Developers are friends, not food

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| February 8, 2014

If you haven't heard the news by now, by tomorrow evening you'll probably have one or twenty updates from your friends on your preferred social network upset, or perhaps happy, about the fact that the popular app, Flappy Bird, will be removed within 22 hours of the developer posting his tweet earlier today confirming he was doing so. As you can probably guess, there was an uproared response from all corners of the Internet regarding this move. And, to be fair, it is sort of a perplexing situation. At this point, Flappy Bird is the #1 free game on both iOS and Android, with a (previously planned) Windows Phone version supposedly ready for launch soon.

Flappy Bird, as a game, is about as simple as a mobile game ought to be. The only movement you can do is tap the screen to get the flappy bird to fly upwards, or let go to make him fly downwards. However, the difficulty level of the game is said to be quite high, which might be why there is such a draw to the simply designed (although Mario-esque) and simple mechanics. One man created the game and released it for free on iOS and Android. The game quickly became a hit sensation with both markets. To be quite honest, I've heard more about Flappy Bird in my news feeds than I ever did about Angry Birds.

When I first heard that Flappy Bird was being taken down, I decided to investigate. I had read a little bit previously about the lad who developed the game, and from what I gather he seemed rather surprised that his game ever garnered as much attention as it did. And, as much of a pleasant surprise as making $50,000 a day would be, it doesn't come without the troubles of being a developer. The result of so much attention? Simply put, the negative feedback is weighing in on his personal life to the point where no amount of money could make him want to keep the game on the market, so he's taking it down.

Some think it's a ploy to get more people to download the game just so he can change his mind about it later, or perhaps just to make as much money as he possibly can before shutting down the whole thing, but his thoughts regarding all of the negative, hateful feedback aren't unwarranted. Coming from the position I am in, even Internet threats and harsh criticism can indeed weigh on your feelings, even if you don't know the person saying things personally. In my position it's a little more understandable because I write op-eds for a living, and when somebody strongly opposes your opinion they're probably going to seek you out to tell you how they really feel. I expect that, so it's not that big of a deal to me. Where I can see it going wrong is when you try to create a chill, basic video game for people and it unexpectly gets popular, resulting in a furious downpour of acid fire hate-rain.

So it seems like a good opportunity to remind everybody that developers are friends, not food. These guys and gals make it so that our smartphone experience is fun and always expanding. That being said, they're bound to have snags and bugs in them. There is a right and a wrong way to approach a developer to fix mistakes. The right way is to provide what is called "constructive criticism", which is a term that means you're trying to be helpful while letting them know about the mistakes you noticed. The wrong way is just to take the one-way train to Attack Town where you're providing nothing constructive at all, and instead are telling the developer expletives about his game, his life, and while you're at it you might as well throw in a couple of "yo' mamas" if you really want to bring it home. But don't do that. This kills the developer. We don't want that.

The developer making the decision to take down Flappy Bird is a rare occasion, that's true. There aren't a lot of people who are willing to give up $50,000 a day just for some peace of mind, but in the end the message is the same. A few bad apples really can spoil the bunch for some people, and while I'm not saying that this type of thing won't happen again because of this (it will) it just seems like a good time to remind everybody that there is a polite way of letting your developers know that you've found a bug, or if you have a request for something you would like to see implemented in an application later. These people are here to try and make our smartphone experience fun and organized, and that ratings system can be brutal if the wrong person gets their hands on it. Just remember to keep it professional. Give 'em a hug and send them a bundt cake or something to let them know you care a little bit.

Images via GameZebo, Ars Technica