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Media should give Flappy Bird story a rest

Update: February, 16/2014 - 15:49

by Huong Le - Linh Do

The fiasco about Flappy Bird keeps getting hotter and hotter.

Over a couple of days, the name of the man behind it has shot into stardom.

The story has bizarre twists and turns, and the kind of drama rarely seen in Viet Nam's technology news (which tends to focus on the newly released models of smartphones and tablets) and the stuff Vietnamese media die for in the period after the Tet holiday, which tend to be quiet and less newsy.

That does not mean the story deserves such explosive media attention, which is getting more annoying, rather than informative.

When the game was put out in May 2013, it hardly received any coverage from Vietnamese top media outlets. The attention only heated up after The Verge, a US-based tech-news site, broke the story that Flappy Bird, created by a 29-year-old Vietnamese developer from Viet Nam named Nguyen Ha Dong, became the No 1 download game on the Android and AppleStore sites.

That is OK, but the focus dramatically switched from the game going viral to how the developer was Vietnamese? And he is young. And the press went crazy.

Many stories played off unverified numbers and statistics, notably the US$50k ads. And articles also wrote endlessly about how Dong might have stolen ideas from games already available in the market, quoting anonymous Vietnamese game-developers, or whether he would sell the game (possibly worth millions of dollars, all guessing). Still other news reports questioned whether tax authorities would look at the situation and even reported about the "secret" location of a meeting between the developer and Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam. One online newspaper even went as far as to ask what his neighbours think about the developer.

All were playing a guessing game. Since receiving this attention, Dong only chose several publications to put his view out for the public, along with Twitter, so the rest of the media struggled to guess.

When Dong pulled his game off of the Internet, the guessing game continued. Was he too frustrated with the attention? Did he feel the pressure, maybe he couldn't handle it? Was it because others were "throwing rock" at this success?

I agree with one of the journalists from an online tech site who said we have to calm down.

Dong's decision was understandable and interestingly suggests a bigger picture about the promising, yet still developing, state that characterizes everything in Viet Nam now.

The Vietnamese press, occupied by people of Dong's age, is still young, unprofessional and uncritical. They created such big news out of Flappy Bird, while the fact that an online game, by anybody in the world, is a hit should not be treated as too much of a major event. Most tend to follow the drama, not the technological aspect of the news.

There are still countless serious social and political issues that are begging for public attention, but don't receive coverage.

Why? Because those issues aren't about comfortable, educated middle-class, twenty-or-thirty somethings who live in cities and make a living out of developing online games or such interesting, entertaining, "sexy" professions.

Young people's technological driven culture is sometimes too much to take. Wrapped up in their own little worlds, they think they are stars and try their best to advertise themselves. Thus, the Vietnamese press swoops down on Dong's success because it reflects themselves and their own potentials. But the world that the true journalist should cover is surely bigger than Me, Myself and I.

Dong, too, is a member of this generation. On the one hand, he seemed to be modest and did not like the coverage. That's why he pulled his game down. We give him full credit for this.

He tweeted: "The press people are overrating the success of my game. It's something I never wanted. Please give me peace."

It's good to know that Dong acknowledged some solid criticism of his game and uses them to partly explain why he had to pull the game down. We bet those criticism did affect him.

If the press continues grounding Dong as a star, are we automatically dumping down on ourselves, feeling that this is the only piece of hot news out here?

People like Dong and young talents need to show both true modesty and confidence. By taking such a mature attitude, they may teach the local press a lesson or two: be confident, yet critical about ourselves and our works.

The crowning of talent might have an adverse effect, considering there are lots of improvements needed in this country, rather than getting too hooked up on top of success. Everything is at the early stage. We have witnessed lots of talent go wasted after the unexpected amount of attention they received. Let's say what he did was cool, but it's still very early to judge.

For now, we agree: let's just calm down. — VNS

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