The Flappy Bird magic trick

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts:

The Pledge - A simple one-tap game that appears to riff graphics from Super Mario and has three sound effects. Upon dying within six seconds you are shown the same obnoxious ad, first at the bottom and next on the top of the screen, distracting you from the search of that elusive retry button.

The Turn - It shoots up the free charts and stays up there an unusually long time. The freebie you didn't like at all is getting reviews in the thousands. The same unknown developer scores another two games of similar fashion on the free chart's top ten. While social media mentions explode, App Store experts suggest this feat can only be achieved cheating the system. Nintendo acknowledges its existence. The Verge manages to talk to its creator, who admits figures of $50,000 per day in ad revenue.

The Prestige - The unknown developer admits he “cannot take this anymore” and asks for peace. In the next hours, the game will be pulled from the Apple and Google app stores.

As we learned in the Christopher Nolan movie The Prestige, these are the traditional three acts a good magician would use to delight an audience. Common people love to see ordinary things they have experienced themselves — "the pledge" — turn into something spectacular. That is called "the turn". No matter how hard you try to find the reason for the inexplicable event, you know you are being fooled. Unfortunately, you have sunk your shoes too deep already. You are surrounded by those who want to believe and end up having to admit, almost unwillingly, you really want to know how they pulled it off.

Only then you get the third act right in your face: "the prestige". Making a dove vanish isn't enough; the magician has to bring it back from the hat. For the humble Flappy Bird, becoming a global phenomenon isn't enough; you need to make it disappear.