Thursday, February 6, 2014

Would the real bird please stand up? The invasion of the Flappy Bird

So I am going to take a sharp pivot away from my usual expat content this week to talk about a "virus" that has recently invaded people's smart phones.  :)  This new game sensation is called "Flappy Bird" and has just recently taken over the #1 spot for downloads on the iTunes app store.  I just heard about it myself and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

So then I downloaded it for my iPhone from the iTunes app store.  The first thing I noticed right away is that it had more than 50,000,000 (estimated) downloads and supposedly has over 75,000 reviews.  One thing you notice about this game right away is that it is very retro with pixelated graphics and simple game play.  Think Mario Brothers from the mid 80s.  Essentially all you do with the game controls is move the bird up and down by pushing the screen to make the bird fly.  Seems easy, right?  Let me tell you, the controls are about as difficult as I have ever seen on any smart phone game; the bird barely flies and it is nearly impossible to get through the barriers (pipes) that the bird must fly through in order to keep the game going.  The pipes are very close together and there is barely enough space for the bird to fly through.  As soon as the bird hits a pipe, it comes down crashing and the game ends.  There is no "second chance" or "continue from this spot" option.  The game play is extremely annoying to say the least, but I guess there is some addictive nature to it to see if you can beat your previous high score.  The score is based on how many pipes you fly through. There is really nothing else to this game, no bosses, no creatures, nothing else to see on the screen other than pipe after pipe.

I am thinking to myself why is this game so popular all of a sudden?  I did a bit of research and it seems the game was released last May of 2013 and didn't get much attention or downloads at all from the statistics (App Annie).  Then came December 2013/January 2014 and the game downloads spiked dramatically as if the graph line was flying off the charts.  So, maybe then some people just caught on to it and they shared the game with their friends?  Could it be that simple, since the game company claims they didn't do any direct marketing and instead just got lucky?  I was checking the reviews on the iTunes store and it occurred to me that almost every review was written in the same way and/or with the same theme.  All the reviews were very long and talked about how this game is evil but addictive, blah, blah, blah.  Basically saying that they didn't really like the game, but then almost every review was a 4 or 5 star rating.  It definitely smells like something fishy is going on with this game.  A plain retro game with tiny amounts of downloads sits in the store for 7 months, then all of a sudden it rockets to the moon courtesy of thousands of downloads and reviews.  Seems that spam bot reviews were created by automated programs and automated downloads occurred to virtual devices.  I can't prove it, but it seems to be the reality of this little game.  If I was a betting man, I would place my money on this marketing being completely unauthentic.  Fake viral marketing in a nutshell, not organic growth.  This is not the way to promote yourself or your business.  I highly doubt this has any staying power for the longer term.  Videos like "Gangman Style" by PSY and "The Fox (what does the Fox say)" by Ylvis are creatively done and not forced virility.  The same would go for the game sensation from Finland, Angry Birds, which is actually a fun game that can be enjoyed and played by all ages for a long time. The game play on Angry Birds is impeccable in comparison to that silly poseur Flappy Bird.  So, would the real bird please stand up?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Finns and the weather

Snowstorm, pounding rain, sleet, frigid cold temperatures... There is really no such thing as weather that would prevent the Finns from doing what they want to do.  I am not saying that they enjoy the freezing cold days, but that they will always continue on with their outdoor activities no matter what the barometer might read.  There is a definite distinction as to how the weather affects outdoor activities in Finland versus where I came from in the USA.

For example, if one of my children is playing soccer and the games are scheduled to be played, they will never be cancelled based on weather conditions.  The games will go on no matter how cold or rainy the field of play might be (yes, I have been at the side of a soccer field in rain and in 37 F temps as well).  The spectators and players will dress appropriately and just go do it.  In the US there is the fear that a wet and muddy field might lead to someone tripping and getting hurt and perhaps some parent suing the city where the game was played.  In Finland there is no such fear of lawsuit (because the Finnish legal system does not allow punitive damages like US allows) and there is not the same worry about the children falling and getting hurt.  The other difference is that kids are taught to tough it out at earlier ages and living in a harsher climate leaves no other options.  Where we lived e.g with the soccer league there was a "weather hot-line" that we could call several hours before games to confirm if they were cancelled or not. Here, my daughter has played numerous day-long soccer tournaments with continuous rain all day long.  We would sit with our raincoats on and the kids would continue to play unfazed throughout the day.  Since the weather is quite moody and unpredictable in Finland there is no real way to plan around it, one just needs to deal with it.

The other night my son had his school's 100 day celebration scheduled for outside.  The teachers were planning on grilling sausages, drinking warm drinks and doing a scavenger hunts.  Well, it was quite chilly that evening (-15C, +5 F), but the show must go on.  The celebration proceeded as planned and lasted 1.5 hours.  I wore 3 layers under my coat and a hat, but little did I know that it really doesn't matter how one dresses, if you are just standing around in -15, it is still quite difficult to keep warm.  I noticed the other parents, but no one seemed to be as cold as me or being Finns they just keep their pride and didn't show it.

The funny thing about the weather is that while Finns go on in any weather and do not seem to let it interfere with their activities, this does not mean that they would not constantly talk about it. The weather, it seems, is a constant topic throughout the year in Finland.  Seems that not one day goes by when I don't end up chatting with one co-worker or another in regards to the current weather.  Too cold in the summer, too hot in the summer, too rainy, too humid, too icy, too freezing, too dark, too light.  Regardless of the weather, the Finns will talk and most likely complain about it.  There honestly never seems to be a perfect weather scenario for the Finns - but they will go on in any weather regardless.  Since Finland is such a high Northern country, the weather is ever so changing and hard to forecast, so one must deal with the card they were given and stop trying worry about it.  In the past 2 years that I have lived here I guess I have stopped trying to worry about the day to day weather and just accept it for what it is.

Photo credit: Getty images.