Don’t hate the game. Hate the players.
This week I feel like I’m the victim of a worldwide hidden camera prank, being perpetrated on the back of a video game called Flappy Bird.
For the blessedly unfamiliar, Flappy Bird is currently the most popular mobile phone game in the world, topping the charts on iPhone and Android devices. It’s extremely simple, but ridiculously difficult.
It’s also terrible by every metric with which we measure the quality of video games. And yet people won’t shut up about it.
Flappy Bird has players navigating gaps between a series of randomly generated vertical pipes, with the titular flopping fowl’s flight controlled by tapping on the screen.
Pass through a gap between two pipes and get a point. Touch a pipe, and the bird crashes to the ground, ending the game. That is the full extent of the Flappy Bird experience.
The game was released last May but only started to gain traction on social media this year. Now, my Twitter feed is full of people comparing their terrible Flappy Bird scores, like toddlers proudly pointing at their poops.
This madness needs to stop.
I get that it’s fun to ironically appreciate bad things. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is a movie so awful that it’s a bloody masterpiece.
I also get that video games today have become too hand-holdy. I cut my teeth on old-school, punishingly difficult classics like Mega Man, and I appreciate modern-day games that go out of their way to abuse the unskilled and unmotivated.
But Flappy Bird isn’t some self-aware meta-comment on video games. It doesn’t even seem to be cognizant of its awfulness. It just exists, and this cult of popularity has sprung up around it. (Worse yet, there are allegations the developer used shady tactics to manipulate the game’s app store rankings, resulting in the initial spike of visibility.)
It’s the game’s popularity that really irks me. Every minute someone spends increasing their pitiful Flappy Bird high score is a minute that a more worthy game is being ignored.
Consider the iPhone game Tiny Wings. It also features a cute bird and simple one-touch controls, but it’s challenging and fun and clever and beautiful. It’s a game, not the equivalent of an artist spilling paint on a canvas and the masses hailing it as genius.
And no, this isn’t a diatribe against Flappy Bird because I suck at it. I played it for five minutes, got a whopping high score of five and then deleted it because I could think of five THOUSAND better uses for my time. Including, but not limited to, pounding my own genitals with a rubber mallet.
Flappy Bird’s popularity will probably die off almost as quickly as its feathered protagonist. Until then, count me out of this baffling phenomenon. Or at least tell me where the freakin’ cameras are hidden.