Learning from Flappy Bird

Today, a friend of mine informs me of a new game made by a man from Vietnam, Flappy Bird. He says the game is very addictive. I instantly go to my phone and download the game. It struck me on how simple the design is and the gameplay is very very hard to master. After 15 minutes, I manage only to get a score of 6. later, I found out that I actually perform a little bit better from most people. May be if I invest more time I can do a lot better. The game reviews usually contain an ambiguous statement. Something like it is too simple, having poor design, very hard but super addictive. People who went playing on it saying reviews on google play something like I wanna throw my phone away, it is satans work, etc but in the end they all cannot resist on how addictive the game is.

Now, the interesting question from a developer’s point of view is: What makes the game so viral? After playing and looking at it from many different perspectives I can only think to two simple positive aspects: hard gameplay and simplicity.  The first aspect is the key in my opinion. The design is very simple. It even reminds us to some other games such as Super Mario Bros (the resembling pipes) and Angry Birds that rhyme with ‘Flappy Bird’. A review even smash the game by saying “that’s a game design no-no“. The sound effects of the game are also average and it has no background music. The only sound I like is when the bird hit the pipe or fall down to the ground. It feels very mocking to our failure. In a way, it feels as if the game trying to play with our psychology. This support my main argument in the key design of this game: hard gameplay.

There are some game designer that try to avoid this aspect and opt to a more fun, casual and cute game. But probably with the right blend, there is a large demand on this aspect. I remember there is a review saying that Candy Crush Saga level is very hard and sometimes close to almost imposible. The reviewer also added King’s scheme plan to push people to buy power ups in order to finish the game. If we look at it from a different perspective, it can actually works because when you finally conquer a gameplay or a level, you feel this unyielding satisfaction. May be this is a game design perspective that need to be reconsidered. I am an indie game developer and I am open to suggestion.