The Guy Who Made Flappy Bird Says He Might Bring It Back

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 11 2014 4:57 PM

Flappy Bird Might Fly Again. Let's Try Not to Freak Out This Time.

Dong Nguyen Flappy Bird
Dong Nguyen might bring back his viral hit. But are we better off without it?

Screenshot / Flappy Bird

In an interview with Rolling Stone today, Flappy Bird’s creator said he might resurrect the insanely popular smartphone game at some point.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

“I’m considering it,” 28-year-old Dong Nguyen told the magazine. But if he does bring back the title, he added, it will come with a warning for would-be addicts: “Please take a break.” For now, his focus is on developing three new games: a cowboy-themed shooter, a flying game called Kitty Jetpack, and an “action chess game” called Checkonaut.


That was the highlight of an otherwise surprisingly unsurprising interview with the young Vietnamese game designer. Rolling Stone sent writer David Kushner to Hanoi to track down the elusive Nguyen and didn’t come away with a whole lot that we didn’t already know or suspect. Still, the article does the best job yet of stitching together the threads of Nguyen’s personal story and rescuing him from mythical status. He’s just a guy, not a gaming god.

Nguyen tells the magazine he built Flappy Bird as an homage to the simple-yet-compelling Nintendo games of his youth. He adds that he never expected it to go viral, and Rolling Stone wasn’t able to shed any new light on how that transpired. When it did, he was overwhelmed by the media attention in his home country, where he became a sudden celebrity. Even more, he was distraught by reports of people getting addicted to the game and losing their jobs or ignoring their schoolwork. So he pulled the plug, and he still feels it was the right choice. This is basically the same story he has told via Twitter, and in past interviews.

Flappy Bird paddleball
Flappy Bird's creator wanted his game to be as simple and addictive as paddleball.

Mega Pixel /

I did, however, appreciate Nguyen’s insistence that the game’s simplicity was no accident. He said his goal with Flappy Bird was to build something that people could play with one hand, in the fleeting moments between appointments or obligations. And he intended the graphics to be amusingly cartoonish. My favorite part is where Nguyen tells the magazine he modeled the game on what Kushner calls “one of the most masocore analog creations ever: paddleball.” From the story:

Like paddleball, he limited his game to just a couple of elements—the bird and the pipes—and resisted the usual urge to lard the action with new elements as the player progressed. He tuned the physics so that the bird was fighting gravity so strong, even the slightest wrong tap would kill it. 

It’s a testament to Nguyen’s success that paddleball was in fact the exact analogy that came to mind when I played the game and wrote about it a month ago. From my final paragraph:

A game’s appeal is not proportional to its complexity. If anything, the relationship is inverse. Flappy Bird is a game like bouncing a ball on a paddle is a game. It is utterly simple, mind-numbingly repetitive, yet endless in its variations—and profound in its ability to fulfill our human need to concentrate for a moment, an hour, or an evening on something other than the weighty complexities of real life.

If nothing else, the Rolling Stone interview should serve as reassurance that the Flappy Bird’s appeal was not random or inexplicable. It was the product of a sharp mind tackling a problem—how to make a compelling game for a tiny screen on a mobile device—in a fresh and creative way.

Instead of yearning for Flappy Bird’s return or downloading all the Flappy Bird clones that now populate the app stores, fans of the game ought to show their appreciation by downloading the new games that Nguyen says he’s working on. And if you find yourself getting addicted, please resist the urge to dump your problems on the game’s creator via Twitter or angry app-store reviews. He’s obviously a pretty sensitive fellow.

The full Rolling Stone story is here.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.