Flappy Bird: A 21st Century Addiction

Creighton senior Theresa Reid is an avid "Flappy Bird" gamer.
Creighton senior Theresa Reid is an avid “Flappy Bird” gamer.

Theresa Reid’s journey to 165 began with a tap. Well, more like tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

Reid, a senior psychology student at Creighton University, downloaded the mobile game-du-jour on the advice of her best friend and roommate, Libby Snyder.

One, two, three taps later, the St. Louis native was hooked, addicted to the wildly popular game Flappy Bird.

Flappy Bird is a mobile game for smartphones where a small bird must navigate a perilous labyrinth of various-height tubes. It seems deceptively simple. The bird flaps until it hits a tube; no power-ups, increasing speeds or extra lives. The bird’s altitude is determined by tapping on the screen.

So Theresa tapped her right thumb, sending her bird up and down. After a three-hour gaming binge, she had a high score of 23 and a new hobby— something to do when waiting for the shuttle or when she needed a break from applying for post-graduate volunteering programs.

Then her world changed. She kept playing. Tap, tap, tap. All day, she would tap. In between classes: tap.  Her brothers and roommates began to get competitive. Tap-tap-tap. They would boast about their high scores. Tappity-tap tap tap.

One day, Theresa was tapping away while talking to her roommates. (Did she ever talk to them without tapping? No.) She hit a high score of 75. Instead of a celebration, Theresa was faced with a “come-to-Jesus” moment.

“We did stage an intervention,” said Snyder, Theresa’s roommate who originally introduced her to the game.

Snyder said that she knew her friend was addicted after an outing to the movies. When driving back from the theater, she noticed Theresa was growing antsy. Like, “really antsy.” Why? Because Theresa hadn’t played Flappy Bird in a few hours, and she doesn’t like playing in the unpredictable bumpiness of a car.

Theresa's roommate Libby Snyder, pictured here, originally introduced Reid to the game. Snyder has a high score of 17.
Theresa’s roommate Libby Snyder, pictured here, originally introduced Reid to the game. Snyder has a high score of 17.


It took some persuading, but the roommates got through to her. “She deleted it,” Libby said, with a hint of pride in her voice.  For five long and tap-free days, Theresa did not play the game.

But she couldn’t resist that little yellow bird. Once a new edition came out, Theresa had to check out the new design. And like an addict back to her old ways, Theresa tapped with a vengeance.

Tap, tap, tap. Higher, lower, up, up, and a quick down. Tap, tap, tap

She tapped like there was no tomorrow, like more than the life of a little imaginary bird depended on it.

One day, while lounging on her bed and listening to Kanye West songs, Theresa blew her personal best out of the water.  She saw the score and screamed. One hundred sixty-five.

“I screamed and opened my door and I was laughing,” said Theresa. “[My roommates] were both like ‘shut up’…but I think that it was jealousy.”

Why is Theresa so insanely good at Flappy Bird? What is her secret?

Turns out, this isn’t her first foray into the online gaming world. In high school, Theresa was exceptionally adept at a video game called Helicopter, which is very similar to Flappy Bird. As roommate Libby puts it, “Theresa is extremely practiced in the art of navigating a flying object through a series of haggard tubes.”

A look at Flappy Bird.
A look at Flappy Bird.

But the mental side of Flappy Bird is where Theresa has had her work cut out for her. She likes to play while being slightly distracted, because overthinking is bad for flying birds. Theresa recommends remaining calm, avoiding panic and never, never, never double-tapping.

Snyder says that she has started seeing Flappy Bird as a metaphor for life.  According to her, seeing how everyone is trying to get ahead in life is relatable to “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

But Theresa doesn’t agree. (And after all, Libby only has a high score of 17.) “It doesn’t hold any deeper meaning for me,” she said.

Reid said she feels “pretty proud” about her current high score of 165, but she thinks she can get higher. “I’m pretty, like, embarrassed that my life has come to this, but…I feel like a champion,” she said. “But I also feel like I can do better,” she said, emphatically. She hopes to reach 200 soon.

When asked about the long-term effects of this newfound obsession, Theresa is realistic about the power Flappy Bird has over thousands of people worldwide. She remains adamant, though, that the game hasn’t changed her.

“It ruins lives,” Reid said. “But no, it hasn’t ruined my life yet.”


The year of the asterisk: my 2013 in review

944953_10200552203426495_1914901324_n Why am I deeming 2013 the year of the asterisk? Because for me, this year was full of leaps forward and remembering why I am who I am.

Remember my “Actively seeking asterisks” post? (If not, read it here.) It was my most read post of 2013, with the exception of my snack-themed Sound of Music Live! review. I think it is the best thing that I have ever written. I have tried to continue searching for asterisks in my life and I have found that I am very happy and comfortable.

Some other highlights:

– I attended my first concert at the CenturyLink Center. It was Taylor Swift for her “Red” tour and it was phenomenial. See the five best Taylor Swift songs here. 

– I have had five jobs, four of them I would consider to be “grown-up” ones. I got to help out with Creighton’s graduation, and I also rode the bus with Omaha mayor Jean Stothert. I now occasionally cover heart-warming community events and I write blogs–and get paid for it! How cool is all of that? I also got to work with my idol and meeting amazing writers every day. I also did some PA work for American Idol.

– I traveled. To Milwaukee for a practically perfect 4th of July weekend, to Minnesota, I went to places small (Norfolk) and large (San Diego.)

-I won awards- an OPC journalism scholarship and a CU sorority junior scholarship.

– I did a lot of things out of my comfort zone: aka the taco ride.

– I created the  social media editor position for the Creightonian.

-I like to think I called my parents crying less, but I can’t be for sure. I feel like that is a hallmark of growing up.

-I turned 21, which is something that I never have to endure again. (Thank goodness for that!)

-I saw the 2012 movie “Frances Ha,” which was very inspirational and changed my life and my hair goals.

– Over the course of the year, I lost 12 pounds and I feel better than ever.

– I stopped slouching.

If 2012 was the year of the comeback and 2013 the year of the asterisk, 2014 is going to be the year of openness and acceptance. I am going to open my mind and heart to new people, places and experiences, and love every minute of it.

I sincerely hope you have a fantastic New Year. Thanks for reading.

Want to read more? Here are some of my favorite posts from 2013:
A Letter to my 10-year-old self
What’s in a name? Or nouns vs. adjectives
My version of Magis
Constant Curating
Dead Rabbits
Some fatherly advice
It’s just like riding a bike
NE is a part of me
What Barney taught me

The 5 best Taylor Swift songs

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...
English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Taylor Swift. I am saying it here, loud and proud.  I am tired of being shamed by the “haters,” those who attempt to belittle us “Swifties,” her devoted fans.

Yes, I know that I am not her typical fan, as I saw clearly when I went to her Red concert; that is, I am not a 9-year-old girl. Rather, I am a college student who is alternately confused with and in love with the world. And Taylor Swift gets this; she gets me. After all, she is a 23-year-old female; I am a 21-year-old female. We have many things in common.

I was inspired to write this because I am tired of constantly having to defend my tastes in music. Now, when people turn up their noses at my collection of Swift playlists or make a grimace when I say that I know every word of her songs, I can direct them here, instead of saying it out loud.

This list was very difficult to make. I rewrote the list at least five separate times, and I spent two weeks thoroughly researching every single Swift song. Please note that these are not my favorite songs, or the ones with the highest number of plays on my iTunes. Many of these songs have never even been on the radio. They are the ones that I feel are the highest quality, either musically or lyrically.

The discernment process was too difficult to go through alone.  I frequently consulted two TSwift experts: my friends Anna and Anthony. Both are 21-year-old college students who have seen her live. I also received lots of feedback from the twitterverse.

Here they are, counting down to the best Swift song: (Click the song title to listen to the music video)

5) “Eyes Open”
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond.”

Best Lyric: “Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown/
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout/
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping/
Keep your eyes open.”

Swift wrote this song about fictional character Katniss Everdeen from the “Hunger Games” book series.  This song implores the subject to stay wary because nobody is to be trusted during times of turmoil.

This song has a spot on the list because it shows that she can write for other things than love or boy trauma. (Her latest song, “Sweeter than Fiction,” is an 80s-inspired movie song for the forthcoming movie “One Chance.”)

The song, punctuated with heavy rock guitar, has no audible country influences, besides the ballad-type storytelling.

While being a musical warning, “Eyes Open” has the same general theme and essence that can be found in many of the runner-ups to this list: a general theme of optimism and “You can do it!” Swift is a great cheerleader, despite never having been one in high school.

4) Sparks Fly
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “Speak Now.”
Best Lyric: “Get me with those green eyes, baby, as the lights go down/
Give me something that’ll haunt me when you’re not around.”

This song, from Swift’s third album, sounds like a country single from her earlier days. The music, while nice and memorable, isn’t what makes this song worthy of a spot on the top 5 list. It is the words and the delivery.  When listening to this song, you can hear more than Swift’s voice—you can hear her emotion. (Listen to the lines “You find I’m even better than you imagined you would be” or “And lead me up the staircase/Won’t you whisper soft and slow?”)

The image of sparks flying across the night sky is a powerful analogy for raw chemistry between two people. She also takes  it literally when she sings “I’m captivated by you, baby, like a firework show.”

This incredibly catchy song is applicable to a variety of situations, such as young love, old love, passion for an art or activity, etc.

3) “Treacherous”
Written by Taylor Swift and Dan Wilson. From the album “Red.”
Best Lyric:”All we are is skin and bone trained to get along/
forever going with the flow, but you’re friction.”

With “Treacherous,” Swift gets philosophical. She seemingly questions free will in the second verse, saying “I can’t decide if it’s a choice, getting swept away.” She is on a treacherous, slippery and reckless path, but she likes it. The guitars, both acoustic and electric, make it much different, musically speaking, from her previous work, such as the album “Fearless.”

Swift expert Anthony, who saw the “Red” tour, says that the bridge to “Treacherous” is his “favorite part of any Taylor Swift song.” The lyrics (“Two headlights shine though the sleepless night…. And I just think you should, think you should know/that nothing safe is worth the drive…”) are wrapped in a drum beat so driving that you can almost picture her foot on the accelerator, driving to her love’s house.  Echoing voices during the bridge add a hint of urgency to the song and make it simply miraculous.

2) “Enchanted”
Written by Taylor Swift. From the album “Speak Now.”
Best lyric: “This night is sparkling, don’t you let it go/
I’m wonderstruck, blushing all the way home/
I’ll spend forever wondering if you knew…I was enchanted to meet you.”

This might be my favorite Swift song ever. I love that she uses words like “sparkling,” “wonderstruck,” “blushing,” “flawless” and (obviously) “enchanted.” Those terms conjure up a magical scene of  innocence and the first stages of becoming smitten by another. The version of Swift portrayed in this song perfectly embodies the image of a wide-eyed and giggling love-struck girl that popular culture associates with her.

This song perfectly captures a feeling of hope, beginning with the title itself. According to the Google dictionary, the verb “enchant” means “to fill someone with great delight; charm. To put something under a spell.” Meeting someone at a party and instantly feeling a connection is what this song is about, but I feel that it is more than that. Being captivated by another person, or a passion, is a miraculous feeling, and Swift figured out how to write it down on paper. 

The song begins as a quietly, with couplets sang over a synthesizer and lone guitar. It then swells into a multi-faceted exclamation of feelings before tapering off into a simple prayer of sorts: “Please don’t be in love with someone else. Please don’t have somebody waiting on you.”  Swift repeats these lines to her self as if they are fragile and saying them out loud will end the magical spell she is under. 

Ugh. This song grabs at my heartstrings every time. My friend Gabby, who is not a Swift expert but appreciates good music, said that this song had to be on my list. “Every human with a soul can relate to that one,” she tweeted at me, and I agree. 

And finally, the best Taylor Swift song is…..(drum roll, please)….

1) “All Too Well.”
Written by Taylor Swift and Liz Rose. From the album “Red.”
Best Lyric: “But you call me up again, just to break me like a promise/
So casually cruel in the name of being honest/
I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, cause I remember it all too well.”

This song has obvious relationship-gone-bad undertones, but I think that it is relateable to anyone who has been hurt by a loved one.  People can be so incredibly mean when it isn’t necessary, just for the sake of hurting someone.  Ever had a perfect friendship that crashed and burned? Or a family member who said something that fed into  your insecurities? How about a boy or girl who has wrecked your emotional well-being with one text message? If you have experienced any of these, then you understand exactly what Swift means in this song.

“All Too Well” is from Swift’s most recent album, titled “Red.” This album is the most musically mature of her work. It is less country and more emotionally honest and mature. The cattiness found in some of her previous songs (such as “Mean” or “Better Than Revenge”) is gone, replaced with fantastic imagery. My favorite visual in this song is Swift and her boyfriend dancing in the kitchen, late at night,illuminated only by the glow of the refrigerator light.

What do you think? Did I make the right choices? What did I miss? Comment below and tell me!

A few notes: Swift became the youngest artist to win the Grammy for “Best Album” for 2008’s “Fearless.” I did not include any of those songs, or any from her eponymous first album, on this list, not because I don’t love them, but because Swift’s musical growth has been astounding over her last two albums. “Red” is nominated  for the “Best Album” Grammy award in 2014.

List finalists/honorable mentions: “Change,” “Hey Stephen,” “Safe and Sound,” “Story of Us,” “Long Live,” “Dear John” and “A Place in this World.

P.S. check out my review of the “Red” album here.