By Marcus Yeatman-Crouch
By now, most of us have heard the news. Adobe is bidding farewell to its legendary Flash platform this December, signalling the end times for many a beloved game. Flash provided us with thousands of free games online, across a host of websites. Now, we face the prospect of losing these important games and the sites that host them forever, as the internet modernises and discards the outdated Flash player in favour of total HTML5 conversion. December will be a sad time for web gaming, but we’re here to pay an homage to Flash, and perhaps offer some hope to those in despair over the loss of these important games.
For many, Flash games were a gateway to mainstream console and PC gaming, the basic art and controls allowing people of any age to find enjoyment in the massive variety of games on offer. Kids coming home from school could enjoy endless Flash games without the need of a console or high-end PC, just a web browser on any old computer. Office workers looking for a way to discreetly find some enjoyment in their 9-to-5 could similarly browse hosting sites for any genre of game that caught their fancy. I can vividly remember my friends and I sneaking on to Miniclip in ICT class while the teacher couldn’t see, and the hours I spent at home on Armor Games with top titles like Crush the Castle, Raze, and Fancy Pants Adventure. A lot of the time I enjoyed these free, simple games as much as I did the massive, AAA titles I would get on my PlayStation. They were readily available to everyone, so me and my friends could easily recommend and play different games, sharing our experiences and helping each other build up a long list of favourites on different sites. Even now that I’m set up with a PS4 and a few games on my own laptop, I’ll still find some time now and then to return to an old classic – the gameplay may be repetitive, but it’s endlessly enjoyable. Flash games are the perfect choice when you’re bored and just want something quick and fun to play, and their role as a stepping stone to mainstream gaming can’t be stressed enough – mobile games try to occupy this role now, but can apps and microtransactions provide the same seamless entertainment as the free archives of thousands of unique games have?
It’s not just gaming that Flash has been good for. Where the games themselves were the gateway to professional titles, it was the Flash platform itself that provided the groundwork for many a budding game developer. Of course, plenty of people made names for themselves as top Flash developers, with dozens of games under the belt; this includes popular dev ‘John’, who is known for making a bunch of cute puzzle games featuring elephants such as the Achievement Unlocked and This Is The Only Level trilogies and Exit Path 1 and 2, 8 games which all rank at a minimum of 8.5/10 on Armor Games. One-person development thrived with Flash games, and successful submissions to hosting websites like Armor Games or Newgrounds could lead to – in the later years – app development and even coveted, monetised releases on Steam. Developers benefitted from Flash as much as players, whether it worked as a first foray into game development or a way to carve out a reputation as a mastermind of the Flash mega-genre, and this beginner-level platform will be hard to replace as more aspiring devs flock to Unity and Unreal Engine, which provide a quicker – but more complicated – step-up to mainstream game development, leaving Flash with a lack of interest for those wishing to make it big with their titles.
But wait! All is not lost. In the face of the Flash apocalypse there is a ray of hope for those who crave the dopamine of a quick and simple web game. Enter Flashpoint – ‘a webgame preservation project’. According to its website, Flashpoint has saved ‘more than 59,000 games and 6,000 animations running on 20 different platforms’, all done with the help of over a hundred contributors. From the site, you can download two versions of Flashpoint: Ultimate, a massive download (413GB) which has offline-ready versions of every game and animation; and Infinity, which is far smaller (1.8GB) and allows you to download just the games you want to play, at which point you can play them offline as much as you want. This is massive for Flash gaming – not only have thousands of the best games been compiled in one convenient place, it means new games can still be created, and with that giant filesize you’ll still be running into top games you’ve never even heard of. If you still get the itch for a quick Flash game in your downtime, Flashpoint is a must-have on your computer – it may be a big download, but when you do it you’re indulging in years of webgaming history, and helping keep Flash gaming alive.
December is rolling around all too soon, and the final nails are being hammered into Flash’s coffin as I type. But now it’s time to spread the word about Flashpoint – let your friends know, send people the link to the site when they despair at the loss of their nostalgic web games, and make sure everyone knows that Flash gaming will be surviving even as its software is discarded by Adobe. Flash games are an often overlooked part of gaming culture, yet they are some of the most accessible ones you can get, and Flashpoint has ensured all your favourites will still be around when you’ve got some time to kill and a hunger for gaming nostalgia.