The first time I downloaded flappy birds I played it a few times and quit. The art was terrible, the controls were bunk and it was really really hard. So it got deleted.
(image courtesy of google play store)
I only downloaded it again because the developer was taking it from the app store, and in this time of plenty there are few things that boil my blood more than scarcity. Since then, quiety but steadily it has become my go to casual game. I am not obsessed about it in the same way that some people are, and I do make fun of my co-workers who can sink hours into the game, but I am finally understanding why the thing is so satisfying.
Flappy Birds is a simple game. One taps the screen in order to keep a bird aloft while it moves at a constant speed through a series of gates created by tubes (very reminiscent of a certain Japanese-Italian title). If you touch the ground game over. If you touch a gate, game over, if you breath wrong, game over.
The game is simple but what it lacks is brilliant. First and foremost, it does not need an Internet connection. When I am playing these kinds of games I am usually in weird places where I cannot guarantee a good connection. Why in the world would I want a game that was costing me data and I could not be assured that I can play it whenever.
There are no microtransactions. Games have devolved into a sort of death by a thousand cuts, each cut being about 99 cents. I don’t like starting new games because I am afraid of how much they are going to cost me in the end.
There is no social. Now that we are post Facebook and post twitter can we all just acknowledge that there are times that we just want to be alone. I don’t want to share, I don’t want to hang out. I just want to zone out for a few minutes while I wait for train. Alone.
My experience with Flappy birds is almost in direct opposition to my experience with Clumsy Ninja the number one app store game before the flappy madness.
Clumsy ninja is slick and beautiful and has a physics engine that is pretty delightful to play with. So delightful that it got them bought by Zyn-where-fun-goes-to-die-ga. The main mechanic of the game involves getting points for completing training exorcises. Training involves doing things like bouncing on a trampoline and jumping off stuff. Completing an exorcise invokes a cool down timer. One can bypass the time by buying one of two in game currencies gems or stars. The upshot is that you get to progress for 30 seconds and then have to wait 30 minutes in order to progress any further. The in between time is meticulously dull. There are no other characters, no other places to go and nothing to do other than throw your ninja around.
I had downloaded it over the Winter holiday and had been playing it on and off through long flights and bouts of the flu donated by my children. It had been almost two weeks of playing when I realized that I hated everything about my ninja and by extension the game. The constant nagging to open the app via push notifications, the twee high-five the ninja would demand after every task, the fact that nothing was happening but it was taking forever. The game is absolutely no fun, but I was asked at every turn to pay more to have more of the same no fun and to share my lack of a good time with friends. It is the quintessential social casual game, designed by mathematicians who are only interested in getting you to pay to bypass everything that is boring and stultifying about their game. It is kind of what I turn to games for in the first place.