Recently, Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen ripped his extremely popular/lucrative app from mobile app stores. If you haven’t gotten in on it yet, you might be able to do so for a pretty penny.
That, however, is not the point of this article.
The point of this article is to use Dong’s Twitter breakdown and rash actions to discuss a greater phenomenon: The rise of the angsty, dramatic, thin-skinned game developer.
This is a curious creature we now discuss, one who cares nothing for his fanbase. While most people who toil away at any sort of artistic pursuit would eat shit to get the sort of following (and monetary windfall) these special snowflakes receive; the TSGD instead asks us to pity the plight of the financially secure app developer. After all, even though Dong Nguyen’s Flappy Bird may make more money in a single day than the average American does in a year, he has problems too! The press won’t leave him alone! Large companies with deep pockets won’t stop trying to buy his game! As a result of the severe mental hell brought on by guaranteed lifetime financial peace, Dong just wants Flappy Bird to “go away,” leaving him free to focus on making other software. (He hasn’t announced what that software might be yet, but Subtle Blend has it on good authority that his first post-Flappy app will be “iViolin,” which replicates the tune of an extremely miniature version of the titular instrument.)
Sorry, Dong, but you lose your right to lead an existence free of tweets and emails when you produce a product that brings you, in your own words, “$50,000 a day in ad revenue.” With the removal of Flappy Bird, Dong joins the ranks of those precious, special little souls who make their fortunes before hoisting themselves up on a cross forged within their own imaginations. Further, one does and must question the grip on reality possessed by a man who claims to live a “simple life” on such an income. Like Braid developer Jonathan Blow demonstrated before him, fetishizing minimalism as a lifestyle is a lot easier when your definition of “minimalist” can include the purchase of a Tesla supercar.
The press indulges these divas in their persecution delusions.
The games press, of course, is all too willing to indulge these divas in their grand delusions of persecution. Look at this piece in which Kotaku’s chief all but offers up his bleached, waxed asshole for Dong (ha) to make amends because a staff member rightly called out Flappy Bird’s art (and especially the pipes) as being as close to a knockoff one can get without incurring the wrath of lawyers. Yes, Stephen, someone on the Internet — someone who works for your indie fetishizing, games-as-social-justice-obsessed gossip rag — made a fairly obvious, trivial observation that made an ~*indie developer*~ look less than sterling. The fact that this resulted in a retraction from the very top of such an outlet is prima facie evidence of the piss-poor state of games “journalism:” a shyster’s con which, in point of fact, contains little to no actual journalism.
It’s not just the creator of Flappy Bird, either. Adam Orth, former Microsoft executive, was ousted after he was a miserable, caustic cunt to potential Xbox One owners on Twitter. And yet, here come the clods, right on time to write fluff pieces building up his new games venture, and even sympathizing with him after the mean ol’ Internet trolls dared to turn on him after being told they’re worth less than nothing if they don’t live in a metro area.
And who among us can forget Phil Fish? After announcing a much-anticipated sequel to Fez, Phil took his ball and went home because, horror of horrors, a games writer was mean to him on social media. Think about this for a second — a multimillionaire developer with numerous fans awaiting a sequel decides to cancel said sequel over a fucking sissy fight on Twitter. Even this, the press will defend.
The irony of this is that Flappy Bird isn’t a bad distraction. It’s a crude, ugly game without depth, but its laser-focused, singular feedback loop mechanic is worth the $0 it costs to play it. And now, it is gone. Think about that: Nguyen is set for life as a result of 50 million+ people downloading his application. Mobile games are not the same as disc-based software; there is no way to discover a well-worn copy of Flappy Bird in some thrift store bin. It would have cost Nguyen nothing to leave the work up on app stores; he could have done so and still effectively cut off communication with fans/trolls/business suitors. Instead, he chooses to tell millions to go to hell in the event they ever buy a new device or switch accounts. As indie frauds continue to be fellated by the press for being amateurs, we will continue to see cases like Nguyen’s — people who ride waves of goodwill and dumb luck to fortune, then play the victim once success is achieved.