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Flappy Bird comes to Mac as clever interactive notification

Flappy Bird inside a MacOS notification
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Most notifications you receive on MacOS turn out to be fairly routine: a new email from mom, an update for your favorite app, a reminder to finally start backing up your Mac. But not anymore: One developer has been able to cram the entire game Flappy Bird into a notification.

The remarkable feat was achieved by developer Neil Sardesai, who took a clone of Flappy Bird created by Wil Eastcott of PlayCanvas and crowbarred it into the new UserNotificationsUI framework in MacOS Big Sur. The result is a large notification (roughly the size and dimensions of an iPhone screen) that you can interact with to play the popular side-scroller game.

Sardesai shared a video of the notification in action. At first, an innocuous-looking alert consisting of a few lines of text appears in the top-right corner of the screen. When the user clicks the arrow on the notification, it expands to reveal the game, which can be interacted with by clicking anywhere inside the alert.

Did you know you can put a whole game inside of a push notification

— Neil Sardesai (@neilsardesai) April 9, 2021

Sardesai’s work raises questions as to what else might be possible with the UserNotificationsUI framework. Perhaps your favorite Mac puzzle game could send you a new miniature brain-teaser at regular intervals to keep you on your toes. Or we might see a reminder or calendar app presenting a large notification with directions to your next appointment.

On the other hand, it might be possible for some enterprising marketing team to send you large ads delivered via notifications, which might be a more unwelcome development. If this line of inquiry starts to develop, no doubt Apple will have something to say about it, given the company’s stance on invasive ad tracking.

However, Sardesai seems confident this is an unlikely problem, as you must explicitly give an app permission to send you notifications (which can then be revoked), and most of the alert’s content is hidden until you click to expand it.

The original Flappy Bird was removed from the App Store in 2014 after its creator, Dong Nguyen, revealed he was troubled by what he felt was its addictive nature. Since then, hordes of clones have appeared on the App Store and elsewhere — one of which allowed Sardesai to port the game into a clever Mac notification.

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