By Christian Loeffler
Let's take a step back to your high school computer class. There you are, sitting next to your friends – hearts racing. You pretend you are just taking a stretch when in actuality, you are trying to determine if the teacher can make out the contents of your computer screen.
Instantly, the moment that you know you are safe, your hand snaps into position like it is fixed there by a magnet. You open a tab hidden in a completely separate browser window and sneak in a flurry of actions, before the teacher realizes the sound of typing has waned.
We've all snuck video games like this, or know someone who has – whether in school or at work. One of the ways that current undergraduates are probably most familiar with this is through Flash games on the Internet.
Adobe Flash has been used for browser animations, games, interfaces, and more since its initial release in Nov. 1996. However, following Dec. 31, 2020, Flash will no longer be supported in major web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Firefox.
As the reign of this noteworthy digital platform comes to an end, a web game preservation project known as BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint attempts to preserve games and animations that run on Flash.
According to the project’s website, there are over 36,000 games and over 2,300 animations reserved as of the 7.0 update of the software, all of which can be downloaded from the website. Flashpoint 7.1 Ultimate offers a package of 288 GB worth of content for those who have a large amount of storage. Flashpoint 7.1 Infinity offers a package of only 296 MB to start, where users can go through and select desired flash content to download.
“Browser-based gaming is a very important part of the history of gaming itself that introduced whole generations where they couldn’t afford consoles, couldn’t afford or didn’t have a gaming PC.” - Joshua Seevers
SVC User Services Manager with IT Joshua Seevers highlighted the importance of piracy concerns, law, and licensing in regards to this project, though he also expressed enthusiasm toward BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint’s goal.
“Browser-based gaming is a very important part of the history of gaming itself that introduced whole generations where they couldn’t afford consoles, couldn’t afford or didn’t have a gaming PC, but they could at least play even something as simple as Candy Crush in a browser,” he said.
Seevers explained the effects, or rather, the lack thereof, of Flash’s elimination.
“Those sites that you think are Flash-based, that use animations or even some sort of graphics, […] are really delivered through HTML5 now, which is modern HTML.”
Seevers stated that websites have been accommodating appropriately since the removal of Flash was announced in 2017, with many existing software having been converted to or replaced with HTML5.
"I think a lot of people don't realize it, but their computers were already not playing Flash or playing Flash content,” said Seevers. “They just never noticed, which is pretty neat, because usually when something like that happens, it breaks a lot of stuff. But I think a lot of the sites that relied on Flash have done a pretty good job of migrating to more modern techniques like HTML5.”
Seevers offered another reason Internet users may not miss Flash.
“The way it delivered content from the Internet to your computer was also a great way of delivering malware,” he said.
Senior Kayla VanTassel stated, "I honestly didn't even know [Flash] was closing up until this point, so I don't see the problem with it closing."
VanTassel said that if she gets extremely bored, she will occasionally still go on “Cool Math Games,” a game site containing Flash games, many of which are educational.
According to Seevers, Flash is seldom used on campus.
“The browsers themselves have started to either disable it by default or have it inactive, and then you'll get a little notification that says 'do you want to activate Flash for just this site?'" he stated.
“The way Flash delivered content from the Internet to your computer was also a great way of delivering malware.” - Joshua Seevers
Seevers explained that User Services has probably only had about two requests over the past year and a half regarding Flash, whereas it used to be something that they would deal with constantly before 2018, whether it was “just updating it, keeping it up to date because of security vulnerabilities, [or] having websites or web apps using it.”
Seevers said that almost all computers had Flash pre-installed on them for a long time.
"It was being used daily, whether to deliver advertising [or] to play silly Flash-based games on Flash websites, stuff like that, and now it’s just not something you see very often," he said.
Seevers also stated that during his high school and college years, everything was based on [Adobe] Shockwave, which was then primarily replaced with Flash in a similar way.
Though VanTassel played Flash games such as Bloons Tower Defense 3 and Pizzeria “religiously” in the past with her friends at school, she noted that even without Flash, people can still access free video games easily.
“Just Google ‘free games’ and you'll have thirty different websites that pop up that don't require Flash," she explained.