If you have kids, co-workers or use the internet then you have been reading about Flappy Bird. (We initially talked about it here) I don’t have data to back this up, but I would guess that more has been written about Flappy Bird in the last couple of weeks than any video game in history. Grand Theft Auto might approach Flappy’s furious blogging record, but I suspect not.
Opinions vary wildly about the game and while it can be confidently stated that Flappy isn’t a great game and possibly even terrible, it also was played by millions of people, including me. Game designers and players need to ask hard questions about why so many people played it. There are some lessons about minimalism and why we burn so much energy on game mechanics that may not be important. I’m not saying that we should stop producing sprawling rpgs in favor of mobile games with a single button, but that video game production has become overwrought and expensive. By all accounts Flappy Bird made gobs of money over the last few weeks, more than any independent game producer could ever wish. Its success should teach lessons rather than inspire ire. Dong Nguyen has said that he received hundreds of death threats a day and even if Flappy Bird was the worst game ever created (which it isn’t) that kind of behavior speaks poorly of the gaming community. We can do better.
On February 10th in grand fashion author Dong Nguyen removed Flappy Bird from both the Apple and Android app stores basically killing the game. If you have the game already installed you can keep it on your phone until removed, but if you do you cannot get it back again.
Luckily for us, Flappy Bird is a game that will inspire 1000 clones. I would guess there are already about a dozen in the app stores and on the web. The fine folks over at the Sesame Workshop have quickly created an HTML5 game, Flappy Bert that continues the spirit of Flappy Bird.
Apparently our poor friend Bert is being carried head first by one of his beloved pigeons. He seems to be in good spirits, but must navigate and inexplicable series of colored pipes that couldn’t possibly function because of a break in the middle of every one. When he makes it through a pipe (by somehow communicating with his head pigeon) he giggles in a way that only Bert can. If he tragically misses a pipe opening or hits the ground he cannot contain his anger and yells out Ernie’s name as if he is somehow responsible for this tragedy. How these events transpired no one knows, but he needs help and who are we to let a pointy headed friend down.
Note: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is holding a survey for parents of video gamers. If you can spare a few minutes, please consider contributing to this research by filling out the survey and passing it around to anyone you know. Thank You!