Game Name – Angry Birds
ESRB Rating – N/A
Genre – Mobile Game
Educational Values – Cause and Effect, Trial and Error, Failure, Physics, Geometry
Platforms – iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, Blackberry, Kindle, Mac OSX, Windows PC, Chrome
Where to buy – Pretty much everywhere, but the links are all on their site
When should you buy it? – If you are looking for a fun game to play while waiting in line, or bored on the subway, or have a few minutes. Or if you have small children who could use a distraction
About the Game
Do I really need to talk about Angry Birds? I went back and forth on writing this piece as Angry Birds is one of the most ubiquitous games in history. The series of brightly colored cartoon birds are approaching Mario in terms of market penetration with over 1.2 billion downloads of the games, countless merchandising, a theme park, and a TV show in the works.
Had you asked *anyone* in the games industry in 2007 if Smart Phones would have an impact on the industry, they would have laughed. Trying to convince someone that a mobile game about birds being shot from slingshots could be among the biggest selling games of all times would have had them worrying about your mental health. And yet, here we are.
For the five of you who have not played it, Angry Birds is a mobile game where you fling you various colored birds (each color a different game mechanic) at a series of elaborate constructions to try and knock out the piggies that have stolen your eggs. Does it sound a little silly? Sure. But it takes advantage of the growth of touch screens, with all of the controls so simple a three year old can play.
Get those piggies!
What the Game Teaches Us
Angry Birds is one of my favorite examples of a game that can teach us. As difficult as some of the levels are, the time it takes to restart each level is minimal. This keeps the gamer from getting frustrated and quitting and allows them to quickly get back into the game and learn from their previous mistake. Failure is something we have written about before, and that is because we see it not just as character building, but one of the best ways to learn.
Trying to knock down the scaffolding in the picture above is going to be difficult. You have to understand the physics and mechanics of the game. you have to know what tools you are given and how best to use them. The bird in the illustration will drop and “egg” that explodes on impact when you tap your screen, but where should you use it? Some of the scaffolds look precarious. Can you set off a chain reaction that causes each level to collapse?
Modern games have perfected the ‘physics engines’ to the point where we expect them to act like real life. Angry Birds is remarkably close to real life (at least as close as a cartoon birds can be), not in terms of Force = Mass x Acceleration, or any math based physics, but in how the reactions feel to the gamer. The cause and effect of the game make sense and are internally consistent. You know that when you use a yellow bird, it will smash through wood easily. Or when you take out a support beam, the platform will wobble and collapse.
The game will also show you the line that represents the flight from your previous bird, so you can make adjustments to angles, speeds, etc. very quickly. That kind of instant feedback is key to making an immersive experience, but also in helping your recover from the frustration of a bad shot as well. It also helps improve hand to eye (finger to eye?) coordination by allowing you to trace out a good shot, or quickly identify where you could improve.
Those helmets won’t save them if you can reach that TNT.
General Feelings on the Game
I love Angry Birds. The game is fun and well constructed. The cartoony aesthetic is charming, and it is rare to find a game that both my 3 year old nephew and I can both play and enjoy. Thanks to the many expansions, you can play the game for 3 minutes or for hours all for a couple of dollars. The price to fun ratio is amazing.
This game is so much fun that you will not realize that you are learning anything. And, while you may not be learning calculus, you will be learning something. If you have never played it, take a few minutes and try out Angry Birds.