Flash, the browser plugin which massively helped shape games as we know them today, is retiring. Adobe have announced that they will stop updating and distributing the Flash Player “by the end of 2020”. The main browsers will remove their built-in support. Browser-based Flash will die in 2020. I will fondly remember it for so very many tower defense games, puzzlers, and platformers, as well as standouts like Frog Fractions. Flash heralded this wondrous age where we don’t need to go to shops or mess with disks to play games and anyone at home can release their own.Abode say they “encourage content creators to migrate any existing Flash content to these new open formats”, but I imagine the vast majority will be lost. Deprecated and end-of-lifed. So much video games history gets lost and Flash’s is worth remembering.
QWOP! Desktop Tower Defense! N! Canabalt! Samorost! The Dream Machine! Dys4ia! You Have to Burn the Rope! Hexagon! Grow! Line Rider! Auditorium! GemCraft! flOw! Nanaca Crash! Wonderputt! Don’t Shit Your Pants! Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure! Bejeweled – oh my gosh I forgot PopCap started with Flash games. I’m sure I’m forgetting so many more. We’ve posted a whole load ourselves. What else have you dug, gang?
(And a decade before YouTube, when watching actual video online involved horrible guff like RealPlayer, Flash Player gave us cartoons in our browsers.)
At a time when I couldn’t afford to buy games, sites like Newgrounds gave me so many for free with but the click of a mouse, my dear boy. And these were often weird, personal, experimental games unlike anything in the shops. As much as I adore the mod scene and go on about its interesting creations (I even keep a blog of readme file snippets), Flash browser games really mainstreamed the strange and personal.
Click a link and twenty seconds later (dialup allowing) you’re playing a game. Magic.
Adobe said in yesterday’s death announcement that Flash was once “an essential part of the web”. It was.
“But as open standards like HTML5, WebGL and WebAssembly have matured over the past several years, most now provide many of the capabilities and functionalities that plugins pioneered and have become a viable alternative for content on the web. Over time, we’ve seen helper apps evolve to become plugins, and more recently, have seen many of these plugin capabilities get incorporated into open web standards. Today, most browser vendors are integrating capabilities once provided by plugins directly into browsers and deprecating plugins.”
Adobe will continue to update the Flash Player for now but by the end of 2020 it’ll be dead. Browsers are already starting to nudge Flash out, making it ask for permission to run. Google’s plan for Chrome, the most popular browser, comes in three steps: make it ask permission more and more; disable it by default; then remove it completely.
It is true that browsers can now natively do a lot of things that would’ve previously required plugins. Flash isn’t as necessary. But the Flash Player vanishing means a huge chunk of our history will become inaccessible without jumping through hoops and hoping kind souls keep archives alive.