Some thoughts on still having Flappy Bird

I played Flappy Bird a few minutes ago.  In three or four tries, my high score for the evening is 14.  Something about playing the game now feels really different than it did when I first got it. Flappy Bird was the first game I got for my phone that was at or around its peak popularity when I downloaded it.  I've never played Plants vs. Zombies.  I've never played Angry Birds -- originally out of contempt because when it came out a very annoying student kept writing articles about it for the school paper[1. Actually, more often than not, the articles had nothing to do with Angry Birds, but he devoted three or four lines to it anyway because LOL CULTURAL REFERENCE AREN'T I TOPICAL.], then just because I didn't much want to, then -- well, now -- just because I haven't, and there's not really anything to be gained from it other than the intrinsic value of playing the game, which isn't much.

And that's kind of what Flappy Bird is like now.  In the peak of its popularity, I had a feeling of genuine accomplishment every time I met a new benchmark -- earning each of the new medals, discovering to my satisfaction that the game doesn't even bother to keep rewarding you after 40 points, getting to nearly 100 -- then, it was pulled.  For a couple days, my phone was, theoretically, worth thousands of dollars.  It was fun to have an object with which I could let people in on the suddenly-elusive experience, now that Flappy Bird was big news and it really seemed to matter whether you'd played it or not.

Now, the sales on eBay seem to have died down -- a few people still have devices listed for thousands of dollars, but they have zero bids, most of the merchandise is fanmade shirts or drawings.  I haven't actually heard anyone mention the game in a few weeks.

But I still play it every other day or so, usually for less than a minute.  There's something mildly meditative about it.  Like Tetris, one of my favorite games, it's a good game for producing flow, which I think is a generally good and healthy thing.

And since it's basically cut off from having a place in the larger cultural narrative, there's nothing competitive about it anymore.  If I were to try to brag about a high score in Flappy Bird it'd be more likely to be embarrassing than impressive.  Consequently, there's no reason to keep playing when there's anything else I ought to be doing.  I don't know if it's universal, but for me the decay and rapidly approaching death of Flappy Bird in the cultural consciousness has completely annihilated its addictive component.

So I play Flappy Bird when I need a very short break from whatever mentally engaging thing I'm doing.  When I get a new phone, I'll stop, and probably find some other game to fill up idle moments.  I hope when I do, I end up using it the way I'm using Flappy Bird now.