Why Do We Love Angry Birds?

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Those pesky pigs… Thousands of slingshot pulls and hundreds of birds later, they are still stealing those eggs and wreaking havoc in the Angry Bird Universe. You’d think a more efficient technology would be developed…

With the introduction of smartphones into the 21st century culture and lifestyle, a new style of games and gaming have developed. It is called Casual Gaming, and has become a multi-million dollar industry full of games like “Angry Birds” “Cut the Rope” “Bejeweled” “Fruit Ninja” “Tiny Wings”and more.

And yes, I confess- All of these are on my iPhone.

I’ve been wondering lately, why do people love these games so much?

To be honest, I think these games are like the arcade games of past. Games like Pac-man, DigDug, Asteroids, Tetris, etc… Easy to learn, but always different, and always a better high-score to beat. We hear about our dads spending afternoons in the Arcade with friends playing all these games. The difference is for us today, we have them with us all the time.

Perhaps the reason people enjoy these games so much is their simplicity. The vast majority of the population is not a gamer which desires to use both thumbs, index fingers, and more simultaneously. Most don’t want to spend months in an in-depth story arch where you are immersed in a tale which rivals most movies. Most just want a simple, non-stressful way to enjoy themselves. Angry Birds does this.

Unlike In-Depth games, Casual games are simple to learn, often taking less than a minute to learn. They have no negative effects if you lose. You don’t “lose a life”, your partner doesn’t die with you, and you don’t have to start back at square one. Rather, you simply try again to beat your best high score, or play the level over again. It is a no risk situation, albeit a virtual one.

Casual Games also fit our culture’s “Disposal” Mentality. As minimal investment is put into these games ($.99 or even Free) There is no stress in the “what if I don’t like it?!” mindset. Since the games are easily beatable, there isn’t a lot of time spent replaying levels once you reach a certain score point. This minimal time investment, rewarded with a high level success rate, lends a positive mental association with the game. Not because anything of value was really accomplished, but a feeling of accomplishment was given through the game.

The main reason though I believe people love Angry Birds so much is not because it is cheap, easy, or quick to play. People love Angry Birds because it provides and escape. Just like any other video game out there. It allows people, even if it is for a few minutes, to step outside the real world, and feel like they have accomplished something of worth through this game. That accomplishment comes quickly, and easily, which makes a person feel good. It can also lead to addiction, which I have seen, and am sure you have seen as well.

So where am I going with this?

One reaction I commonly hear when thinking out loud about this topic, is the question “So are you saying we shouldn’t play Angry birds?” So I’ll answer that query, as I bet some of you are thinking that. ;) Casual Games like Angry birds and the like can be a great source of fun, and cultural connection points to start larger conversations. So no, I don’t think it is wrong to play casual games at all.

I will say we do need to be cautious and intentional when playing those games. It is so easy to use these games as an escape of life, and to use it for comfort. That, I do believe is wrong. When our provisions of comfort, security, and sanity come from anything other than Christ, we have an idol. And while that game may provide help for a time, it is going to fade. Christ is the only thing which can provide a peace that passes all understanding for eternity, not a .99 cent game.

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