May 28, 2011 in Washington Voices

Angry Birds is a fowl pleasure

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Sometimes I am the bird and sometimes I get the bird.

Lately I’ve been playing Angry Birds on my iPod, having discovered this challenging physics game while examining the new iPad 2 at an electronics store. Once home I downloaded it and have been hooked ever since.

If your eyes are glazing over at the word “physics,” take heart; I’m higher math-challenged myself. Still, I do hope the game doesn’t venture into quantum mechanics. I’m not sure I’m ready for Time-Traveling Angry Birds on the Island of Alternate Realities.

Anyway.

Playing Angry Birds is deceptively simple. Using a finger, you shoot various cute birds out of a slingshot at increasingly difficult glass, wood, and concrete structures ensconcing the enemy—evil, egg-thieving, grinning, green pigs. Scoring involves calculating, with deadly accuracy, trajectory, bird weight, distance, and structure vulnerability, taking out the pigs, and causing as much collateral damage as possible. This game brings new meaning to the term “snap judgment.”

Visually, the game’s a hoot. The fat, ferocious little birds shooting through the sky and exploding upon impact, with feathers flying, are highly amusing, and when they sail completely over the target, well, it’s downright funny, even though I’ll have to start the game level over. Given my proficiency so far in the first 25 of 240 levels, I expect avian entertainment for a long time to come.

I don’t know why, but during a tough year I find playing Angry Birds very soothing. It’s a great stress reliever with all the strategizing required, not to mention the innocent mayhem. And, surprisingly, the game is also a rather handy metaphor for life.

Sometimes I’m the slingshot, ready to take on any fortress, reveling in my prowess when my aim is good. When I miss, however, it’s too easy to criticize myself as inferior to the task. I wonder if my little birds are now sipping coffee in some disgruntled angry bird support group, gossiping with the others about how I shoot like a girl.

Then again, I may be a bird, launched by the seeming fickle slingshot of fate into an unforgiving wall, landing dizzy amidst the wreckage, and wondering how I got there, just before I explode. Or I’m sailing off into the distance, clueless and flapping as hard as I can.

Of course, sometimes I’m the pig, and have earned some two by fours and glass bricks on the noggin. I can be the structure, too, peacefully minding my own business, when combat-helmeted squatter pigs settle in, bird bombs blow through my timbers, and the war is on.

See? If I can rationalize my love for playing Angry Birds with such philosophizing, I can justify spending time flipping birds.

What does my husband Richard think about my new hobby? He was curious, but not too interested, until one evening when I offered him my iPod to play some rounds. “Wow, this is hard,” he exclaimed after several failed attempts, eyes glued to the screen. I didn’t get the iPod back for half an hour.

Physics, you temptress!

When it comes to stress relievers, I guess it could be worse. I could be tearing down preseason campaign signs, stuffing myself with endless Big Macs, posting cat videos, or finally joining the Twittering masses.

Instead, I’ll keep clocking pigs with my Angry Birds.

Just call me a bird brain.

You can reach Deborah Chan at tabbytoes@comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/columnists/.

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