Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Indies: We Eat Cannibals

Posted by Rampant Coyote on February 13, 2014

flappybirdI really haven’t weighed in very much about the whole “Flappy Bird” flap. I never played it. My familiarity with the game came entirely from reading news about it over the last two weeks. Here’s what I learned, in the order that I’d obtained the kowledge, plus my thoughts, at the time, in parenthesis:

1. Flappy Bird was earning over $50,000 a day with purely ad-revenue based monetization. (Wow! Go … whatever game that is that I’d never heard of! Woot!)

2. Flappy Bird may have used bots to cheat the rankings after it had been languishing for months. (Boo! Hiss! If true, that’s cheating. But… how do you either prevent that, or avoid the appearance of evil?)

3. Flappy Bird was created in only three days by the creator. (Oh, hey, if that’s true, and if he didn’t cheat, good for him! But regardless of how he got up to the top of the rankings, it seems he tapped into something with a very simple game. That’s impressive.)

4. Flappy Bird ripped off Mario graphics from Nintendo! (“Bullcrap!” I said when I looked at the comparisons. Apparently even Nintendo agreed with my assessment. The offending major website has now apologized for making such a headline claim, admitted it was wrong, and changed the headline.)

5. Flappy Bird was taken off the market. (Suspicious? What would make someone walk away from $50k a day?)

6. All the Flappy Bird hate was because of RACISM! (WTF?!?!?)

7. The developer removed Flappy Bird because he thought it was too addictive and hurting people’s lives. (Ordinarily, I’d also call BS on this, but after seeing a bunch of his tweets from several weeks ago expressing so much concern that people were playing his game too much, I’m actually inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt here. A lot of it.)

All-in-all, I’m really not sure what to think, though I am somewhat disappointed in the “indie community” (whatever that means). From my perspective, the only possible wrongdoing was #2, and there wasn’t clear-cut evidence of this happening. We’ll probably never know. So if we assume he’s innocent, we’re left with a case where a young (I assume young, but I really know nothing about creator Dong Nguyen) game developer was buried in what I can only consider petty jealousy and nerd rage. And trolls and haters. All it took was a whiff of possible wrongdoing for that to become toxic.

It’s tough for game devs out there. Recently, Sophie Houlden tweeted that with all her efforts last year, she made an average of $6 per day as an indie game developer. As for me, I don’t think Frayed Knights: The Skull of S’makh-Daon will make $50,000 during it’s entire lifetime, and it took me years to make the game.

Them’s the breaks. That’s true of every industry, every field. Stephen King can ramble for an hour at a microphone and make a million bucks, while other writers have been at it for years and have to work a second job to pay the rent. Life ain’t fair, and I’m not exactly sure how you’d even define “fair.” Fairness can mean a lot of things, and some of those meanings are pretty incompatible with each other. No matter how hard we work at it, there’s always an element of luck. Just like D&D, sometimes someone is going to roll a nat-20 or a nat-1 which may throw expectations. That’s life.

Several years ago I adopted a philosophy that you cannot hate other people’s success if you wish to achieve it yourself. Otherwise, won’t you subconsciously avoid achieving what you hate? So I prefer to celebrate other people’s successes. Sure, I can’t say I am enlightened and spiritual enough to avoid feeling at least a reflexive twinge of jealousy (or at least frustration) once in a while.

We need to do better, as gamers and game developers. We can’t devour our own like this. Sure, I think Jeff Vogel is probably right, haters gonna hate and all that. But that doesn’t mean the adult voices can’t come out and denounce the trolls, add support, and try to be part of the ten supportive voices that it takes to offset the pain of a single hateful one. While the “top dogs” might be worthy of criticism, let’s not pile on to attack them just because they are on top.

Filed Under: Indie Evangelism - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • Robert Boyd said,

    “Stephen King can dissemble for an hour at a microphone and make a million bucks, while other writers have been at it for years and have to work a second job to pay the rent.”

    That’s pretty unfair to Stephen King. He spent many years working odd jobs trying to make it as a writer before he had his first successful novel (Carrie).

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I know. I love his book, “On Writing.” But there are lots of authors who work just as hard (and may be just as talented) without 1% of his success. It’s just the way it goes. Meanwhile, there are talentless hacks like me who totally use the wrong word in sentences like that who are perfectly justified not yet having that kind of fame and fortune.

  • Steve H said,

    King was 26 when Carrie was published, three years out of university. That’s not what I’d call many years.

    But I agree it’s unfair to him. He’s not my idea of a great writer, but most writers couldn’t do what he’s done the last 40 years.

    On the other hand, most game devs could do what the Flappy Bird dev did with it. Which is I assume where much of the resentment came in. It’s success just seems like an anomaly.

    I wonder how well bot-cheating the rankings is policed and audited in the app store?

  • JMab said,

    There’s obviously a lot of jealousy from some parts of the indie dev community (and maybe some of the pros!).

    Some of the threads on the Unity forums are comi-tragic, moaning about this game.

    Makes you think though, it’s not all about better execution (i.e. Minecraft, Angry Birds, etc), sometimes it’s just about timing, or something indefinable. If I understand Flappy Bird’s gameplay completely, it’s like a stripped-down version of Jetpack Joyride right? Which was reasonably successful in it’s own right, but probably never touched the daily revenue of Flappy Birds!

  • McTeddy said,

    This whole situation makes me sick. Guy wins the lottery and makes a successful game and the internet piles on top of him without ANY thinking.

    Despite the apologies from the news sites… people are still quoting the “Facts” they learned from the original stories. Just like we keep seeing in the real world…. the media start **** and people blindly believe it.

    Le sigh… I hate people.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I once heard the expression, “A lie can travel around the world twice before the truth has finished putting on its pants.” Sadly true.