April 15, 2011 7:00 AM EDT

For Catherine Mayer’s story about amortality—the idea of living agelessly—TIME commissioned Kendrick Brinson to visit Cenegenics, an age management practice in Las Vegas, and spend the weekend with residents in retirement communities Sun City, AZ and Sun City Shadow Hills, CA .

South Carolina-native Brinson was a natural fit for the assignment. She already has her own ‘fixer’ in Sun City, having spent the past year working on her own series there—a project she hit upon after catching a glimpse of the city on screen in The Savages. “I began researching,” says Brinson, “and the minute I found out that they had a cheer leading squad made up of 70-year-old women, I thought, ‘I’m there!'”

Brinson’s fixer, Bill—and the cheer leaders—are residents of the adults-only retirement community built on a former cotton field, near Phoenix, which bars homeowners below age 55. Grandchildren under 18 are limited to visits of no more than three months per year. (You may object, but as Brinson points out, “if you don’t see 6-year-olds running around, then you don’t think you’re 55”). The community, built by Del Webb, a friend of Howard Hughes and builder of Las Vegas’s Sahara resort with gangster Bugsy Siegel, was an immediate hit with the fast-growing over-65 set when it opened in 1960. Cars were backed up for miles, with 100,000 prospective buyers crowding into the model homes the first weekend, eager to stake their claim.

By now, you've probably heard that Flappy Bird has left this world, pulled from the iOS App Store and Google Play by its creator Dong Nguyen for mysterious reasons. If you haven't downloaded the game already, your only options are piracy and eBay. Do you have to play Flappy Bird? Not really, but those who did should appreciate what the game brought us in its limited time on Earth. Flappy Bird is as brutally difficult as it is simple and addictive, but none of those qualities alone are what make the game praiseworthy. The thing to appreciate most about Flappy Bird is its purity. There are three basic rules that drive Flappy Bird: Your bird gains downward speed as it falls, but will always flap up by the same height--just enough to stay between the two pipes. Your bird's horizontal speed remains constant. The pipes through which your bird flies appear at varying heights, but always have the same vertical clearance and horizontal distance between them. Other endless-style games may seem simple, but the rules often become more complex. The classic Helicopter Game, for example, makes you account for momentum. The faster the free-fall, the longer you must hold the button down to pull out of it. This adds an element of planning, as you must fly steadily and bring yourself back to center-screen when possible to avoid being trapped. No such planning is required with Flappy Bird. You can only see as far as the next pipe, and there's always just enough space to position yourself for the next opening. While some people have criticized Flappy Bird for being in portrait orientation, being able to see farther ahead in landscape view would only be a distraction. (It'd also be less comfortable to play while holding the phone one-handed.) Flappy Bird also differs from many similar games in that it doesn't become harder over time, either through faster speeds or reduced distance between pipes. You're being challenged from the beginning, and you could theoretically play it forever without hitting an impossible situation. The closest you get to a difficulty spike is when two pipes are set far apart, vertically, but because you don't have to plan your moves ahead, you're never really stuck. All of this boils down to a game of precision and perseverance. The trick with Flappy Bird is to get as close to the bottom pipe as you can before tapping the screen. If you can time that tap just right, every time, there's no reason you can't get a hundred or even a thousand points. If you fail, you only have yourself to blame. Perhaps you dislike Flappy Bird for being too simple, for capitalizing on a vaguely Mario-like aesthetic, or just for being too darned popular. But if you can somehow seek the game out post-app store, it remains an example of straightforward, honest game design that respects the player's time. At least we have have the rest of .Gears Studios' catalog to play with. MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles - Full [time-brightcove videoid=3023400818001]
Some parting words for an example of straightforward, honest game design.

Having visited Sun City, Arizona four times—struggling, at 28 years-old, to keep up with the rounds of lawn bowling, tap dancing, tennis and movies—Brinson thought that her fifth, for TIME, would be her last. “I felt I got everything,” says Brinson, “and I would just be re-shooting the same things.” But then she found the Aqua Suns, a synchronized swimming group, “and I realized I couldn’t say good-bye to the project.”

Both Sun Citys have an air of energy and excitement. “Its pretty much spring break there every day,” says Brinson. “One man told me it was like recess. He loved waking up every morning because he was choosing what he wanted to do, not what he had to do”

For TIME, Brinson hung out with Patti Wolff in California—that Sun City is smaller than the original, and being newer, skews a little younger. (Wolff emphasized no one sat around playing cards in her group). “I felt like I was out with my best friends,” says Brinson talking about a late-night casino jaunt with Wolff. Age fell away until talk of widowhood and children come up. “Then I was reminded,” says Brinson. “I have so much more living to do. Living that they’ve already done.”

At Sun City, bustling with 11 golf courses and 130 official recreational clubs—“the largest concentration in America”—you don’t notice that the average resident is 73, says Brinson, until you see that softball rules prevent sliding into base or there’s a sachet of Metamucil sticking out of a sneaker. “They turn the stereotype of aging on its head,” says Brinson. “They’re all blogging and on Facebook.”

Ring the alarm! A French paparazzo is spreading the rumor that Barack Obama is having an affair with — wait for it — Beyoncé. Yes, that Beyoncé. The photographer Pascal Rostain believes that the news of the high-profile affair will run in the Washington Post tomorrow. His comments were published by Le Figaro, a reputable French newspaper: "You know, at this time, in the United States, there is something big that is happening. It'll go out tomorrow in the Washington Post — we can say that it is not the gutter press — an alleged affair between President Barack Obama and Beyoncé." The Washington Post clarified to Poynter that they will be publishing no such report. Obviously. So where did this rumor originate? Another quote from Rostain gives us a bit of insight: "First, there are still or television images of the Obama couple becoming a little distant. It is legitimate to ask questions. We found the same thing, always through images, between [French President] Hollande and [his partner Valerie Trierweiler]. Afterwards, there was the rumor. Same for Obama and Beyonce, for example. Just because it's a rumor doesn't mean that one should not go in the field to check. We should not forget Marilyn [Monroe] or Monica Lewinsky." Right, sure, okay. It's worth noting that this rumor emerges the same week the French President Francois Hollande visits the White House; Hollande has spent the last several weeks embroiled in his own media frenzy surrounding his high-profile affair with French actress Julie Gayet. Ever since that funeral selfie with Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the world really seems to want to see discord between the Obamas — but unfortunately for the international paparazzi, my guess is that there will be some great show of cuteness in the West Wing for Valentine's Day this week. I mean, just look at their Instagram: http://instagram.com/p/fBoPAWmuZZ/ As for Beyoncé and Jay-Z? I don't think their flame is going out anytime soon. http://instagram.com/p/j2mgJoPw6H/ Sorry, Hollande. You're on your own.
Sacrebleu!

Her time at Cenegenics offices—where affluent patients work on maintaining their youth following a regiment of supplements and exercise—the photographer was aware that “they were spending time trying to work out and look good. In Sun City they were less interested in how they looked—they’re just enjoying life,” says Brinson. “I guess one is more striving to be young externally, and the other more internally.” Where is she headed when the wrinkles start? “I think.” says Brinson, “I’d choose Sun City.”

Brinson’s Sun City: Life After Life will be on exhibit at the Houston Center for Photography, May 6 through June 19. She’s also working on self-publishing a limited-edition book. You can see more of Brinson’s work at Luceo Images.

—By Deirdre van Dyk

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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