Monday, 10 February 2014

The Flappy Bird Leaderboard: A Roster of the World’s Biggest Scoundrels?

flappyThere are lots of things to be angry about. Barely a day passes when I don’t open a newspaper and heave a heavy curse about humanity’s propensity towards wickedness. The world is filled with high profile people it’s easy to despise and some of them rightfully deserve the title ‘World’s Biggest Scoundrel’: Vladimir Putin, Nick Griffin, George Osborne, Bieber. Yes, you heard me right. I said ‘Bieber’…

Yet I don’t want to talk in terms of people who display unique qualities of malignancy. I’m trying to highlight that infernal leaning within human nature itself. I’m talking about people possessed by the need to spoil and destroy. I don’t even mean the poor wretches who, for example, robbed the Pharaohs’ tombs, destroying priceless works of antiquity in the process. They were at least looking for gold to help feed their families. The Nazis destroyed irreplaceable works of art but even that was driven by an ideology, abhorrent though it was. That’s not to say they didn’t do evil but their evil was precipitated by a reason. Even flooding, fracking, and Channel 5 have their reasons.

All acts of human wickedness seem to have their origins in some dark twisted motive. All, that is, with the exception of one…

Nothing explains the actions of those festering blisters of scrotal tissue that so smugly sit towards the upper tiers of the Flappy Bird leaderboard. They are the pimpled scourge who have destroyed the game for no obvious reason. Flappy Bird might be the world’s most annoyingly addictive game offering a trivial distraction involving tapping a screen to steer a small bird through gaps in a scrolling series of green pipes. But let’s not understate the crime. Unlike Dungeon Keeper, Flappy Bird is a free game that doesn’t try to steal the inheritance off every child by addicting their parents to minion slapping and gem mining. It’s just offers them a fiendishly difficult challenge before they gloat about their scores among friends and the world at large.

My highest score on Flappy Bird is 43. Bloody heady stuff, I know, though my average score is in the more humble lower fours. When I scorched my way into the record books with 43 (I look at that number now and still can’t believe how hot my form was that day), I was so proud of my achievement that I immediately accessed the game’s leaderboard, expecting to see my name glowing in the global top 10.

Sadly, I wasn’t even in the top 100. I wasn’t even in the top ten thousand.

The game currently has four million players and the top score is currently held by somebody called Jack. Jack’s score is: 9,243,372,036,854,776,000. Impressive, I think you’ll agree. By my back-of-the-knuckle reckoning, Jack steered his flappy bird through 9,243,372,036,854,733 more green tubes than I fluked, by which I mean, of course, ‘skilfully negotiated’.

Now, I grant you that some of these numbers are a bit too heavy to throw around so early in the week. To save you the trouble of wrapping your brain around the score that wasn’t a remarkable 43, let’s reduce it to something a little more manageable. If the Green Tubes of Doom were passing Jack’s flappy bird at a more-than-generous rate of one every second, then 9,243,372,036,854,776,000 seconds is equal to 153,722,867,280,912 minutes. That’s 2,562,047,788,015 hours or 106,751,991,167 days or approximately 292,471,208 years. In other words, Jack has been playing Flappy Bird for 292 million years or nearly 100 million years before the landmass known as Pangaea began to divide into the continents we know today. If that’s still too big a concept to comprehend, it was 50 million years before the Ice Age or fifteen minutes before the Tories made their last sensible policy announcement about global warming. Given that Flappy Bird first appeared on the Apple store in May 2013, I don’t think I need to check with lawyers before I suggest that Jack might just have been cheating.

Jack’s not the only villain out there flapping his bird in our general direction. The 100th placed person has a score of 2,147,483,647, which equates to a more reasonable 68 years but still means they had to start playing in the spring of 1946, which is pretty unlikely, however addictive Flappy Bird happens to be. Upwards of two thousand million seems to be the score you’ll need to get in order to be in the global top 1% of Flappy Bird players (approximately the top 40,000), which means that either 1946 was a very good year for Flappy Bird or websites detailing the methods of cheating have been doing good business in the past few weeks.

Now, I accept I’m not going to ever hit that target without cheating and I’m not complaining simply because my honest 43 hasn’t been properly recognised with an MBE in the post. It worries me that Flappy Bird’s creator, Nguyen Ha Dong, has now taken the game down. Before the data is lost forever, we should at least find a good use for the global Flappy Bird leaderboard.

Never before has humanity had a resource this powerful: a database of the biggest louses, weasels, and scabietic vermin on the planet. I’d be surprised if the NSA haven’t already saved it to a pen drive. This is a handy pocket sized list of everybody with that flawed gene that drives them to cheat. Employers should have access to the leaderboard when they’re about to fill a post demanding trust, unless, of course, they’re bankers or MPs, in which case they’ll probably use the leaderboard as their talent pool. You want to know where future scandals are going to begin? Just look at the Flappy Bird leaderboard to find the future despots and villains, the corrupt officials, the arch criminals, the people who will usher in the world’s doom accompanied by an avatar of themselves looking suitably smug. If the Pyramids, the Moon Landing, or the last PJ Harvey album are examples of the astonishingly great and beautiful things that humanity can accomplish, then the Flappy Bird leaderboard shows us at our worst.


  1. I think you've rather missed the point here. These "high-scorers" aren't evil geniuses (genii?) trying to claim they are better than anyone else at Flappy Bird. No, these are protesters, railing against the idea that there should even be a Flappy Bird leader-board. They want people to tap their screens for the mere pleasure of playing, not to try and achieve some sort of spurious self-worth by getting to the top of the table. They're just sticking it to the Man, man.

    p.s. I have a high score of one. My five year old grand-daughter has a high score of two. Oh well. So it goes.

  2. That is a very wierd coincidence. The article I wrote today and sent off included the word 'genii' which I had to check was the correct plural of genius. And it is, along with geniuses, which doesn't sound half as good.

    And damn your logic. Of course they're life's rebels and I've just handed over the plans of the rebellion to the Empire. Damn me and my big mouth.

    As for high scores, I hit 42 the other day and now I can't get past 10. It's a very strange game. Plays with your mind. You need a Zen like meditative state to play it because once you realise what you're doing, you fail.

  3. "once you realise what you’re doing, you fail"

    Again, so it goes.

  4. Nathan, interesting take on these high-scorers ...

    As for me, after hitting 41, twice in two days, I feel like I have hit a wall. A wall of happiness albeit!

    Why this guy took off the game eludes me. Stories vary from him having issues with Nintendo (over similarity with Mario Bros) to the guy getting death threats.