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Portables (Games) Games

Angry Birds and Parabolic Instinct In Humans 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the gorillas-dot-bas dept.
Frankie70 writes "Matt Ridley writes about Angry Birds, an iPhone game (later ported to other platforms) which has sold more than 12 million copies. The spectacular trajectory of the game, from obscure Finnish iPhone app to global ubiquity — there are board games, maybe even movies in the works — is probably inexplicable. Ridley wonders if there is an evolutionary aspect to its allure. There is something much more satisfactory about an object tracing a parabolic ballistic trajectory through space towards its target than either following a straight line or propelling itself."
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Angry Birds and Parabolic Instinct In Humans

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  • a rhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Wars
    • by sanchom (1681398)
      I meant Tank wars [wikipedia.org]
      • by Jim Hall (2985)

        Before that, there was ARTILLERY [wikipedia.org] for the Apple II. I remember also playing a variant called BERTHA that let you abort your shot (if it was too powerful) by typing "ABORT" within 1 second.

        • Re:Like tank wars (Score:5, Informative)

          by HeckRuler (1369601) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:12PM (#34910132)
          It'll always be Scorched Earth [wikipedia.org] to me. Kids these days though, they'll probably just remember worms [wikipedia.org] or worms [wikipedia.org] or worms3D [wikipedia.org] or possibly even Scorched Earth 3D [wikipedia.org] if they're really hip.
        • Yes, Worms! That's an incredible just-one-more-and-then-I-quite-seriouslah game!

          Parabolic, wind resistance, thrust, what a physics project that was.

          Btw my little brother replaced the voicesets- Imagine hearing Worf [wikipedia.org] throwing intimidations in-game.

          • Parabolic, wind resistance, thrust, what a physics project that was.

            The coolest version of this game was "Football" played on a cafeteria tabletop with a folded up sheet of paper. You would score by flicking the paper with your middle finger through a set of "uprights" consisting of your opponent holding up two "L's" with his thumbs and index fingers.

            Had it all. Parabolic, wind resistance, thrust, what a physics game that was.

            • by nedlohs (1335013)

              I'm pretty sure you've never used the wind in your "Football" game to have the hit a target sheided under an overhang by shooting into the wind so that that shot turns 180 degrees.

    • by Jonah Hex (651948)

      Or like Kitten Cannon, something amazingly satisfying about seeing that kitten bounce in arcs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Seumas (6865)

      App Store . . . the home of people ripping off ideas that have been around for 30 years and becoming millionaires from all the suckers who think it's the greatest thing they've ever seen.

      • by Nialin (570647)
        True. So what's stopping you from raking in the dough with the same business model?
      • App Store...the home of people riffing on ideas the way humans have always done and users discovering those ideas due to the great exposure they can get now.

  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:30PM (#34909740) Homepage Journal

    Anyone who played the ancient cannon game would resonate with this. Two cannon, placed on opposite sides of the screen, take turns firing shots where the angle and velocity is variable. Very satisfying for such a simple game.

    • by khallow (566160)
      I played the version with nukes and other such weapons. Very satisfying, but that was because when you won, your foes' bunkers would crumple and explode. A game is much more fun when it has multi-megaton death throes. That's what "parabolic" means, right?
    • I always found the logical progression of that game to be much much more fun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorched_Earth_(computer_game) [wikipedia.org] Along with having AI players, you had wind and landscape between you and different weapons to play with. The newer 3d version is also fun but for some reason lacks the same thing that made me want to play for hours. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorched_3D [wikipedia.org]
    • Anyone who played the ancient cannon game would resonate with this. Two cannon, placed on opposite sides of the screen, take turns firing shots where the angle and velocity is variable. Very satisfying for such a simple game.

      You mean Pocket Tanks [wikipedia.org]?

      • Aha! That's the game I used to play in high school. I couldn't remember the name, but I knew none of the others were it.
  • Movie...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:30PM (#34909742) Homepage

    An "Angry Birds" movie? Look, I love the game, I really do. But a movie? Please no.

  • Jeez. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orphiuchus (1146483) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:30PM (#34909748)
    Can't anything just be fun anymore?
    • No, they can't. Sadly, the all the marketers did not follow Bill Hick's advice.

      Gosh, I hope my hateful post does not trigger some lunatic to go out and shoot anyone!

    • Re:Jeez. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:08PM (#34910114) Journal

      Perhaps, but I think its a good idea that some study goes into this. I've experienced this weird effect personally. Having JUST gotten an Android phone this past month (I know, what took me so long) I asked a buddy of mine what apps he has that are handy. I figured I'd grab iTriage in case of emergencies, and that 3G Watchdog to keep an eye on my data usage. He recommended Angry Birds as a game, so I downloaded it and played it a bit.

      I didn't think much of it, having played Bloons on Flash for the PC years ago, and then Worms before that, and some manner of tank game before that - I've noticed that theres always some addictive parabolic gravity based game here or there.

      THEN my girlfriend got a hold of my new phone. Testing out the apps she stumbled across Angry Birds. She can't put it down. I absolutely can't understand it. She'll get her attention devoted to it. Enough to a point where I'm driving and we'll be having a conversation and she'll be playing the game at the same time, and then she'll go "Oh darn... shoot..." and then when I stop talking she goes "oh yeah... I'm still listening. Open Source, Microsoft, Yada yada. Continue" (perhaps I shouldn't BORE her with certain topics but it shows that she can't even fake an attention span while playing the game). She's killed my battery more than a few times just playing Angry Birds while driving across the city. She hasn't been a gamer like me and been exposed to this type of game before.

      I wonder if its the same reason we like to throw rocks in the river and/or make them skip, or put basketball through hoops, kick balls into nets, or swing clubs at them to make them land in a tiny hole. I think there might be something deeply engrained into every human mind that enjoys this, and I'm curious to see what they find.

    • Re:Jeez. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tool462 (677306) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:14PM (#34910156)

      Umm... Do you realize what site you're on? 'Round here, trying to dissect the appeal of a game like Angry Birds IS fun!

    • by Gen-GNU (36980)

      Over analyzing the reason for mass appeal, as well as statistical distributions showing cross cultural appeal of various game genres is just how these people have fun, you insensitive clod.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Depends. You see knowing yourself as something fun or sad? How many things that you consider fun now know what boring things have behind (you pick, smoking, drinking, friends, wife,etc) and still have fun with them?
    • Re:Jeez. (Score:5, Funny)

      by fishexe (168879) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:50PM (#34910434) Homepage

      Can't anything just be fun anymore?

      Says the dude that broke the zodiac. Thanks a lot, pal...

    • Can't anything just be fun anymore?

      Within limits. There's only so much real fun people can take, before it becomes unreal. After all, it doesn't take a conic genius to imagine that a circular trajectory would work just as well to project the birds, plainly speaking.

  • Not just people (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:31PM (#34909750) Homepage Journal

    When I was a kid, I had a dog that could follow a parabolic trajectory. By throwing the ball at an angle to roll along the angled roof of our house, its trajectory would follow the arc and drop down at a point further down the yard.

    The dog learned to anticipate where the ball would fall from the roof, even though she couldn't see the ball from her vantage point on the ground.

    • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:30PM (#34910282) Journal
      When I was a kid, I had a dog that could follow a parabolic trajectory.

      Anyone else think,"Kids are so cruel they even throw dogs around."?
    • by idontgno (624372) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:32PM (#34910302) Journal

      When I was a kid, I had a dog that could follow a parabolic trajectory.

      My dog, too. No matter how many times I threw her up in the air, off a roof, out of a moving car, whatever.... parabolic arc. Apparently, Peanuts the poodle was not immune to gravitation and Newtonian conservation of energy.

      She was a good dog. Except for resisting being picked up. I guess she figure out pretty quick you are less likely to end up flying in a perfect conic section path if no one can raise your gravitational potential above local ground state. A physics genius, Peanuts.

    • by rts008 (812749)

      I always considered all of this as a survival trait of all predators. The ability to calculate trajectories combined with some experience to take in the effects of gravity, and other effects are demonstrated all around us in this world every day.

      For example:
      I have watched a Red-tail Hawk stoop on a rabbit running across a section of freshly plowed ground. The hawk displayed an awesome degree of precision and accuracy combined with speed that almost took my breath away!

      Not to disparage you dogs display of hi

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blair1q (305137)

      That's just learning by repetition.

      There are a couple of things suggesting that "parabolic instinct" is hogwash.

      First, objects in the gravitational field of a sphere follow ellipses, not parabolas. Granted, on the scale of a human-powered throw the higher-order terms in the Taylor-series expansion are as near to nothing as makes no odd, but still, if you're talking about an instinct and getting mathematical, you need to be more precise.

      Second, objects in a nonconserving gravitational field don't follow a p

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>There are a couple of things suggesting that "parabolic instinct" is hogwash.

        Have you ever been driving your car at a green light, that's been a green light for a while, and it's still kind of a ways away? You can feel the point at which it is better to stop and brake if it turns yellow, versus accelerating and making it through (assuming you're not someone who drives through reds). In other words, your brain is calculating two second order equations in real time, and measuring it against an estimat

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by blair1q (305137)

          That's learned, too.

          It's not 2 seconds everywhere.

          Your brain isn't calculating anything. It's making an estimate based on past understanding of the timing.

          And that's a linear calculation anyway (x = v*t), not a parabolic one.

          I have no doubt that our brains understand physics without knowing any math. In fact, they understand it better than most people can do the math, since almost no real-world physics occurs according to the simple model of a controlled, limited universe under which x = a*t^2 was derived

          • by ShakaUVM (157947)

            >>And that's a linear calculation anyway (x = v*t), not a parabolic one.

            If your car doesn't have pedals for acceleration or braking, I wouldn't recommend driving it.

            >>Your brain isn't calculating anything. It's making an estimate based on past understanding of the timing.

            An estimate is a calculation, there's no way around it. And it does a very good job. The only time I got it wrong is when the City of San Diego started shortening the yellow lights to the legal minimum, so that they could get mo

    • by rcamans (252182)

      Are you trying to tell us your dog was smarter than you?
      A classic day on slashdot!

    • by bobdotorg (598873)

      When I was a kid, I had a dog that could follow a parabolic trajectory.

      My cat would follow a parabolic trajectory while also demonstrating the Doppler effect to horrified bystanders.

  • Then why... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tarsi210 (70325) <nathan.nathanpralle@com> on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:32PM (#34909768) Homepage Journal
    ..don't they fix the parabolic action (or lack thereof) of the "bomber" birds' payload egg? I had gotten so used to the extremely satisfying physics of the game that when that one came along and didn't describe a curved trajectory upon release, it totally threw me off and still does to today.
    • by rainmayun (842754)

      Agreed. I speculate that it somehow made the game either too easy or too difficult, at least with the style of level design they are using.

  • Angry Birds is fun and cute, but hardly anything more. It isn't even original.

    • Angry Birds != Scorched Earth.

      If you really really oversimplify those two then they have some similarities but the way you play them is very different. It's like saying Sonic the Hedgehog is unoriginal because Super Mario Bros. preceded it.

      • by fishexe (168879)

        It's like saying Sonic the Hedgehog is unoriginal because Super Mario Bros. preceded it.

        Actually it kinda is. Very little in that game that hadn't been done before.

        • You could use the same argument to say that men and women are virtually identical.

          • by fishexe (168879)

            You could use the same argument to say that men and women are virtually identical.

            Not "virtually identical", we were talking about "unoriginal", which is true of the design of women, because God basically used the same blueprint and only made enough changes for Eve to serve as a companion creature to Adam.

            • Not "virtually identical", we were talking about "unoriginal"...

              That's not exactly a big distinction. Any inspired piece of work would not be considered 'original' then.

    • by Xtravar (725372)

      Actually there are flash games out there that did what Angry Birds did before Angry Birds. Those games you mentioned... not so much.

    • by fishexe (168879)

      Angry Birds is fun and cute, but hardly anything more. It isn't even original.

      Yeah, because firing projectiles to kill an enemy on contact is totally the same as firing projectiles to knock down a complex structure that would be a puzzle in itself even if the ballistic aspect were taken out of the game.

    • by tgibbs (83782) on Monday January 17, 2011 @10:22PM (#34911662)

      It is quite correct that physics-based games that involve targeting of parabolic trajectories are very old, dating back almost to the earliest days of computer gaming. Yet over all this time, such games have been at best mildly popular. So how is it that Angry Birds is a mega-hit when nearly everybody has played a game that is sort of like it?

      I attribute its success to these factors:

      1. Excellent puzzle design and progression. Key to a puzzle game is that the player must always feel challenged, but never frustrated enough to give up. In Angry Birds, it is possible to pass a level without a perfect score, reducing frustration, while still returning it to try to improve performance, maintaining replay value.

      2. Excellent user interface. Touch control makes a big difference for games of this sort is a big asset to games of this sort. The use of a slingshot, as opposed to a cannon or catapult also makes the game more intuitive, as most everybody understands the dynamics, and the rubber band provides a visual cue to the trajectory. A dotted line shows you last trajectory for comparison. (For comparison, I took a look at Scorched Earth, a game identified by others--correctly--as similar, and after 5 minutes I still hadn't figured out how to control my trebuchet.

      3. Engaging graphics. Puzzle games go well with bright, cartoony characters. The simple, cute characters and backgrounds amuse the player without distracting too much from the puzzles.

      So basically, what we have is a triumph of execution--a classic concept finally done well.

      • dating back almost to the earliest days of computer gaming.

        I'd say to the earliest days of computer gaming, since Tennis for Two [wikipedia.org] could easily be considered the first computer game.

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:35PM (#34909800) Homepage Journal

    For me the game seems attractive due to a mix of simple, but challenging game play, simple but cute graphics and the whole audio choice which makes it feel like some sort of crazy mad house. Maybe people like crazy?

    • by D Ninja (825055) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:46PM (#34909920)

      Maybe people like crazy?

      I did like crazy at one point in my life. Now I don't interact with my ex-wife anymore.

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Huh, you also?
        Man, I'm so messed up financially now that I'm NOT 'saving money' by overspending the budget buying everything that happens to be 'on sale'...
        Well, as sad consolation, at least NOW I can afford a computer and internet connection to reply on /. ;-)

  • by us7892 (655683) on Monday January 17, 2011 @06:37PM (#34909826) Homepage
    The parabolic path of the birds, sure. Or maybe just breaking things. Glass, wood, rocks, pumpkins. Who doesn't like smashing a pumpkin? A simple puzzle game. That's the allure. Let's try not to over-analyze.

    The snow in the Christmas version kinda didn't behave correctly. It made me angry.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Or maybe just breaking things. Glass, wood, rocks, pumpkins. Who doesn't like smashing a pumpkin?

      Agreed. I think AB appeals to people for the same reasons bowling does.

      • Or maybe just breaking things. Glass, wood, rocks, pumpkins. Who doesn't like smashing a pumpkin?

        Agreed. I think AB appeals to people for the same reasons bowling does.

        I, for one, don't get it. What's the connection between bowling and Good Eats?

    • by fishexe (168879)

      A simple puzzle game. That's the allure. Let's try not to over-analyze.

      Yeah, but there are thousands of simple puzzle games. Why should this one be so much more popular?

  • This other popular iPhone game works this way, too. Instead of just gravity, a variable speed fan adds to the arc calculation.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      I bet paper toss has lots of downloads but not much actual gameplay.

      Angry Birds has a sort of continuously rewarding aspect to it that locks you in. And a curiosity thing that sucks you into doing the next level instead of putting it away and getting back to work when you accomplish one. Paper Toss just lets you see your throw go down a hole or bounce away, then gives you almost the identical problem to solve. Angry Birds gives you several to solve on the same screen, and many ways to accomplish them, an

  • http://www.kongregate.com/games/Moly/gorillas-bas [kongregate.com]

    My first exposure to source code was BASIC on the Apple II in elementary school -- computer lab.

    However, it wasn't until a year later when I got an IBM with MSDOS + QBasic, that I was able spend enough time with source code to discover how to program. The books were all gibberish to me, but learning via modifying GORILLAS.BAS was a satisfying / rewarding experience.

    I've seen lots of today's young programmers enlightened by open sourced games (like Doom, Quak

    • I remember playing with this code as a kid. I made nuclear bananas. Good times.
    • Taking apart Gorrilas, Nibbles, and some GWbasic programs are what really fast-forwarded my understanding of programming. The fact that they were just sitting there in C:\DOS - for FREE! - was like finding treasure!

      I'm going to show my wife this tonight and let her marvel at the wonders that came with DOS 6 :)

      Bigger explosions, wider buildings, bigger sons, floating gorillas, smarter computer... Man I spent hours on that in Elementary.

      -Matt

  • Somebody has finally explained the runaway popularity of GORILLAS.BAS [wikipedia.org] !!!
  • Golf isn't too far off from the same basic concept, either.

    • by migla (1099771)

      Golf isn't too far off from the same basic concept, either.

      Except, in golf it's swine hitting birdies.

  • by thaig (415462) on Monday January 17, 2011 @07:13PM (#34910138) Homepage

    The physics is fun but the birds have character because of the sounds and I like that most - they're not precisely cute either which is also nice because soppy cuteness can be revolting :-) Other games often lack this kind of appeal as it's harder to describe than fps and explosions. If I was going to rant it would be about how brain dead and boring multi-million dollar games seem to be *because* the money drives out the personality.

  • There is something much more satisfactory about an object tracing a parabolic ballistic trajectory through space towards its target than either following a straight line or propelling itself.

    Seems obvious to me: hitting your target is more challenging, and thus it's more of an accomplishment, which is what games are all about. Imagine Scorched Earth [wikipedia.org] where there were no obstacles and you could just shoot straight at the enemy.

  • It's just a game that was lucky enough to become "cool" with kids and the next big thing in school fashion. Youth club leader friend says every kid who is anyone has that game. This is of course also true to a fair extent with adults. I'm sure it's not the first time this kind of thing has happened to some random lucky subject, be it a game or a pop star (Bieber?)

    Or to put it more cynically and slashdotty, it is massively overhyped and managed to go viral.

  • Even better than that we have a multidimensional integrator that can take into account the effects of drag on a trajectory. Its hard to imaging a sport involving throwing or hitting flying objects that would be possible without this instinct. Our ancestors probably would have died out before they reached the savannas without it.
  • For me, the enjoyment of Angry Birds has nothing to do with parabolic instinct. It has everything to do with causing destruction with different methods and giggling over the silly graphics and sounds. The game is entertaining. This feels like an attempt at a scientific explanation for popularity. Why can't a game just be fun?

  • This article does a very good job of explaining why such a simple game is so intriguing.

    I thinks it's more like it appeals to dim-witted people. Seriously. It's only the people who are a little bit slow that seem to like this retard game. Most of the more intelligent friends I have go for games that take a little bit of brain power. I can't understand for the life of me why it's a #1 app in the Apple store. On the iPhone or the iPod, you can't even see the whole field of play on the screen and you spend the whole time panning back-n-forth!

  • Ok, the parabolic instinct explains Angry Birds, but now explain to me the Pet Rock, the Chia Pet, or anything sold by Ron Popeil. Sometimes people just fall for something inexplicably stupid and pointless. I'd write more about it, but I have to get back to World of Warcraft.

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