How Flappy Bird Fulfills A Very Important Human Need

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Although Flappy Bird has been removed from the App Store and Google play, its success is still unstoppable. If you have downloaded the game before it was deleted, then for sure, you are still tapping away and hoping to surpass your best score.

When interviewed, Dong Nguyen (the app developer responsible for Flappy Bird) says he owes the app’s success to luck. In Elaine Heney’s interview, Dong shares:

“I didn’t use any promotion methods. All accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram about Flappy Bird are not mine. The popularity could be my luck.” (via MacRumors)

But is Flappy Bird’s success mostly because of luck?

Or is there an underlying human need that Flappy Bird seems to fulfil?

What draws us to play a pixelated game over and over again?

I believe that Flappy bird’s success is not just because of luck. I believe that it fulfills the psychological needs of humans. It gives us a quick fix to feel pleasure, excitement, and fulfilment. Feelings that normally take time to achieve in the real world.

What do humans need?

Our basic needs are pretty simple. We need food, water, shelter, and tools that makes us feel safe. When we eat when we’re hungry, we feel pleasure. Our brains release dopamine (aka the happy hormone) to reward us for fulfilling this basic human need.

Our psychological needs, however, are quite complicated. We have different measures in order to determine whether we feel respected or valued by others.

In an article published in Gamasutra, Anders Hejdenberg explains:

“The interesting fact of the matter is that it is completely up to our own view of what respect is to decide whether we have accomplished what we should and deserve a reward.”

In other words, you’re the only one who can tell whether you have accomplished a psychological need or not.

For example, I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see more than 50 likes on one of the blog posts I’ve written. Other bloggers might consider this irrelevant because they might look at page views.

With that said, regardless whether we are fulfilling physical or psychological needs, the bottom line is this: we want to feel pleasure.

How does Flappy Bird give us pleasure?

flappy bird success
Image courtesy of Forbes

We usually get pleasure when overcoming a challenge that we voluntarily take take on. While the popular belief is that people avoid obstacles, the truth is we actually want to be challenged.

However, this challenge must be exciting and we must voluntarily participate.

Flappy Bird is a very difficult game. It is a challenge that you couldn’t resist to try.  At first glance, you’d think, “This game looks really simple. I can ace it with no problems.” But this thought falls out of your mind as soon as the flappy bird hits the ground in less than two seconds.

But we don’t stop at the first try, do we?

Although that weird bird crashes to the grand more times than we can care to count, we live for that moment when we hear the victorious sound. The sound that lets us know we have successfully accomplished our goal: to pass by the green pipe without falling.

And that’s when we feel pleasure. And we get that pleasure in less than ten seconds. Our only natural reaction is to keep on feeling good and to keep on playing the game. The amount of pleasure increases as we pass through more pipes and surpass our best score.

Dr Scott Rigby, President of Immersyve, reveals that “Video games in some ways are very good at satisfying these psychological needs.” (via Reuters)

Flappy Bird is not the only app that can  fulfill our psychological needs. The truth is all games provide us with different levels of pleasure.

However, based on the numbers and the buzz in social media, Flappy Bird seems to be the people’s most recent favorites.

Are you still tapping away? What’s your best score?






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Irene Chan

Irene Chan

Irene Chan loves two things: communication and technology. With this tech blog and her role as Head of Communications at Veems, she believes she has the best job in the world. 🙂 Besides those two things, she's also crazy for coffee, dogs, and zombies.Follow her on Veems to get tips and fun updates from her geeky life.
Irene Chan