Students hooked on Facebook game


Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

It's a bird. It's a plane.

No, it's Jetman, and he may be a reason for dropping grade-point averages and loss of sleep.

His pixelated body, sloped at a 45-degree angle and wearing a jet engine strapped to his back, maneuvers through a black abyss, avoiding blue stalagmites, stalactites and random floating bars.

The Facebook application Jetman, a simplistic game where the player guides a figure through a random obstacle course, has become a craze, even addiction for University of Florida students and users globally.

Danielle Black, 19, sat silently at 1:50 a.m., except for the rhythmic tapping of the space bar of her laptop. Her eyes focused on the screen, watching the animated form dodge obstacles and eventually crash into the blue wall.

Black has no idea why she began playing, she said.

"It's because I became addicted," she said, not tearing her eyes from the glowing screen. "It's a succubus."

Black said she does not even like the game because she is not very good, but she continues to play in the hopes of beating her friends.

Amy Podolsky, 21, said she started playing because all her friends were.

"The appeal is the competition," she said.

She said beating her personal scores and her friends continues to lure her to the application. Then it becomes addictive, she said.

"It's also a nice study break - for three hours," she added.

Simeon Dorsey, 19, of Hortonville, Wis., created the application to join the "gold rush" of those rushing to create Facebook applications.

Dorsey said he produced the idea while playing the game Helicopter. He wanted to keep the cave atmosphere but appeal to college-age students.

He said his first idea centered on beer pong. When this did not follow through, he came up with a jetpack, and Jetman was born.

After going through an overseeing developer to recode the original game, he created the packaging and the options on the application. These include the invitations to friends, characters and preferences.

Now, along with being a disc jockey on the weekends, Dorsey said he manages Jetman during the week for the more than two million users of the application.

"Did I expect this?" he said. "Hell no."

Dorsey said he anticipated about 50,000 users instead.

He said he wakes up every morning to check Jetman, and he checks it before bed as well. In the between time, he manages the 40 to 50 e-mails he receives daily regarding glitches and suggestions and brainstorms for new ideas.

According to Dorsey, this does not leave much playing time. He said he typically only plays challenges.

"I'll take them on in the arena," he said. To date, Dorsey said his personal best score is 5,319.

"It is profound how something so simple can captivate such a large audience," he said.

Recently, Dorsey said he entailed problems with copyrights of characters he used for the game, including Mario Brothers' inspired jetmen and a Kirby.

He also encountered hackers. Dorsey said a self-proclaimed Jetman hacker figured out how to save scores and was entering any numbers he wanted.

To alleviate the "pandemonium," Dorsey said he anticipated, he tightened the security on the game.

"It is literally 1,000 times more secure than it was," he said. "I'm confident it is unhackable."

These problems curtailed his newest endeavor, the game Jetwing, from further being produced.

Although Dorsey said Jetwing is different from Jetman, he said the simplicity, frustration and addictiveness will remain, promising to lure college students away from their studies and obligations.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top