A Love Letter To Flash Games

Dear Flash Games,

I see you over there, populating a ever-reducing corner of the internet compared to your younger, more dominant days.

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The year was 2001 and I had my first weekly class trip to the library. The teacher’s objective for us was simple - absorb various works of non-fiction and explore the vast catalogue of old newspaper microfiche to aid in the completion of a local history project.

Instead, the reality of what happened was very different… With the limited understanding of computer parental controls at the time, the internet was a wide-open space for we, the students, to explore. That is when I stumbled upon my first flash animation - All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

From there, my diet quickly expanded to Joe Cartoon (damn mosquitoes) and the oh-so incredible Xiao Xiao 3. But there was one constant here - they were all videos. Non-interactive pieces of content. 

But then, I played Spank The Monkey (yes, it took me longer than I care to admit to actually find the “move your mouse around the outside of the game container” hack) and my life changed.

There was not enough gaming in my life - from the time limits set upon me by my parents, to the breadth of extra-curricular activities taking up my time (like a weekly trip to Cub Scouts), I always felt hungry to play more.

Luckily, there was a smorgasbord of games just waiting behind that weird e icon on the school computer’s Windows ME desktop (my school didn’t really invest in IT) for me to tuck in.

While my foray into flash resulted in me failing my history project, I didn’t feel bad. I knew there was a lot more Stick Death waiting for me, to escape this feeling of failure. My behaviour matured and I did focus on my work more (fortunately), but there was always a home for me in the world of browser-based games.

Many people looked on the ever-reducing time spent playing these games as a “death of flash,” but I strongly disagree. While you may have had your smaller, sillier games that faded into the distance, so many made the big transition into incredible titles for iOS and Android.

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Simply put, the mobile gaming revolution we have witnessed over the last few years would not have been possible without this cult following of all things flash. Think Canabalt, Happy Wheels and Don’t Look Back.

And the best bit I realised writing this? The community is still going oh-so-very strong. The creative wild west is still alive with incredible titles such as Samurai fighters, Alien Anarchy and the immensely immersive Decision 2: New City. All of these and much more have helped me waste an entire evening, loving every single second and smiling just like I did as a kid.

They are the underestimated-yet-perfect small distractions, and given the easy to pick up gameplay traits - I’d be hard pushed to not sometimes go to a small title first over some ridiculous multi-layered triple-A title.

So whether you liked to spank the monkey, defend some towers or engage in stickman-based kung fu battles of epic proportions, I hope at least some of you share the same level of love and appreciation for what was a fundamental point in gaming history.

Sincerely yours,

Jason - total pro on World’s Hardest Game.