The Claque-Beignet : What the search for the maker of a rather unremarkable Flash game has taught me

ToulouTouMou
9 min readApr 7, 2020

There are very few things that have had a greater impact on my life than my discovery of Flash games.

It was one of the first things I encountered when I got access to the Internet. My eight-year-old mind could not comprehend what was this strange “Flash” thing, let alone understand how it worked. All I knew was that I could play games with it, directly in the web browser. And, best of all, they were completely free.

Granted, they were not as polished as, say, Ocarina of Time, but I was enamored with them; not one in particular, but the concept in general. For me, these “Flash Games” had a distinct flavor: they were generally small, sometimes made by game studios, but most of the time by amateurs. And, most of all, they were unpredictable, in the best possible way.

Zebest-3000, one of the website I visited as a kid.

I have played so many Flash games I cannot tell how many. And before I knew the big names such as Newgrounds or Armor Games, I browsed through the “Flash portals”: websites acting as libraries for hundreds of Flash games. They were sometimes a bit shady (and, on rare occasions, outright full of viruses), but for me it was a paradise where I could indiscriminately play great, carefully crafted games, or weird interactive thingies barely qualifiable as games.

Years have passed, Internet has changed with all the Facebook and such, and I am now an adult and, still, I have a weird specific fondness for Flash games. In an attempt to pay homage to the last remnants of this era, I have created the Museum of Screens, a Twitter account dedicated to the showcase of old browser games, made between 1990 and 2010. Anything goes: browser MMO games, virtual pets games, and, obviously, Flash games.

During my investigation, I went back to the Flash portals of my early childhood. Most of them are now long dead, but a few are still around. It is weird to see how they have barely changed, if at all. Not updated in years, they are sort of stuck in their own time bubble, still accomplishing their purpose of giving access to thousands of free games. And among all of these, I came across “The Claque-Beignet”.

The Claque-Beignet in action

The Claque-Beignet (french for “Face-Slapper”) is, by all account, a very straightforward game. It can be summarized as such: ridiculous singing human heads appear on a weird alien-like television. You have to slap them with your gross, long hands before the pain meter rises too much and kills you. Gameplay-wise, there is not much more to it. It’s just a bare-bone scoring game where the main interaction is clicking, a weird Sci-Fi-themed Whack-A-Mole if you like.

When I started to consider showcasing The Claque-Beignet on the Museum of Screens, I ran into a wall: there were no credits attached to the game. Almost every Flash game I came across had at least a pseudonym written on the corner of the screen, but not this one.

It bothered me because I always want to provide a minimum amount of information about the game, such as the date of creation, the original upload page, and so on. But mostly, I was bothered by how widely it was available, on nearly every Flash website I visited. Even now, if you search “The Claque-Beignet” on Google, there are countless websites listing the game, but always with no source whatsoever. The game is omnipresent, and yet is never properly credited.

When I browsed through Flash portals as a kid, I never thought too much about who made these games and how they ended up here. Sure, there was almost every time a pseudonym or a link to a website embedded inside, but overall, the portals were more interested by advertisements and users’ engagement than providing credit. They did not even bother to indicate dates of upload for their games.

I shared the Claque-Beignet on the Museum of Screens, asking followers for any information about it. I really wanted to give proper credit to the author, or at the very least know who they were.

And before I continue, let me warn you: if you were expecting some kind of detective-like story where I follow leads, gather clues and interrogate witnesses, this article is not about that. The truth is, I had nothing to do with the investigation. Some time after I tweeted my plea for help, former technology evangelist Matt Sephton led the investigation all by himself. He made an article about it, if you are interested in the process.

Anyway, after some investigation, he finally found the creator: Raoul Sinier, French artist and musician. The Claque-Beignet was originally published in 2000 on his previous website, still available via the WayBack Machine. Nowadays, he has a new website, more focused on his music.

Ra’s Page, Raoul Sinier’s original website, through the WayBack Machine.

Raoul Sinier has a very distinctive art style. He created several Flash games in the early 2000s, all of them sharing a distinct vibe. Putting The Claque-Beignet back in this context made me realize why it stuck to me after all this time: it was unique. The hand-made drawings and the overall strange vibe definitely made the game stand up. The game was made with care by someone wanting nothing more than to share his artistic vision.

Ironically, The Claque-Beignet is Sinier’s only game without credits embedded into it. And the only one I ever encountered on other websites. This might be just a coincidence…

I reached out to Raoul Sinier to ask him a few questions about this game he made twenty years ago. Weirdly, he agreed.

Uncollected2- Raoul Sinier, 2003

Frankly, I have no idea [where the concept of The Claque-Beignet came from]. At that time, for the few Flash games I created, my idea was always to find a compromise between a game not too difficult to make (or let’s say not exceeding my skills) and at least a minimum interesting.

It was also a way for me to show my illustrations, my music, etc…

As a gamer, I know we can get into a game for what it proposes, like progression, gameplay, but also, for these “small” Flash games, a global spirit. This one being particularly silly.

When I asked him if he intended to share the game on any other websites, Sinier said:

I never thought about it, I’m always okay with being seen, as long as it’s for a non-commercial use and I am credited.

In a sense, I kind of expected this. These websites ripped creators off for the sake of growing their libraries. They even ripped each other off, which is how we ended up in this situation: The Claque-Beignet was stolen by one of these websites, then by another, and so on, making it widely present online, without the consent of the original creator.

The thing is, many of the Flash creators did not mind their games being reposted, they sometimes even encouraged it by providing download links. It was a way to reach a wider audience in a pre-social media era. In the context of an Internet owned by users, it is not a problem. But these Flash websites were definitely not that.

Wired-Raoul Sinier, 2004

At the time, said Sinier, it was really the beginning of websites who proposed “stolen” contents for making a bit of money with advertisement. So I imagine they needed as many games as possible to be profitable. At first I reported and threatened several websites, mostly because I was not even credited. And then I moved on, it’s not as if this was a big loss for me, both visibility-wise and money-wise (it would have been absurd to expect any kind of payment).

It is true, most of these websites were owned by companies, with the sole purpose of generating money by advertisement. It makes the situation even more crass and unfair for all the creators. But it was years ago. With time, Flash game makers took on themselves to put their names and link to their own websites on the games they created. They could not prevent others from stealing their games, but at least they still kept some kind of control over it.

So why did I write this article? To absolve my younger self for all the time I spent on these predatory websites? There is no way I can avenge all the game creators grifted by them. Moreover, these websites are not garnering as much attention as they used to; it is a wonder that they are still around. Like Sinier said, as most Flash creators didn’t make games for money, any retroactive legal action against these websites would be pointless anyway.

T45OL, another website I visited as a kid, complete with many, many advertisements.

I think that what I wanted was to make sense of all these conflicting feelings I have, this nostalgia towards the old “Flash era” and what it meant as a whole, with all the good and the bad. Also, I wanted to talk about The Claque-Beignet for the same reasons I’ve made the Museum of Screens in the first place: to remember the story of this game before it’s too late.

In December 2020, support for the Flash Plugin will be discontinued, effectively making all Flash games across the Internet unplayable. Already, initiatives have emerged to save them. Peoples at Newgrounds are currently working on an HTML5 emulator called Ruffle. And let’s not forget Flashpoint, the offline library containing more than 36.000 games. These initiatives are important, and are a great effort of preservation of this part of game history. I am pretty confident that the most important Flash games of this era will be preserved.

The Claque-Beignet ain’t that. It is not fondly remembered, and it’s very likely to fall into oblivion. Sure, I’ve made a copy of the file. Heck, I could take upon myself to download every Flash game I encounter, but that would be pointless. There are thousands upon thousands of unremarkable little games made during the lifespan of the Flash format. Personal projects, small features for websites and little weird experimentations. The initiatives told previously will only save the tip of the iceberg.

Flash games from the early 2000s were a way for creators to accomplish their own vision of video games. Sometimes theses games turned out to be complete messes, but messes full of surprises, jumping from one idea to another in a frantic, disjointed way. This sense of bold, unpredictable design effectively changed all the expectations that players could have towards mainstream video games. It is not a stretch to link this movement with the rise of the indie games during the early 2010s, considering that many actors of the “Indie revolution” were Flash games creators.

Meat Boy, Flash game made in 2008, two years before the widely acclaimed Super Meat Boy

I loved Flash, said Raoul Sinier, because it was a technology allowing developers to do so many things, but it was also usable by tinkerers like me. I am not a developer but I’m always curious, and making my own little game was obviously very appealing. […] Aside from that, websites entirely in Flash were absolutely terrible. It’s good that we moved on to something else. It is also the end of my littles games because today’s technologies need more implication, not just clever tinkering.

The Internet is decaying fast. Websites come and go, and there are very few ways to keep them around. The upcoming death of the Flash plugin is just a side effect of this growing and evolving web, leaving behind technological graveyards fated to be lost. The worst part about this death is our complete inability to fully apprehend the amplitude of what’s lost.

Thanks to Raoul Sinier for answering my questions about this silly game he made 20 years ago, and letting me use his drawings as illustrations for the article.

Thanks also to Matt Sephton for doing the hard work of the investigation (that is to say, 99.9% of the work).

And finally, thanks to Antoine Dailly and Francis Janvier for their precious proofreadings, and for being very good boys.

--

--

ToulouTouMou

Freelance game designer, making baby steps as game curator. You can talk to me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Le_Toulousaing