How Flash Games Changed The Internet

In the very beginning, there was nothing. In terms of finding entertainment online, there was always a roadblock or three when in the “finding entertainment” business because it was damn near impossible to find sufficient entertainment for your young self. There’s only so many hours in the day and you can’t spend all of it playing on your PSDS2 Lite XL because that’s bad! And could give you several cancers of the brain that would surely render you a vegetable and you don’t want that do you? So in the midst of all of these troubles, you have to look to that massive behemoth in your living room also known as your PC, but there’s two immediately 2 problems with your PC.

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First problem is that you have no way to play the latest and greatest games that were available on the PC Games for Windows catalog, you might as well use your PC to cook your dinner at that rate. And the second and most important problem of all… you’re broke. Good luck trying to convince your parents to get you Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure for the PS2… that’s too violent! With all those choices out of the window you have to seek other methods of playing your favourite video games, and there’s no better alternative to the PC than the new invention by Bill Jobs called the intelligent phone. Speaking of phones… Hey! Hey you.. You there watching in the safety of your own dwelling place.

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Look at the graphics on this thing, my phone can’t even handle how GOOOD this looks. HARK! There’s a new Faction Wars feature right here!!! Uh… but what about me? No need to worry, you literally get paid to continue playing the game with REWARDS for the first 90 days in the game.

So what are you waiting for? Get it nooooooooooooow. Check out the links in the description to get 50,000 silver and a free EPIC champion to start your journey. Good luck and I’ll see you there. But before the phone, there was another smart invention that filled the lives of young kids for many a year, giving children a reason to stick it out until the end of the school day is near so that they can escape into a world with absolutely no rules.

Apart from the many site blocking tools that were put in place by the school council to prevent your innocent eyes from getting permanently STAINED. Yes that’s right I most certainly am talking about- ♫ Flash games were the dog’s bollocks. These games were the perfect time killer and they provided hours of entertainment for absolutely no extra cost. All you needed was yourself and a browser. Preferably Internet Explorer because back then Google Chrome was a super dodgy virus software from the future that would eat up all of your resources and shit them out in the form of Chrome extensions.

Before you had the privilege to play a flash game, you had to go through initiation to prove that your 5 year old self was indeed an epic gamer. How do you prove yourself? Well… Yes that’s right, before you could join the big leagues in the world wide web, you had to prove that you had the brains and the brawns to tackle the games over in league 1. 3D Pinball Space Cadet edition is Windows’s version of the classic Pinball game for PC published by Maxis before EA could get their dutty hands on them.

In 1995 the game was released for Windows and Mac and unlike the version that was widely known as the definitive Windows version (which was released in the same year), This version of Pinball had THREE DIFFERENT TABLES. More customisation than modern AAA games at no extra cost and you could do several different quests like escaping the Bermuda Triangle, rescuing a damsel in distress and SLAYING A DRAGON. This thing was MIND-BLOWING at the time. You want to get promoted to the Premier League of flash games?

Well, you deaf, dumb and blind kid, first you have to master the art of Pinball and become a Pinball Wizard. But surely there has to be a twist? Well in fact there was a slight twist in that the version that people played on the Windows edition of the game wasn’t actually the full version of the game. Yes, you ended up getting Activision’d and all the cool features that were in the original version of the game are nowhere to be found!

But not to worry, with a high score of 103,214,325, you are now ready to join the ranks of the elite, where you will be inducted into the school of procrastination and losing your innocence slowly and steadily. But before you get to finding where these so called Browser Games are, you need to know what you’re dealing with here, so as I’ve done in all of my previous videos, I’ll provide some CONTEXT to the world of browser gaming. Browser gaming has been a thing for a very long time now, and while the concept of it is losing favour in the rest of the gaming world, it’s a highly influential concept that has rightfully sealed its place in the national board of gamer knowledge… limited. The beauty of a browser game is the fact that it could literally be played absolutely anywhere unless you’re on an old android or iOS device… but those didn’t exist back in the day. And spanned a massive variety of video game genres and gameplay types.

You could have a single player game or a multiplayer game or an MMORPGLGBTBLT game. You could also play browser games on any operating system that you want, just as long as you have access to the browser in question. As a child, we were SPOILED for choice for what game you could play. You could be having a great old time playing the original Bejeweled and the next thing you know you could be brutally torturing a mannequin- It all started in 1995… Toy Story had just been released and showed that there was a market for computer animated projects, Quebec tried to pull a Scotland and escape from Canada but they weren’t having any of that and Ebay had just started giving people the opportunity to sell their used goods… online! One plucky company who went by the name of FutureWave Software were looking to challenge Macromedia who at the time were the big dogs of the industry. FutureWave modified their already existing software by adding the ability to animate frame by frame.

They named this creation FutureSplash Animator and released it for PCs and for Macs. When this dropped the entire industry had their minds blown. To hide the embarrassment from being beaten to the punch by an inferior company, Macromedia bought the entire company one year later and the animation editor was renamed to Macromedia Flash, successfully washing away the efforts of FutureWave software as their name was deprecated forever… which kinda sucks if I’m honest because FutureSplash sounds so much better than just… Flash. In a twisted run of karma, Macromedia was then eaten up by Adobe and their efforts were swept away in the wind as Macromedia Flash was renamed to Adobe Flash.

Which was then renamed to Adobe Animate. Continuing the never ending circle but we’re getting too ahead of ourselves here. Back in the 90s, a new language was created by the overlords at Macromedia called ActionScript, which was a programming language released at the same time as Macromedia Flash. These tools allowed developers to start making games for browsers… but wait there’s more! The Sun no shut your MOUTH I’m not talking about you.

*sigh* Sun Microsystems launched a site that went by the name of HotJava which people could use to run games and applets that could run on any browser that also ran Java. Now the foundations were SET and you could now GAME!! Hold on one second… There we go… Among the earliest websites to run Java programming was a site fittingly named ClassicGames dot com.

This site hosted games such as Chess, Freecell, Checkers, you know, the classic kind. And it was the largest collection of Java games on the internet. And it was multiplayer! As far back as 1997 you could game against other people and assert your dominance over them as you move in for a checkma- FUU- Companies saw the rapid growth of ClassicGames dot com, growing from 50,000 members to 60,000 in less than a month!

This made Classic Games one big fat dollar sign and the first company to pounce on them were YAHOO! Who bought the game site and renamed it to Yahoo Games, effectively wiping the name recognition of Classic Games dot com. Meanwhile Microsoft wanted a little piece of the pie and bought a small website which went by the name of The Village. Problem with the Village though was that after Microsoft got their hands on it, you had to download more than 3 MB OF DATA to be able to play the game, that’s DIABOLICAL.

Can’t believe you’d do that Bill! Children in Africa could’ve eaten that data. In order to access the village, you needed to have Internet Explorer on your computer because only Internet Explorer could do it. From this website though, we got our first “banger” series of Flash games… BEJEWELED, which has now gone on to sell over 75 million copies, so PopCap have only Bill to thank for that one.

The arguable GODFATHER of Flash, who has stayed loyal to the medium pretty much ever since its inception, is Tom Fulp. Animators and flash game devs probably perked up upon mention of that name, but I’m sure the rest of you “n o r m i e s” aren’t aware of just who he is so for the uninitiated: in 1996, Tom Fulp developed 2 games for a website he created as a devotee to a set of hardware named Neo Geo. After making a separate site with the intention to host browser games, he began using Macromedia Flash in 1998, combining the two websites he created to make a new site known as Newgrounds. Newgrounds would become a powerhouse on the internet as most people’s exposure to “edgy” content from the internet came from the site: the Numa Numa Dance was uploaded onto Newgrounds first before YouTube and other sites began to pop up that also had the intention of allowing for user uploaded content, such as Kongregate and Armor Games for example. In 2001, Miniclip was created by two legends in the Blighty using 40,000 pounds of their own funds. Now it’s a BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY.

As far back as 2008, the company was valued at around 900 million pounds. Basically like buying Bitcoin in 2012 and selling it before it all went to hell. At the inception of the flash gaming industry, developers who made such games went for a business model in which the games they make were free demos to full games that would come out later: games such as Clash n Slash for example. The rapid explosion of Flash games in itself was due to the fast spread of information in the early 2000s using sites such as AIM and email.

You could send a couple of links to some SWF files across the world wide web and they’d just zoooom across to your big BAWKS, it was GREAT. So now your brain’s been filled with the KNOWLEDGE, it’s time for you to venture into the vast landscape of the world wide web. But first you gotta pick a website. For people as young as I was when I was playing Flash games, there was absolutely NO way for anyone to access a website that even remotely had the term “game” or even synonyms similar to the term “game” because the school had everything on lockdown. You try and access just one site?

FBI OPEN UP!!! So as students, we were all given laptops. Nowadays you have schools buying iPhone 11 Pros for their youngest students, but we were laptop children. Not the amazing super rigs that you have to shell out your right bollock for, but those tiny ones that you had to leave on overnight to just log into your account.

When we had those lessons in the computer labs, you’d always see a group of people playing Line Rider at one corner of the room, the class clown in tow, drawing the biggest willy he can ever conjure up and discretely showing it to the class while the teacher is speaking. Anyway, I’d be attempting to access Friv so I can play the newest version fo Super Mario Bros Flash and actually complete it this time instead of dying at the same POIIIINT- But shock and horror, to the surprise of a grand total of no one, the site is blocked! And now you can never play the game in class! But wait, your tech savvy friend has just given you a link to another website that can download the full game! Looks a bit weird, where’s the dot com? Why’s it a set of numbers?

Oh well, better get downloading! Oh look the file says Super_Mario_Bros_Flash.exe! This is downloading really fast, thanks frie- And now you’re a clown for listening to that kid in class because you’ve just loaded your laptop with that trojan. When you’re at home though on the family desktop, it’s a whole different story because the entire internet is now open to you and at your disposal to explore, giving you plenty of choices of flash games to play and have lots of fun with. The games that were available to you were so vast: you wanted to play a game of Copter? Well you’ve got it; most early flash games were essentially reskins of already existing games such as Super Mario, Pac-Man and Frogger for example.

The arguable golden age of gaming with Flash started at around 2004, and throughout the noughties, different animators and developers came out of the woodwork to create various forms of art that people still play and enjoy to this day, for example: you just discovered a brand new website called albinoblacksheep and there’s a game on it called the Scary Maze Game! It looks relatively normal, it’s just a blue pathway leading to a red box and you have to guide your mouse to it! And it looks like the last level is a bit more tricky, the borders are extremely thin… not to worry, just look a little closer, you can do it!

Almost there! (jumpscare) And this would become the basis for many scare pranks and shock sites that plagued the internet from 2004-2010, and also showed that there really were no rules on the internet at that time as Flash games were highly controversial. In the late 1990s and the early 200s, real-world events were used regularly in order to get people playing the game. One of the most famous examples of this is the infamous McDonald’s Videogame, in which you play a CEO of McDonald’s and you commit various acts of corruption to keep the company afloat, such as bribing public officials to allow you to demolish villages and clear rain forests for example.

Naturally, Maccy D’s were not pleased and a new game was created called Burger Tycoon, which is exactly the same but without any mention of the Golden Arches. In more extreme examples, you had flash game devs creating games making fun of various shootings in America and trivialising them in the form of RPG flash games: of course the media would not be too happy about those ones owing to the fact that they were extremely easy to access as they were free and online. As the whole concept of Flash and browser gaming evolved, you started to see more games and projects being made that turn into massive franchises, such as Bloons for example, turning from a simple game of a monkey throwing a pin at balloons to a large money making tower defence behemoth. You can’t mention the growth of flash gaming online without mentioning the effect of StickPage, a website dedicated to hosting animations and games that all revolved around stick people: Stick War being an extremely popular example, and the Henry Stickmin franchise of games pioneering the whole concept of choose-your-own-adventure and including various different pop culture references and humour that still holds up to this day. Can’t forget about the Fancy Pants franchise as well, going from a simple game you’d find on the second page of Miniclip to having an Xbox Live adaptation of the original game and a sequel to boot. Animators used Pivot to practice their fight choreography and uploaded these to websites such as Newgrounds and Stickpage with death metal blaring through the speakers and now your parents are running downstairs because you’re blasting music at 3 AM in the morning.

Not all browser and flash games were stuck in the realm of 2D as well: while you had the oddballs like classic Plants vs Zombies and games like the Thing Thing franchise, early developers used Shockwave to their advantage with games such as On the Run becoming extremely popular and a personal rage game for me because I used to be unable to get past the very first section without being NUTTED by the black car. Nowadays I speedrun in, ain’t no problem with that. Before the age of Adblock, using Internet Explorer also introduced me to various other games such as Adventure Quest, because that game couldn’t stop leaving the sidebar of every bloody website that I ever visited. Multiplayer 3D browser games like Team Tanks and Armagetron also provided entertainment for everyone after a long school day. Flash games were a godsend for young gamers out there as they provided thousands and thousands of free online games that were of varying degrees of quality but WHO CARED!

Licensed tie-in games were also actually good at the time, with Cartoon Network’s game library blowing all the competition out of the water with their games. Flash games continued evolving through games such as Happy Wheels beginning to do numbers on YouTube and people flocking to that game for some gory fun, but in recent years, the whole concept of flash games seemed to be dead in the water. With the rise of mobile gaming in the 2010s and more children getting access to smart phones at a younger age, Flash games seem to be dying, and that can be pinpointed all the way back to the release of the very first iPhone. Yes, Steve Jobs was the catalyst for change in this industry, as the original iPhone did not support Flash, a notion that was seen as GHASTLY to the general public and people’s pitchforks were raised. In response to this, Steve went on to say that Flash falls short when it comes to the future of mobile, stating that “the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards.” None of these really apply to Flash as it was now seen as a big security risk. Because of all of these points, Flash has started to deprecate itself forever from the internet.

Browsers like Chrome by default refuse to play Flash content without you going into the settings to give them permission, and it all reached the point of no return when Adobe announced that Flash would be discontinued in 2020, ending an entire era of gaming for kids online… until recently. The mobile machines shall not get their victory as various large projects are now underway to preserve and archive as many flash games as possible after Adobe’s announcement, one of the most notable being the Flashpoint project, with the main goal of becoming a hub for all the lost and forgotten-to-be Flash games to nest in, in the hopes that people would remember the fun times they had way back in the noughties playing the Impossible Quiz and cursing themselves for using a skip before the final question. Sites such as Newgrounds and albinoblacksheep uploading classic animations to YouTube and switching the video player on their site to HTML5 which would allow the content to still be played without it being lost forever. As well as this, games written in other formats that aren’t Flash gained a lot of notoriety in the latter part of this decade, with the io domain becoming an extremely popular hub for games like agario and slitherio, written in C++ and HTML respectively. Browser gaming has evolved beyond young teenagers using Shockwave Flash to create their 4 frame game and has become a huge marketplace for people using powerful engines like Unity and Unreal to create fully fledged independent games that they sell on marketplaces such as Developers have come a long way from making simple Flash games and they’ve turned into moderately sizeable franchises that you’d find on marketplaces like the former Xbox Live Arcade and Steam for example.

None of this would have been possible without the large influence and rapid growth of that small program, FutureWave Splash over 2 decades ago and shows that flash games did indeed change everything… on the internet at least. Thank you guys for watching this video, I hope you enjoy this retrospective into the whole world of Flash gaming and how it’s changed and evolved over several years. This is the first of a couple of videos that I’m planning on making over the next few months and I personally really like how this one turned out because I haven’t made a video like this in what seems like 2 years. Again, all of my social links are in the description and why not pledge to my Patreon where you’d get exclusive behind the scenes content, scripts, early access to my videos and some extra perks that can be found on my Discord server!

All of which again are linked in the description. Before I forget, I’m also streaming a couple of horror games and scary stuff over on my Twitch so if you want to go follow me there, the link is down below. Thanks to Admiral VAPE, Frances, Dakota Lewis, The Man with Three First Names, Bailey, Angie and DAG for pledging to my Patreon with the ascended pledge and I’ll see you guys in the next video.