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Why I Hate… Angry Birds

Peck off.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

The dumbing down of society continues unabated. We live in a world where irredeemable pap like The Black Eyed Peas' The Time (Dirty Bit) tops the charts, where Peaches Geldof not only has a career but is paid to appear on telly and, like, talk about stuff, and stuff.

We live in a world where people make gameshows about squeezing through funny-shaped holes or repeatedly falling in water. These programmes are watched by millions more people than compelling, mature dramas like Mad Men and Rubicon. To quote professional sourface Charlton Brooker: the idiots are winning.

If we could pinpoint a single moment when the entire world descended into this sinkhole of stupidity, it would be the release of Angry Birds. This is a game that has apparently been downloaded over 100 million times. To put it into context, that's as many records as The Who or Metallica or Deep Purple have ever sold.

Recently, Eurogamer contributor Simon Parkin Tweeted the profoundly depressing fact that "every 30 days, humanity spends the same amount of time playing Angry Birds as it took to build Wikipedia to date". 200 million minutes a day.

That's 200 million minutes a day playing a random, frustrating puzzle game with a fundamentally broken control scheme, a baffling score structure and no reward system to speak of. The world has officially gone mental. The idiots, I repeat, are winning.

There's no sense of progression. Levels might get slightly tougher, but once you've seen all the different bird types that's it.

That's not to say I don't understand why Angry Birds has bewitched so many. As much as I hate the game - and I really, truly despise it - it's easy to see why it might appeal.

For starters, we're hardwired to enjoy the sight of things falling down. I'd be massively distrustful of anyone who watches footage of buildings being demolished and doesn't think something along the lines of, "That's pretty awesome."

It's easier and more fun to destroy than to create. Angry Birds' ostensibly simple physics puzzles play on that mentality for all they're worth, setting up what outwardly look like fairly delicate, flimsy structures for you and your furious feathered friends to destroy.

It helps that your enemy is so detestable. Those pigs are genuinely hateful swine, nicking your flock's eggs seemingly without rhyme or reason and smugly smirking when you don't quite manage to destroy them.

If tapped in mid-air to increase their velocity, the yellow birds can smash through obstacles. When they feel like it, anyway.

They're spectacularly amoral, not once mourning their fallen friends, seemingly non-plussed by the fact that their piggy chums have just been turned into mincemeat. If they survive, they smile and snort out a little chuckle. You have failed.

And, of course, you will fail. Time and time again. Not because the game is cruel but scrupulously fair - like, for example, Demon's Souls - but because it is designed to make you fail. It is a game cynically constructed to frustrate you just enough so that you'll keep trying to defeat the pigs.

And when you do? Well, there are more and more levels to attempt, because Rovio keeps adding new themed stages for you to download. The pigs just keep coming. Think about that: you're fighting a battle you can never truly win.

It doesn't help that you're hardly in a position to succeed in the first place, so heavily are the odds weighted towards your porcine foes. The structures they inhabit are invariably nowhere near as feeble as they initially seem, all but requiring you to fire your birds at the pixel-wide weak point that will send them walls a-tumblin'.