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Brief Published: 21 Jul 2015

The Flock: A Game that Dies with Its Players

Upcoming online multiplayer horror game The Flock by Dutch indie developer Vogelsap will be playable for a limited time only before the experience shuts down forever. Centred on a dying dystopian population of creatures, the game lives only as long as its collective of players manages to evade extinction.

The game will launch with a limited number of lives between its players. This serves as a symbolic population number for the dying race that counts down in real time – a life lost every time a player dies. Once the population count reaches zero, the game will be taken off sale. At this point, only the players already in-game will be left to experience the finale, after which the game will be over – universally.

Like most media products, multiplayer online games see a decrease of interest over time. Open modification structures – allowing amateur and professional coders to provide their own added gaming content for existing games – are one counter measure to ensure longevity through sustained novelty.

On the other hand, games like The Flock, with its certain but unforeseeable end, embrace ephemerality as a central selling point. "We want the game to have a climactic finale, after which people will fondly remember the game, instead of [allowing] it to slowly wither away," the developer told gaming news site Eurogamer.

Currently, 'here today, gone tomorrow' entertainment takes its most prominent shape in live-streaming platforms and ephemeral microblogging and messaging apps like Yikyak and Snapchat. The mass appeal of these platforms underscores the unique draw of content that cannot be infinitely revisited – which is ripe for application in other media.

For more on how gaming approaches both longevity and ephemerality, read our Gaming Trends report.