Opportunity, Modded

Modding, from the root word modifying, is “the act of changing a game, usually through computer programming, with software tools that are not part of the game” (Poor, 1250). The aim of this expansion is either meant to improve or add content: to fix bugs or add new challenges during gameplay. Mods become extremely popular – especially when the original game is no longer available. This is the case for Flappy Doge, a mod combining Flappy Bird and the doge meme.

Flappy Doge uses the characteristics of its predecessor, including tapping motions to make the character ‘fly’, vertical green pipes with little leeway, and immediate game-over if the character touches any of the pipes. Slight alterations classify this as a mod, including the revamped character that is the head of a Shiba Inu – the telltale image of the meme. It has added difficulty that the original Flappy Bird game did not have. The narrow openings through the pipes are lined with spikes, which requires extra caution when passing through. There is also the threat of growing in size, which occurs when the doge ‘eats’ floating chicken legs that are suspended between the pipes. These “digital tinkering[s]” (Coleman and Dyer-Witheford, 941) are noticeable, yet Flappy Doge is still undeniably modeled off of Nguyen’s initial game.

From this, Flappy Doge plays with both intellectual property and copyright. It is a direct model off of Nguyen’s game, which remains to be his intellectual property. However, since being taken down, its basic premise has been replicated several times over. The use of the word “flappy” in the game title is the most telltale sign that this game is a direct replication of its predecessor. Doge, however, plays more with copyright. The meme itself has been reproduced in various creative ways, all stemming from the same photograph. A Japanese teacher, Atsuko Sato, posted photos of her Shiba Inu to her blog (Know Your Meme), and it skyrocketed from there. The doge has become an icon of sorts across the internet, yet it is that same photograph that is manipulated over and over. The photograph remains to be copyright of its creator, just as Flappy Bird remains to be Nguyen’s.

Flappy Doge is not specifically classified as commons or commodity, however. Commons are “resources that all in a specified community may use, but none can own” while commodities “are exchanged for profit on the basis of privatized possession” (Coleman and Dyer-Witheford, 934-5). The original photograph still belongs to Sato, which negates the definition of commons. Nguyen himself made it clear that he was not selling his game to anybody (Stampler), ruling out the possibility of Flappy Doge being a commodity. Mods are also generally circulated for free (Coleman and Dyer-Witheford, 941). When the doge’s head is digitalized and used as the character in a mod off of Flappy Bird, it teeters the line of copyright infringement. Yet the Creative Commons initiative “argues that cultural production under digital conditions requires a relaxation of copyright regimes” (Coleman and Dyer-Witheford, 947). Does such leniency apply to Flappy Doge?

Creative Commons “proposes greater formal assimilation within that system of users and adapter” (Coleman and Dyer-Witheford, 947). This mod definitely assimilates two opportunities, made to attract twice the audience: those looking for a Flappy Bird fix, and who like the doge meme. Without the excessive hype around either, Flappy Doge would not exist – but at the same time, Nguyen would not have chosen to remove his game from the App Store, and the doge meme would not have stormed the internet as it did.

– Natasha Truttmann

Works Cited:

Coleman, Sarah and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.” Media Culture & Society 26.6 (2007): 934-53. Web.

“Doge.” Know Your Meme. Cheezburger, Inc, n.d. Web.

Flappy Doge. GirlsGoGames, 2013. Web.

Poor, Nathaniel. “Computer Game Modders’ Motivations and Sense of Community: A Mixed-methods Approach.” New Media & Society 16.8 (2014): 1249-267. Web.

Stampler, Laura. “Flappy Bird Creator Says ‘It’s Gone Forever’.” Time. Time, 2014. Web.

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Gender and Secret Spaces in Gone Home

Space is a common link between games, which weaves the world that makes play possible. “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space” by Tracy Fullerton, Jacquelyn Morie, and Celia Pearce describes the use of space in games. “‘The defining element in computer games is spatiality,’” claims Espen Aarseth (Fullerton, Morie, Pearce, 2007), as it provides organizational structure in which games can operate. The Fullbright Company’s “story exploration video game” Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013), space can be interpreted through its atmospheric setting, which is characterized by gender, as well as through secret spaces.

One way that space can be interpreted and explored is in relation to gender differences. Early feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman states that, whereas men tend to upheave or destroy a space, “the basic feminine impulse is to gather, to put together, to construct” (Fullerton, Morie, Pearce, 2007). Though game spatiality has become more gender neutral today, elements of these gender differences can be seen in Gone Home. In this game, Katie returns home after a European trip to see her parent’s house in an abandoned state. Her sister, Sam, is nowhere to be found. In her absence, Sam has left the house in disarray. Letters and pizza boxes are strewn in various rooms and scrap papers litter the halls. Left to gather clues, Katie must figure out where her sister has gone. In this sense, Katie corresponds to Gilman’s notion of feminine impulse, to ‘gather, put together, and construct,’ while Sam’s behaviour leans more towards the masculine side, depicted through the unruly mansion.

Additionally, the spatiality in Gone Home is characterized by gender through its dual narrative – the voiceover from Sam narrating the game, and the pictorial evidence left behind by their great uncle Oscar. As Katie weaves her way through the halls, she discovers more clues to Sam’s whereabouts, but also stumbles upon Oscar’s obituary and will. Sam explains how the place is referred to as the “psycho house” since Oscar has been there, and this intertwines the two narratives together. The house is centred on these two narratives, both of which are essential in telling the tale.

Beyond this, Gone Home makes full use of secret space, which is space hidden away from intruders and prying eyes. Architecture professor Frances Downing explains that secret space can include “attics, root cellars, or under the stairs” (Fullerton, Morie, Pearce, 2007) – all of which are identifiable in Gone Home. Katie explores the mansion, finding a hidden passage to the basement, a trap door under the stairs, and a key to open the attic door. Each secret space marks a pivotal point in the game, where Katie gets one step closer to finding where Sam has gone.

Furthermore, secret spaces “often are places of power and control that cannot be known or invaded by ‘outside’ forces” (Fullerton, Morie, Pearce, 2007). This is observable in Gone Home as Katie roams the house. Sam’s journal entries narrate the way, and each reveals a little bit more about Sam, and what events culminated to make her leave. Her journal acts as a secret space, in this sense. It is a place “created for retreat, intimacy, enclosure, screening, and protection,” as Downing puts it. Sam had privately written about her budding relationship with her classmate, Lonnie, which is what ultimately prompted her to flee the house. She left to be with Lonnie, knowing that her parents would not approve of their same-sex relationship. Sam entrusts Katie with this information, but begs her to “please, please don’t go digging around trying to find out where I am” (The Fullbright Company, 2013). Her journal and its contents are meant to remain private.

This use of secret space in Gone Home is how Sam’s story is revealed, while the gender duality is meant to characterize the atmosphere in the mansion. This use of spatiality allows Katie to find out what has happened to her sister, and it is, indeed, what defines this exploration game.

– Natasha Truttmann

Works Cited

“About Gone Home.” The Fullbright Company. The Fullbright Company, 2013. Web. http://fullbright.company/gonehome/

Fullerton, Tracy, Morie, Jacquelyn, and Pearce, Celia. “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space.” Proceedings of perthDAC 2007: The 7th International Digital Age and Culture Conference: The Future of Digital Media Culture. 2007. http://eleven.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-074-a-game-of-one%E2%80%99s-own-towards-a-new-gendered-poetics-of-digital-space/

Gone Home. The Fullbright Company, 2013. Steam. http://store.steampowered.com/app/232430/