Flappy Bird: Why Not Me? (A Developer Confession)

previewI understand that many mobile developers are tired of hearing about Flappy Bird (including Dong Nguyen himself), but I’d like to confess to an emotion that I haven’t seen many others admitting publicly: envy.

It starts when we ask ourselves, “why not me?” Or similarly, for those of us with teenage children who know that we develop mobile games, the conversation goes like this:

“Dad, have you heard of Flappy Bird?”

“Yes.”

“Did you play it?”

“Yes.”

“It seems like a simple game. Why didn’t you make it?”

“Because I didn’t.”

“What does that mean?”

“It’s complicated. So, what’s your high score?”

And then the conversation moves on. I don’t let my daughter see the petty emotion inside of me, and I certainly don’t belittle Flappy Bird or the developer. But the nagging question inside my head is still “why not me?”

I’ve asked myself this before – it isn’t restricted to just Flappy Bird. I’ve read all of the analysis on why some games are a hit despite them being almost exactly the same as a dozen others. As developers we know that there are many, many factors that go into making a hit. The perfect storm of conditions can sometimes occur without warning.

Personally, I’m not looking for the money, my wife and I are living well. I’m not looking for the fame, as I’m sure that probably brings its own set of problems. For me, I’m looking for the validation that I’ve made something that connects with people – something that they WANT to play, instead of my asking politely if they would try my game.

I understand that the problem might just be that my games suck. I get that completely, and I also agree that part of learning is trying and failing. And failing. And failing. Until the day when you put out something really good and people do take notice.

So I’m a little envious. But I’m working on it.

If you’ve read this far and you’re an indie developer, feel free to connect with me on Twitter: follow me and then send me a link to one of your apps, I’ll give it a review. If that feels too forward for you then just say hello.

  • Simon Edis

    Any indie developer that said they weren’t envious of the success of Flappy Bird would be lying. At the same time it’s inspiring to see a great simple game from a small developer break into the top 100. I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited about making new apps than I have been for a while!

    • toddtrann

      Hey Simon. Yes, I’m still excited! And agreed, it’s a good sign for all of us that an indie can still break into the top 100.

  • Morgan Owen

    nice to hear someone admit it! we’re all thinking it but excusing our petty thoughts away by trying to discredit its success or the programmer.

  • Pangoria Fallstar

    I think many developers felt the same way about Minecraft.

    • Joannis Orlandos

      I think your right. But Flappy Bird is a more extreme variation on the story. The time required to develop Flappy Bird is so small compared to Minecraft.

  • http://www.google.com/+ChristopherStone Christopher Stone

    Great article. I agree with this 100% because I remember following directions in a Game Maker tutorial during High School to create the exact same game with pre-made assets. My initial reaction was that of, “Wow, that’s a tiny twist on Helicopter.” then proceeded to face palm myself when every article/person raved about it. However, it’s still a bit inspiring and propels me to want to create something more than just an exploited gimmick. I wouldn’t want to be the creator of Flappy Bird because now that quick cash grab defines him as developer.

    • toddtrann

      Thanks Christopher. Good luck with your next game.