When I was young, I loved to play video games (and I still do to this day). But while today we have superior hardware and games-as-a-service subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia, none of that futuristic technology existed in my childhood. Back in the good ol’ days, it was all about browser games.
When my mother wasn’t working, I’d hop on our household’s single Windows XP computer and wait for our dial-up internet to boot up in its signature cacophony of noise, just so I could play the latest and greatest Flash games for a mere thirty minutes per day, using none other than Internet Explorer.
(Our internet was really slow. To put things into perspective, it was so slow that Runescape—now Old School Runescape—would pause to buffer for up to a minute when loading new areas.)
Anyway, Runescape runs on Java, and this post isn’t about Java—it’s about Adobe Flash: a dinosaur-age technology that powered some of the most enjoyable, quirky, and… questionable… games that my younger self had ever played.
ArmorGames, CrazyMonkeyGames, Kongregate, Addicting Games, Newgrounds—I’m sure I’m missing a few names. These sites featured classic Flash games like Kingdom Rush, The Last Stand saga, Bowman 1 and 2, Interactive Buddy, Feudalism II, Learn to Fly, Kitten Cannon, Stick War, Age of War, the Bloons TD saga, the Epic Battle Fantasy games made by the incredibly talented Matt Roszak, and a treasure trove of far too many other games to enumerate here.
If you didn’t own a console, you played Flash spin-offs like Portal: The Flash Version, Super Smash Flash, and hundreds of low-quality Super Mario clones made with—you guessed it—Flash.
If you didn’t infect your mom’s computer with a virus while browsing a sketchy Flash game site, you were doing something wrong. Skirting malware to fuel your addiction was half the thrill of playing Flash games.
And all of that is now a distant past—a precious little slice of the Internet relegated to the history books.
Flash Reaches Its End of Life
Today, December 31, 2020, marks the end of Flash as we know it.
In the words of Monica Bing, it’s the end of an era.
I don’t even know why Flash isn’t safe. I can’t be bothered to Google it because I don’t actually care. All I know is that Flash games mattered—to me and a lot of other people who grew up playing them, malware and tech debt be damned.
The limited hardware of the time, combined with the genius of pre-historic Internet content creators, gave birth to thousands upon thousands of hours of addictive browser games, along with animated classics like Salad Fingers, The End of the World, and a metric ton of Zelda, Mario, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Pokémon parodies.
Flash games were my first and earliest exposure to technology—and, more specifically, the wonders of the web. Inspired by Flash games like Stick War and the Sniper Assassin series, I’d run off to Pivot Animator and sow bloody chaos among my own little world of stickmen and women. For me, Flash was a source of immense creativity and fun, and I’ll miss it dearly.
There’s some good news, though: While browsers are discontinuing support for Flash and Adobe is forcing you to uninstall it, Flash isn’t being completely wiped from our history. Since 2018, BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint project has archived 70,000+ Flash games and 8,000+ animations for posterity, to preserve this important part of the Internet’s history.
It’s sad because it feels like a part of my past is being torn from me. I wish I had more time to go back and replay all of those games I once cherished, outside of archives. On the other hand, I wonder if any of it will still be the same or if these games will have lost their charm.
Nostalgia does tend to cloud one’s emotions, but there’s no denying that Flash games were an important part of early Internet culture. They were fun to play, even if they didn’t feature the top-tier graphics or massively open worlds that we’ve come to expect from developers. (On that note, I think some people have lost sight of what really makes a game fun, but that’s an essay for another day.)
Anyway, I suppose that’s it. I wish I had more to say, but I don’t think there’s much more left to say. Flash games were great, and I’m glad I got to experience them before they went away.
RIP, Flash—you will be missed.