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Maker builds real-life Flappy Bird in a box

Flappy Bird isn't dead, it's just taken on a new form. Maker Fawn Qiu talks about building a playable real-world version of the defunct game.

Flappy Bird in a box
This Flappy Bird is still running.
Fawn Qiu

It was a tale of gaming woe. Casual gamers got addicted to the Mario-esque game Flappy Bird. The creator pulled it from app stores. Flappy Bird clones flooded the market, but many of them were nixed by the app stores. Fawn Qiu's version of the game, however, won't be axed from any app stores. It's a real-life, physical version.

Qiu's Flappy Bird in a box uses a scrolling background with two controls to move the bird up and down to avoid obstacles. If you screw up, the box lid will close on you and play a "game over" sound. It's easy to get started, but hard to master, just like the original game.

The boxed Flappy Bird came about during a weekend-long hackathon. Qiu built it with an Arduino prototyping board, three motors, a magnet sensor, and an old cardboard box. She took inspiration from other maker projects that had gone before, including Mario-in-a-box.

Qiu has the resume to take on such a whimsical project. She's project manager for digital media at Sesame Workshop (the folks behind "Sesame Street"), and an avid member of the maker community. She founded Make Anything, an organization dedicated to making engineering and computer programming accessible to a diverse audience, especially women and minorities.

People are drawn to the physical Flappy Bird, according to Qiu. "I think creating a physical game makes the playing experience more approachable. It's no longer just one player and the phone, but people around you are also aware of the game, which invites collaboration and curiosity," she says. "Each win and loss is more dramatic, surprising, and exciting."

Qiu admits to being a big fan of the original Flappy Bird, though she hasn't managed to conquer it yet. Her highest score is a "5." At least the boxed Bird doesn't taunt you with your bad scores. It also has no ads, another reason why it's so much better than the digital version.