It has a few more birds now
There are probably enough Flappy Bird articles out in the world, don’t you think?
But goddammit, I needed something gaming related to do with my Amazon Fire TV!
In case you haven’t heard, Flappy Bird Family, the “anticipated” follow-up to the original is now out — exclusively on the Amazon Fire TV marketplace (for now). The gist is still basically the same as it always was. You have one button — a tap that makes your bird ascend just a tad higher to allow you to navigate between obstacles (mostly pipes, with cloud enemies and pattern-based bullets added in this version). If you want to descend, you just stop tapping and your bird with sharply fall — it takes a while to get used to the physics of it.
You do this an unlimited amount of times to accrue a score, repeating the same patterns over and over, with slightly raised and lowered pipes every so often. Family has same-screen multiplayer now and a few extra pixel-swapped birds. That’s it. You keep going through pipes and collecting power-ups until you reach a score that your friend deems cool enough. It’s not fun.
Before you say “you just don’t get it, it can be played in short spurts and it’s perfect for pick-up-and-play casual players,” I have no inherent problem with the genre, or mobile games in general. Like my colleague Jim Sterling has said in the past, I wholeheartedly agree that “Angry Birds is not shit.” There also have been plenty of great endless runners, many of which have a unique signature style or some sort of goal to work towards outside of a generic score system. But how Flappy Bird approached, eclipsed, and exploded into super-nova level meme-status is beyond me.
There used to be a time when memes were rare. If something was bad, it was just bad. You had to really work to get a meme — like falling off a platform while crushing grapes, heaving in pain. Now it has to be converted to “so bad it’s good status,” where everyone has to be in on the joke — often by sheer tyranny of will, sometimes broadcasted late at night on Comedy Central. “So bad it’s good” media has always existed — look all the way back to some of the Hammer Horror films of the 1950s. The concept even perpetuates today, with films like Sharknado and Piranha 3D. But those two aforementioned series, intentional or not, evoke some sort of emotional response. They’re bad, but they typically make us laugh. Flappy Bird is boredom. It’s nothing. It’s a cute bird with very little in terms of actual gameplay.
Many people are quick to point out that if you think Flappy Bird is bad, you are inherently performing a character assassination on creator Dong Nguyen. But that’s not always the case! From everything I have seen based on interviews with the developer, he seems like a very nice guy. The success of the game wasn’t something he even wanted — it blew up because of the nature of the internet, and he sincerely seemed like he didn’t want the fame that went along with it.
To put things into perspective, right when the game blew up there was a crowdfunded initiative to send a reporter to Vietnam to “seek out” Dong Nguyen and interview him. That’s scary! If my wife answered the door and found someone who flew across an entire ocean just to interview me, I don’t know what I’d do.
Dong Nguyen certainly doesn’t suck. But Flappy Bird sucks.