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A Cognitive Teardown of Angry Birds 220

Hugh Pickens writes "The 50 million individuals who have downloaded 'Angry Birds' play roughly 200 million minutes of the game a day, which translates into 1.2 billion hours a year, more than ten times the 100 million hours spent creating Wikipedia over the entire life span of the online encyclopedia. Why is this seemly simple game so massively compelling? Charles L. Mauro performs a cognitive teardown of the user experience of Angry Birds and concludes that the game is engaging, in fact addictive, due to the carefully scripted expansion of the user's mental model of the strategy component and incremental increases in problem/solution methodology. The birds are packed with clever behaviors that expand the user's mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased ... For example, why are tiny bananas suddenly strewn about in some play sequences and not in others? Why do the houses containing pigs shake ever so slightly at the beginning of each game play sequence? Why is the game's play space showing a cross section of underground rocks and dirt? One can spend a lot of time processing these little clues, consciously or subconsciously. 'Creating truly engaging software experiences is far more complex than one might assume, even in the simplest of computer games,' writes Mauro. 'You go Birds! Your success certainly makes others Angry and envious.'"
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A Cognitive Teardown of Angry Birds

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  • In other words, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @02:24PM (#38002140)

    It's a pretty well made game. Lots of visual clues, depth of strategy, and a smooth learning curve. Really, while hard to do, it's not that hard to analyze. "Mental model of the strategy component"? I'm thinking your just trying to justify a degree there.

    Now, if you can take that and make a good game, I'd be impressed. Just saying in long, complex sentences with technical words what any decent game reviewer can tell you already is not impressive. Or news.

    Oh, and the crappy plays on words are definitely not making me like this story any better.

  • Re:because? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nepka ( 2501324 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @02:32PM (#38002248)
    It's exactly for that reason. It's always funny when people try to find some deeper reason in simple things, over-analyzing things.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @02:36PM (#38002292)

    The birds are packed with clever behaviors that expand the user's mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased ...

    Translation: The game gets harder as you go along.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @02:49PM (#38002466)

    Well they target different markets. iPhone games or the Wii are best for casual gamer. Who want a quick fix then get on with their lives.

  • Re:because? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Forbman ( 794277 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @03:42PM (#38003100)

    But from a cognition standpoint, those little bits of motion attract our attention, and make us go "Hmm...I wonder...". Sure, many of us in this particular audience realize the structure sometimes needing a few moments to stabilize is a consequence of the dynamic behavior of the physics engine, but we're not the rest of everyone else who gets sucked into it. That was the point of the article.

    And it is some or all of those little other things, intended to do so by the developers or not, that suck more of us in to this version of a game archetype compared to other versions.

    Also, read up on the design of casinos... there's a reason why they all basically look, feel, smell and sound alike. Or grocery or department store layouts...

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.