Just as Flappy Bird mania seems to finally be dying down, Rolling Stone has just published an interview with the creator Dong Nguyen and it offers great insight into the strange phenomenon that started late last year and led into the early part of this year. Some of the topics discussed include how Nguyen started out in programming, the influences that shaped him when creating his own games, how he felt that peoples’ obsessions with the game were doing them harm, and how the unwanted notoriety of having a global hit game release forced him into hiding in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam.
My favorite nugget of information revealed in the interview is about how Nguyen modeled Flappy Bird after the annoyingly difficult physical toy called paddleball. You know, those little wooden paddles that have a rubber ball affixed to the middle by a rubber band? And the goal is simply to bounce the ball off the paddle as many times in a row as possible? Yeah, that game. It’s so crazy when you think about Flappy Bird and just how similar the two games are to each other. Both built around a frustratingly difficult core mechanic, both monotonous and never-changing. Your only goal is to see how long you can continuously perform each game’s task (flapping through pipes or bouncing the ball off the paddle). Flappy Bird is (or was) literally the paddleball of the mobile gaming generation.
Another insight I really enjoyed from the interview is how Nguyen decided on making Flappy Bird a portrait-only, tap-anywhere game. He looked around his own environment and how the people of Hanoi spent time with their smartphones. Basically, he pantomimed holding their phone in one hand and holding the strap of a commuter train with the other to the interviewer, indicating that he understood most people wanted something they could easily play with one hand on a commute.
I love some of the full-blown, “console-like" games you can get on iOS, but I also have a special spot in my heart for the quick, one-handed, don’t-need-to-expend-too-much-brain-power experiences that define the mobile gaming experience for the masses. I think the fact that Nguyen was able to recognize this and base Flappy Bird entirely around that premise is a stoke of genius that most people aren’t so willing to give him credit for.
Now, I know that as much love as there was for Flappy Bird in the world, a ton of you hate it with a white-hot, fiery passion. And that’s cool, I get that. However, love Flappy Bird or hate it, I urge you to read the entire interview over at Rolling Stone, as the whole phenomenon is one of the most strange and interesting things to ever happen in the world of mobile gaming. Dong Nguyen’s story is pretty crazy, and not surprising at all is that he’s still making games. In fact, he’s working on three different ones all at the same time–an untitled shooter with a cowboy them, a vertical flyer called Kitty Jetpack, and an “action chess game" called Checkonauts–and is set to debut one of them sometime this month. Obviously we’ll be keeping our eye on those.
Oh, and when asked about the future of Flappy Bird an if we’d ever see it in the App Store again, Nguyen tells Rolling Stone “I’m considering it," but if he ever did choose to put it back up for sale he’d make sure to add a warning to players urging them to “Please take a break" every now an then.