Freefall Highscore

October 2011
Mobile game

FREEFALL HIGHSCORE IS A SMARTPHONE APPLICATION THAT UNDERMINES THE VERY THING THAT WE EXPECT APPS TO DO - WORKF OR US. The object of the game is to drop your phone-the multi-hundred-dollar piece of metal and plastic that has become our constant companion, secretary, and babysitter-and drop it as far as you possibly can without breaking it. Freefall Highscore asks you to challenge your own materialism and dependence on technology by risking the destruction of something dear to you. It's up to you to make sure your phone (and your dignity) survives.

If your phone survives an epic fall, the reward isn't just an adrenaline rush. The player–created protective case becomes a performative sculpture. The acrophobic videos shot by the app during the fall are trophies, proof that players took a risk and pulled it off. These videos are uploaded to YouTube and shared to the internet at large; the chance to go viral by leaning out a twentieth–story window only eggs players on.

Sound scary? It is, but it's also fun. The app has all the markings of a normal game. But this one actually works against its players, adding anxiety to excitement and physical danger to a platform that is usually totally virtual - phones are going to break. The better you play, the more real the danger becomes.

There are no extra lives in Freefall Highscore. When you lose, game over is permanent.

- Kyle Chayka

The App

Designed to feel like an authentic mobile game where the real world is the interface, Freefall Highscore keeps the video camera always rolling in the background. Once the player hits 'drop' they have 20 seconds to free the device from the effects of gravity. The accelerometer determines the start and end of the fall and cuts the video as soon as it's back on Earth.

The fall duration is attached to the video and submitted as the game entry through the user's own YouTube account. The website collects the submissions, featuring the longest drops on the leader board.

The Freefall Highscore game is available for both iPhone and Android device platforms


To celebrate the release of our app we were supported by The Creators Project to produce an exhibition. We held a contest for the public to create clever ways of protecting phones during freefall (think of it as a high-stakes middle school egg drop contest). We picked 6 entries from the submissions. They were each awarded a brand new iPod Touch on the condition that the contestant drop their new device off of a 7 story building inside of the preserver they designed. We held a drop event prior to the exhibition and showcased the results.

Photography by Alexander Porter


video shot and edited by Jarad Jeter

Public Response

The project was first announced along with a video taken from my phone by the application prototype during a test drop. Posts from arts+tech websites like Gizmodo and MAKE drew tens of thousands of visitors to the video within a few days. The comments streamed in, most fierce with disapproval and disbelief that one would be moronic enough to put their device at risk.

The perceived value of these devices is revealed by the public reaction, further reinforcing that a cult culture has emerged surrounding these precious objects.

Select YouTube comments:

jhapoen: wtf. so let's get this straight. you buy a 500 dollar phone to then drop it? moron

TheSupreme0993: It Aint A Fooking Iphone you Retards.......

rdepruis: fake

powermichiel Sick. Kids are dying in Sudan and you are throwing away your phone. Focus on things that matter and participate in changing them !

techno303808909: some people can't even afford a (i)phone and you as well as others through it froma building...You're just so pathetic, just like the people in London at the riots!

TheSupreme0993: @techno303808909 So you rather stay a slave too all the rich ppl and politicians ???? Sure there are some pathetic idiots there, who riot just too steal and break stuff, But there's also alot who got every reason too riot, i mean it's like the only option they have left......For decades they have been ignored and used like fucking animals, and now you are asking them too have respect for the ppl that put them in that place ??? no no, the world doesn't work like that.

SerefA: fucking moron ... jump self


The application prototype was built during the Creator's Project Arthack weekend incubated by Eyebeam in New York.

James George: Concept, direction
Logan Best: Web Development
Michael Zick Doherty: Android Development
Helen Mair: Graphic Design, Exhibition Design
Maria Mendez: iOS Development
Caitlin Morris: Exhibition Design
Juan Muller: iOS and Web Development

Freefall Highscore exhibition production is supported by The Creators Project and Eyebeam.




Scientific American