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Flight of the Birdman: Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out

Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen


"Seeing the game on top, I felt amazing," Nguyen recalls. Like everyone else, he was shocked by its meteoric rise – and the avalanche of money that would be wired into his bank account. Even with Apple and Google's 30 percent take, Nguyen estimated he was clearing $50,000 a day. Before long, Shuriken Block and a new game he had submitted called Super Ball Juggling joined Flappy Bird in the Top 10. But other than buying a new Mac, and taking his buddies out for rice wine and chicken hot pot, Nguyen wasn't much for indulging. "I couldn't be too happy," he says quietly. "I don't know why." Remarkably, he hadn't yet even bothered to tell his parents, with whom he lived. "My parents don't understand games," he explains.

As news hit of how much money Nguyen was making, his face appeared in the Vietnamese papers and on TV, which was how his mom and dad first learned their son had made the game. The local paparazzi soon besieged his parents' house, and he couldn't go out unnoticed. While this might seem a small price to pay for such fame and fortune, for Nguyen the attention felt suffocating. "It is something I never want," he tweeted. "Please give me peace."

But the hardest thing of all, he says, was something else entirely. He hands me his iPhone so that I can scroll through some messages he's saved. One is from a woman chastising him for "distracting the children of the world." Another laments that "13 kids at my school broke their phones because of your game, and they still play it cause it's addicting like crack." Nguyen tells me of e-mails from workers who had lost their jobs, a mother who had stopped talking to her kids. "At first I thought they were just joking," he says, "but I realize they really hurt themselves." Nguyen – who says he botched tests in high school because he was playing too much Counter-Strike – genuinely took them to heart.

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He seems like a sweet guy who never wanted that level of success. 

My kids (students) told me, "Miss, don't download Flappy Birds" while they were playing. Finally, I took a phone. I played. I crashed into poles. I tried again. I crashed into more poles. I wondered how many poles I'd have to crash into to stop this self-destructive behavior. The answer was three. I gave the phone back. I didn't realize that if I'd downloaded it, I'd have been able to sell my phone for enough money to take a trip somewhere... Sadness... Now, if only we could remove politicians who make people lose jobs or TVs that make us not talk to our kids... maybe next--one step at a time:) 

Heh heh.

I have Flappy Birds but for some reason I never managed to get addicted to it.

Instead, I'm stuck on the game Threes.

I guess everyone has their hot buttons.

I have never gamed. I owned Pong. That is all. I do have Angry Birds on my phone for 6-year old emergencies. 

Do six year olds like Angry Birds? Are there any other games they know/like?

Six year olds love games. It's kid crack. He is asking me to hand over my phone every time an "available on iOS" comes on. He doesn't get my phone. He loves Minecraft (I can't play. He digs holes and gets mad. I can't help). He only got an X-box because someone thought we were struggling and gave us one of theirs. I can't play any of the games at all. It causes me stress. I get zero joy out of trying. 

My 7 year old nephew says that every kid in his class has an iPhone or iPod touch of their own.

Something about that doesn't feel right.

#notgoingtohappen. You just gave me my post idea for today. I've got "that kid" and I need to have things to take away, that's true, but there's a limit. I'm getting an iPad--haven't had one because school doesn't have wireless. Plenty of computers at home, and I have my Windows 1492 for school. But, the iPad's coming across our path so it's something I'll use for educational games and rewards, with permission and a time-based earning. We've been too liberal about screen time and I'm starting to regulate it more. But kids don't get their parent's stuff--in the same way as I'd never go into my mom's bag, I don't let him have access to my phone. That's just bad news. 

hungry shark

I googled that so I wouldn't look stupid. 

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