For those not aware, Flappy Bird is (or was – more on this after the jump) a free, ad-monetised mobile game, released sometime in May 2013, in which the user taps repeatedly on the screen to get a deformed duck to fly through a series of gaps between pipes. It is simple. It’s nonetheless brutal in its required precision, a single misstep sending your duck-thing plummeting to the ground. It borrows heavily from old 16-bit Mario for its visuals. It is not revolutionary. It’s certainly not interesting. It is not something we should really be highlighting at all. Flappy Bird was a good duck, but not a particularly noteworthy one.
Where do we start? At the beginning, where sometime in the middle of January, Flappy Bird started charting on the Google/Apple stores. Many have theorised that Nguyen had perhaps used bots to artificially inflate its rankings – a claim he hasn’t exactly denied. While that may have been the case initially, subsequent downloads were the result in a frantic worldwide phenomenon which saw, at its peak, some 50 million downloads across the two digital stores.
Many game writers latched onto the popularity of Flappy Bird, either writing perturbed opinion pieces as to why it’s so successful to its status as “Outsider” art (one of my favourite pieces, if truth be told, despite the absurdity of it). Other media outlets weren’t as kind, with Kotaku publishing a piece on the “ripped-off” art assets which they’ve since edited to be less sensational and less inaccurate.