird phenomenon

Zachary Neuendorf

“I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down.. I can’t stand it anymore”- Dong Nguyen

That was the tweet heard around the world — or at least to app-gamers of the world. If you are not familiar with the name, chances are you’re familiar with his creation. The highly addictive, equally frustrating app Flappy Bird lures the player into a game of repetition, thumb tapping and an endless pursuit of a new high score.

A man of his word, Nguyen had the app removed from all app markets, barricading further purchases while letting anyone who previously purchased the app to keep their gamer relic and grapple their obsession some more. Nguyen was collecting $50,000 a day from in-app advertising, which leaves many wondering why he would abandon his money maker at the height of its success. For the record, he is still getting paid. However, it is the age-old tale of spotlight sickness. Although he had legions of fans, even more outspoken were the malicious victims, many of whom threw hateful tweets, ranging from annoying to death threats, at Nguyen.

On top of that, critics were not shy about slamming Flappy Bird’s minimalist style and barefaced Mario rip-offs. Nguyen never anticipated this level of success, so he was unprepared for the backlash. He refuses to have a PR team because it would ruin his indie credibility — that is how indifferent he is to his success. All in all, he has grown to dislike Flappy Bird and its addictive effect on people, so he decided to delete it.

So, is Flappy Bird bad for us?

It is a typical waste of time that’s for sure. It is the ultimate weapon against productivity, having no endpoint, no riddles, no mindful obstacles, no physical benefit beside a gruesome thumb workout. When one is playing Flappy Bird, avoiding green pipes is literally the objective and this requires relatively zero brainpower.

Flappy Bird is innovative in how it is the opposite of innovative; while most video games are layering storyline on storyline and turning out striking visuals, Flappy Bird soars in the other direction using the most basic plot and recycled, pixelated images of ’90s games. The thoughtlessness and homely graphics is likely what enticed and transfixed fans. Plus, it is a killer wave for peer pressure to ride on.

Marrysa Harkness, freshman in interdisciplinary studies, said about her journey with Flappy Bird: “I originally wanted to see what all the hype was about. Then I started using it as a filler in my days because I’m too lazy to find something interesting to fill the gaps of the day. It’s a great distraction from class.”

Since its quiet release last May, Flappy Bird has steadily picked up pace by way of social media chatter. Soon, a gargantuan, aggravated community took form and used the internet as a way to vent about the life-destroying characteristics of the game. And there have been those who claim Flappy Bird perfectly embodies our descent into madness, like Nick Statt from CNET. That is an awfully hefty accusation to a puny game.

I think I ought to defend Flappy Bird to an extent. Unarguably, it is ingenious; it is the purest form of escapism I have ever seen. Yes, even more so than Candy Crush or Angry Birds, which both require a certain level of strategy. It is the perfect game: never-ending and simple enough for a 3-year-old, but appeals to all ages. And who is to say there is something wrong with a couple hours of escapism? All generations assert that they live in tough times, and the only difference with us is that we luckily have the means to escape said tough times with Flappy Bird.

We can simply tap our way out of our daily problems, until we hit a green pipe, but then we can just start again. Of course this is not ideal living, but it just might be 21st century living. Some will excel intellectually, socially, et cetera, while others are busy with their escapism and birds on apps. If you are satisfied with escaping to a monotonous world for a couple hours and missing out on the frenzied natural world, so be it.