(dude, the birds totally look like M&Ms)
I’m hardly an addict of the game, as my high score is a measly 26 and I think I’ve only played it about 20 times, but I have developed an odd behaviour towards the game: I am nomadic, as I play the game exclusively on the phones of others. Part of this is out of necessity, as my poor iPod is too old to update to the space-age iOS 6 required to download the game, but I’ve got a lot more fun out of playing with other people than drumming my finger on that pathetic bird’s face by myself.
Often, for me playing Flappy Bird consists of alternating with people: I’ll play until I die, then my mate will take over, and I’ll play again when they die. This makes the game a lot more intense, as I’m not playing against myself or exclusively for a new high score, but to continue playing; deaths don’t just stop my score, but stop me from playing.
My achievements within the game also feel a lot grander, as I’m playing with a constant chorus of ‘You suck!’ coming from my so-called friends, who want a go almost as much as they want to laugh at me for failing; my record of 26 is probably equivalent to at least a 35 if you’re playing alone (I’m currently working on a chart to convert group scores to solo ones. I like charts).
There are even new games you can play with other people that would be impossible when, literally, flying solo: one game is to alternate between players with every pipe passed, so as soon as you hear the ping from clearing one, you give it to your mate to try and clear the next pipe, and they give it back to you as they do so. The difficulty of grabbing the phone and settling down into an effective tapping position, combined with the inevitable nose-dive the bird will take as there is no tapping while the phone is being exchanged, means that your scores on this will inherently suck: my record currently stands at 8.
I think a lot of the enjoyment is to do with us being fundamentally social animals; we’ve only built the stuff we have (and then destroyed it again) by working with others, and this extends to all aspects of our lives: games like FIFA have put far more effort into their multiplayer Ultimate Team mode, instead of the single-player Career mode; utilities like Game Centre on Apple devices are meant to turn our own time-wasting expertise into competitive time-wasting events, with online leaderboards and fanciful, underscore-heavy usernames.
This does make me a little scared though, as it seems that absolutely everything, right down to jabbing a finger at a bird on a screen, is dividing us from each other, and determining who is the best in every conceivable way; it’s not enough to enjoy Flappy Bird, you have to be good at Flappy Bird. Perhaps this reflects a change in our society, that we still have a desire to work alongside others, but we want to be better than them, not work with them to create something cool.
Obviously, the people responsible for films, songs and most forms of art work in teams, and while these professions may still value teamwork and cooperation, the rest of us plebs, as consumers, not producers, of content, are being encouraged to undermine others for our own gains; this is why capitalism is so successful, as it is about personal advancement at the expense of others, a bit like not giving people your Geography homework so you’ll do better than them in the eventual exam.
This may not be a bad thing, as the need to compete may push us to do better as individuals, but this focus on individuals could be dangerous: we might end up a divided society of brilliant academics, artists and scientists at one end, and a bunch of ultra-competitive morons on the other, whose only means of self-expression or -improvement is to get a higher score on a meaningless and vapid game that abuses the once-impressive technology of a personal computer and a touch screen.
So yes, Flappy Bird is going to bring about the apocalypse, and when it does, I’ll have totally called it.