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Games people play

Games people play
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First Published: Tue, Jan 25 2011. 07 34 PM IST

Casual play: Angry Birds isn’t as simple as it appears.
Casual play: Angry Birds isn’t as simple as it appears.
Updated: Tue, Jan 25 2011. 07 34 PM IST
For the past couple of months, I’ve been occasionally playing Angry Birds.
Casual play: Angry Birds isn’t as simple as it appears.
For the uninitiated, it’s a wildly popular video game in which the weapon is an old-fashioned slingshot and the target a bunch of grunting pigs. The pigs have stolen some birds’ eggs and the angry birds want to take revenge. So you put a bird in the slingshot, pull the elastic band, calculate the angle of the trajectory and shoot to kill the pigs hiding behind fortress-like structures made of ice, stone and wood; some even have helmets on to protect themselves from the marauding birds. The farther back you pull the elastic, the longer and harder your shot. If you miss, you aim a little higher, or lower, and try again. It’s like throwing a stone at a distant object.
Dumb? Mindless? Silly? Seriously, that’s all there is to the game. There are no good guys versus bad guys, no guns and commandos, and not a drop of blood is shed. Just some angry birds, a few scared pigs and a slingshot.
The game has become a sensation; a mid-December report quoting the Finnish company Rovio Mobile Ltd said it’s been downloaded 42 million times. More recent reports put the number at well above 50 million.
As computer games go, Angry Birds is incredibly simple. Perhaps that’s why it has become wildly popular. There’s no strategy involved. It helps if you know your elementary physics; but really doesn’t matter if you do not. In fact, the only downside is that it can get addictive. You get stuck at a level, and keep trying; you pause, and take another shot. Just one more time, you tell yourself, and spend the next 10 minutes trying to cross a level.
If you have an iPhone, an iPad or an Android device, it’s worth a try. You can download the app for just 99 cents (about Rs45) for your iPhone or iPad. Earlier this month, they released Mac and PC versions for $4.99 (approx. Rs225) so that people who do not have smartphones, too, could join in the madness.
Angry Birds is what they call a “casual game”, like Solitaire that comes bundled with your Microsoft Windows. It’s a downtime game: You play it whenever you have a few free moments—when you are waiting for your flight, when you are being driven back from work, or when your spouse is watching BBC Entertainment. It helps if you have very young children around—because then no one can tell you, “Aren’t you too old for this?”
I suspect, though there’s no way I can prove this, it’s the grown-ups who are furiously downloading Angry Birds. I won’t be surprised if the younger lot find the game juvenile or even embarrassing. I mean, birds and pigs, after all, is what nursery rhymes were all about. They are more into “serious” stuff such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty and Command & Conquer.
If you have children in your house, you often end up playing some simple video games with them. I have played Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario with my son when he was in high school. I never attempted Grand Theft Auto but we spent a good deal of time unravelling the various ages of Myst (ranked among the 10 greatest PC games ever) and its sequels.
Angry Birds, however, is in a league of its own. It’s a happy game. But it’s not as simple as it appears; it gets tougher as you move on to the next level and requires a bit of thinking—even some luck.
I am stuck at level 12 (there seems to be an endless number of levels) where three little pigs are sitting smugly under a pyramid structure and four angry birds are ready to be launched into a suicide mission to reclaim the eggs. My patience’s running out and I’m looking for ways to cheat. I would have been embarrassed to admit my ineptitude but it’s nice to know that there are over a million other people who have checked out YouTube videos for how to kill the three little pigs.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor, Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.
Write to Shekhar at the smartlife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Jan 25 2011. 07 34 PM IST