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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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  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @02:23PM (#38002124) Homepage

    If a waking lifetime is around 450,000 hours then at 1,200,000,000 hours Angry Birds consumes nearly 2,700 lifetimes per year.

  • This. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Slutticus ( 1237534 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @03:30PM (#38002962)

    "seconds are consumed as the pigs teeter, slide and roll off planks or are crushed under slow falling debris. "

    This, this and this. There is something very satisfying about watching a structure teeter at the brink and then fall over in a spectacle of smashing debris.
    Also, the other day i figured out that i could topple a tower by timing a bird strike to correspond with the pendular motion of the structure after an initial strike. It blew my shit away....that realization.....the satisfaction of that......the simplicity of it.... It's a good simple game, can't we just enjoy it?

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @03:59PM (#38003362)

    The iPad has revolutionized my poop time.

    There's a sentence I didn't expect to type today. Or ever.

  • by CycleFreak ( 99646 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @04:03PM (#38003422)

    I installed on my Android tablet (Acer Iconia, btw). I have not played games since Quake II - yeah, I'm old(er). But I thought I'd try it out just to see what all the hype was about.

    Here's why I keep playing it: Learning the game was fast and the controls are intuitive. I can fire it up in seconds, play a few levels and be done. I don't feel like I need to invest hours in it just to get good at it. But the game itself is actually enjoyable and satisfying to play. Look, after a day of stress at work, I don't really want to "work" at playing a game. I want to relax and have some fun. The graphics are well done and the sounds made by the birds and pigs are humorous. Even after playing it for weeks, I still giggle a little at the sound effects.

    But really, the biggest thing is that the game is good for time-fill rather than time-suck. Also, let's face it: There are millions (billions?) more people who are not "gamers" than there are "gamers". (Too many quotes? Possibly.)

  • Re:Snake (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PaladinAlpha ( 645879 ) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @05:20PM (#38004726)

    OT, but I owe almost my entire programming career to Gorillas; it was just complex enough for an 8-year-old to make 'cool' modifications to.

    The first 'development cycle' of my life was changing the explosion radius of the bananas (nuclear bananas, yeah!) and encountering dissatisfaction with the result -- the game drew a series of concentric, colored ellipses to represent the explosion, and then the same series with background color to erase them (and the damaged terrain). The ellipse-drawing library function in QBasic (understandably) has aliasing problems such that drawing radius 1, then 2, then 3, and so forth would miss some pixels which fell between the lines of the ellipses, leaving unsightly floating particles. I can't remember how I fixed it, but I think it was drawing horizontally-bounded background-colored lines down the vertical axis of the largest ellipse.

    Anyway, that was the most fun I'd ever had, at the time. Now I think about that old, silly program and... want to go write a Gorillas clone *grin*. It wouldn't be the same with modern tools, though -- there was a lot of charm in that old, slow VESA pixel-juggling.

Trap full -- please empty.