Professor Carolyn Jong
ENGL 225B – Video Games and/as Literature
17 February 2016
Flappy Bird created by Dong Nguyen is a mobile game that made history. Having been released in May 2013, it was not until early 2014 that it started to rise in popularity until by the end of January 2014 it was the most downloaded game in the iOS app store (Flappy Bird). Due to heavy criticism Nguyen removed the game from the app store in February of 2014. In his paper titled “Our Flappy Dystopia”, Mattie Brice tackles the kind of criticism that this game as well as its author received.
Brice writes that it is important to think about games through the context of capitalism, otherwise any critique of the game comes out as insufficient (Brice). When thinking about capitalism one needs to understand how a capitalist system functions. Within a capitalist society, everyone is considered a worker (Lecture 2). To pay rent and to buy food one has to work for a wage (Lecture 2). Next there are different levels of employment such as an employee working for a manager who in turn works for the owner who in turn works for the CEO (lecture 2). At the top of this capitalist chain sit the largest companies as well as the people who control them and manipulate the masses to consume their products. Brice describes the video game industry as having built itself up for a very specialized audience known as “hardcore gamers” (Brice). These large corporations spend a lot of resources on marketing tactics and knowing what the people want (Brice). Because of this, when they find games such as Flappy Bird that become near instant sensations, they feel cheated (Brice).
Part of this sense of “foul play” that these large corporations feel stems from the fact if people realize that a “DIY” game such as Flappy Bird has the chance to “represent a new standard”, then all the money that has been invested in trying to appeal to the masses would prove to be a waste and illustrate the “video games industry to be a huge scam” (Brice). Brice also puts an emphasis on the fact that the creator is Flappy Bird is a foreigner. Within the capitalist model of the video games industry, indie game developers have found themselves a niche that “[does not] threaten how big [businesses] work” (Brice). In fact, it is well known that many indie game developers capitalize off the feeling of nostalgic games from the late twentieth century (Brice). Yet a large part of the criticism that Nguyen received stems from how the green pipes in Flappy Bird are too similar to the green pipes found in the very well-known Mario game series, because of this similarity, Flappy Bird is considered to be a “knock off” (Brice). The “success narrative” that has been set up for “mostly white [and] mostly male” indie game developers within English-speaking countries was not meant to be shared with foreigners and minorities.
Brice, Mattie. “Our Flappy Dystopia.” Mattie Brice. WordPress, 31 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
“Flappy Bird.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.
Jong, Carolyn. “Games In Context.” ENGL 255: Video Games And/as Literature. Concordia, Montreal. 20 Jan. 2017. Lecture.