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Flappy Bird Is the Most Downloaded Game on iTunes, or What's Wrong With All of Us?

Flappy Bird is not just a game. It’s a reflection of the human condition.

Why would we submit ourselves to a smartphone game — now the number one free app in Apple’s App Store — that seems so simple, yet that is so frustrating that it drives us to the brink of insanity? Are we literally incapable of helping ourselves?

In case you’re one of the lucky few that have yet to be hooked in, Flappy Bird is that “other” addictive bird-based game for iOS and Android. The difference: In this retro-styled game, it’s not the birds that become angry — it’s you.

And, just as Flappy Bird throws you into a rage, so too has it become all the rage with smartphone gamers: According to rankings online, Flappy Bird is the #1 free game download in iTunes and in the top 20 for Android.

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Both the object and gameplay of Flappy Bird take seconds to understand, but that only makes it more embarrassing when you come to realize that your first hours of playing have only yielded a personal high score of 9. To get points, all you have to do is keep your on-screen bird in the air, guiding it past a side-scrolling course of Super Mario-looking pipes.

Clearing one set of pipes earns you one point, but don’t expect to gain even that much on your first couple of tries.

The real difficulty lies in the only control of the game, which is the “simple” tapping of the screen. Each tap will prompt a flap of the bird’s wings, which is how you attempt to keep your protagonist in flight. But to say that there’s a real finesse to the tap would be something of an understatement. The bird is a sensitive one, that’s for sure.

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You don’t want to tap too heavily, because it will propel the bird too high and into the top of a pipe opening. And you don’t want to tap too timidly, because your bird will nosedive into the bottom of a pipe opening or even into the ground. The touch is certainly something that I have not myself mastered (a meager high score of 13 over here).

But did that stop me from sinking hours into the game while half-watching Sunday night television? No.

Flappy Bird is so fast-paced, and has such an “Oh, I almost had it!” feel, that you can’t put it down. So I played on, each round more vexing than the last. And, boy, was I getting steamed. So much so that I almost tweeted about it. Kind of like this.

Will I ever get any better at Flappy Bird? I’m almost positive that, no, I will not. Will I be back to play more of the game? Yes. Ugh.

Click here to download Flappy Bird for your iPhone, and here to get it for your Android phone. Just don’t play it with anything breakable nearby. 

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