The creator of Flappy Bird (which I have been told has taken the place of Angry Birds in terms of popularity) has removed the popular game from iOS and Android app stores.
The game no longer appears in searches on both Google Play and Apple's App Store. When viewing the Top Charts from an iPhone, Flappy Bird is absent from the Free Games chart it had topped for the past week. Also, if you view the developer page for Dong Nguyen within iTunes, Flappy Bird is no longer featured.
Creator Dong Nguyen tweeted the news about Flappy Bird two days ago, claiming that despite the $50,000 that he is earning daily from the game, it is “ruining his life.”
I cheered the end of Flappy Bird.
I’ve never played the game. I’ve never even seen the game played. But what I have seen is the shockingly addictive power of these games and the vast amounts of time that are wasted by the people who are playing them.
Flappy Bird may have been ruining Dong Nguyen’s life, but it’s ruining the lives of the people who stare at their phones every day and play the game, too.
Candy Crush is the game that I see played most often in my circles. I see this game played a lot. Every time I see it played, I can’t help but think about the time being wasted and lost. Time that can never be recovered.
Don’t get me wrong: I love video games. I spent untold numbers of hours playing video games, both at home and in arcades, as a child. Even as an adult, I have spent entire weekends playing video games with friends.
But the difference between the video games that I have played and games like Candy Crush and Flappy Birds is that when I play video games, they are played socially. My friends and I bring our laptops together or gather around my friend’s Wii, and we spend a weekend attempting to conquer a game or each other.
When I am playing video games, I am spending time with friends. I am talking, taunting, scheming, laughing, reminiscing, fighting, competing and cajoling.
The people who I watch play games like Candy Crush (and presumably Flappy Bird) are lost in their cell phone screens, present in body but absent from the world and the people around them, accomplishing little more than momentary, mind-numbing, purposeless pleasure.
This is not to say you will never see me with my head buried in my phone. You will.
Too often, in fact.
But when I am staring at a screen, I like to think that I am at least being productive. Most likely, I am reading. I am either scrolling through my carefully-curated Twitter stream for news, reading a webpage, PDF or book, or working on a project in Evernote. I am either gathering information, reading for pleasure or moving something forward.
This may cause me to sound like a productivity lunatic. I probably sound as fun as a dish towel. I may appear like someone who doesn’t know how to turn off and relax.
All of these things may be true, but here is what will not happen to me:
I will not be lying on my death bed someday, hating myself for the precious hours spent playing Candy Crush.
When I am an old man, I will not be hating the younger version of myself for all the time I spent playing Flappy Bird.
It may sound insane to live your life through the eyes of your dying self, but this is what I do. I think about what the 120 year-old version of me would want from the 40 year-old version of me, and that is what I try to do, because I know that the 120 year-old version of me will be much wiser than the current me, and he is going to be outraged if I wasted my precious time with nonsense.
This is not to say that I would not love to play a game like Candy Crush or Flappy Bird. Knowing my addictive, obsessive personality and my natural inclination toward video games,I think I would crush Candy Crush. I would flap the hell out of Flappy Bird.
This is why I never download any games onto my phone.
I do not allow myself to begin playing these games to do so would surely lead down the Candy Crush path to certain doom.
My advice: Remove all the games from your phone immediately and find a more productive use of the time you will spend with you face in your phone.
My suggestions: Load a book onto your phone. Find news sources that appeal to you. Use the time spent on your phone to make a grocery list, respond to an email, review your bank statement or answer a question that you have always wondered.
I am currently reading about the Teapot Dome scandal via the Wikipedia app on my phone. It’s something that I’ve always been vaguely aware of but never really understood. By the end of today or tomorrow, I will.
Next I plan on reading about Elvis Presley. I’ve been listening to the song Suspicious Minds and it’s got me thinking about him a lot. I don’t know much about his life, but by the end of the week, I will.
There is a new, free app called Duolingo, which will teach you a foreign language and is designed to be played like a game. It’s fantastic. It’s competitive, challenging and full of the levels, rewards and markers that make games like Candy Crush so additive.
I’m not ready to shift the reading that I do on my phone over to a game like this, but there may come a time when I do. But if you’re sitting in a meeting or a waiting room playing Candy Crush or it, why not play a game that will result in the ability to speak Spanish or French or German instead?
There are millions of uses of your cell phone. New apps are being developed and added to the app stores. For the sake of your aged, infirmed, future self, make the time spent with your head in your phone more useful and productive.