Flappy Ears is a Flappy Bird clone like no other, where you take control of Prime Minister Tony Abbott being propelled through the air by his large hearing appendages. Recently released on Google Play for Android and iTunes for iOS, it aims to carry the flag for video games as an art medium, carrying strong political and philosophical messages as clear as any film, music, or written literature.
Red and Mohawk at Paranormal Games wore suits and lucha libre masks to our interview, sipping wine with straws throughout. Normal, I thought. I’d expect nothing less of creative, innovative men.
The idea for the game came as soon as Tony Abbott was elected. “We knew right away that it was our civic duty to learn game design and make a flappy-like game about it,” Red explained. “And we’re greedy, we want billions of dollars.”
Mohawk said that Abbott’s billowing cartilage folds inspired the gameplay and graphics. “Whenever we watched the PM on the news being interviewed or what not, we’ve often wondered; if a big gust of wind were to come along, would he take off?”
But Flappy Ears is evocative. The design, the aesthetic direction, everything about the game hints at being something more. The most important video games of our time have carried messages and ask great moral and ethical questions of their players.
“We’re not political people,” Mohawk claimed. “But we feel the path we are being lead down is a joke, a metaphor for the game, which is also taking a stab at our industry as of late.”
Using Tony’s massive hearing appendages to skillfully manoeuvre around traps is symbolic and powerful imagery, a suggestion that through he claims to be listening, that voices are falling on deaf, flappy ears. But if Paranormal Games are out to make a political statement, they’re incredibly reluctant about admitting it: Mohawk said they were “just making fun of his appendages”.
The developers have plans for new content to hit the game, including “old grannies” who drop a $7 coin when knocked over by Abbott.
Producing a game as majestic as this, exhibit A of “games as art”, it’s unsurprising that Mohawk feels interactive entertainment has so much potential for championing causes and wielding real world influence.
“Games are the latest medium and form of expression that you can immerse yourself in. Billions of people all over the globe play games, and with the advent of smartphones the reach is as broad as it’s ever been.”
But the quest for truly revolutionary game development comes with risks. Earlier this year, North Korea threatened war in response to the Seth Rogen and James Franco film The Interview, which depicts an assassination attempt of glorious leader Kim Jong-Un.
Mohawk and Red are not afraid of the consequences Flappy Ears’ release might bring – both insisting they were “counting” on Abbott taking umbrage with the game. Whether Abbott will prove as pugnacious as the North Korean leader is unknown, but it would be out of character for him to respond with aggression.
I never noticed the jetpacks, or how they had acquired them. What I did notice was the ceiling of the office seemingly exploding into open sky, and the two gentlemen screaming in laughter as they flew off into the brilliant blue. Scorched ash was all that remained of any of the office furniture, and even my clipboard would’ve made poor kindling after that. I simply sat dumbfounded on the floor, the wreckage of the office chair crumbled beneath me; how I survived I did not care to ponder. All I remember after that was seeing millions of pieces of small white card following the trail of the two developers, raining around me as they wrote ‘Paranormal, Out!’ in the sky. As I slowly regained my senses, my nose and mouth filled with ash, I plucked one of the little cards out from the air in front of me. Upon it, in fine neat print, said;
Flappy Ears out now, available for Android and iOS.