I am hooked on Angry Birds. I admit it. Finally, a pocket-sized video game, downloaded to my smart phone from the ‘app’ store, that tests the STEM in all of us. What? Surely you jest. I’m serious. The only reason I can find that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this game is that it requires some thinking finding the weak spots in the structures that hide elusive green pigs, the targets of the birds’ anger. Then try to fling the Angry Birds at just the right pitch to destroy their hideout and reach nirvana by ridding the screen of those sassy little pigs. Did I just step over the nerd threshold?
I’ve witnessed my children exposed over the years from Mario leaping over various animated characters to the bloody war battles they now play as adults in ‘Call of Duty’. They’ve laughed at my failed attempts to maneuver the various Nintendo, Xbox and Playstation controllers over the years as they soundly beat their mother at Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong, various car races and others. But Angry Birds? It’s all mine!
The concept is genius. Structures consisting of wood, steel and concrete shield bright green orbs that represent the pig heads. The pigs sometimes wear helmets for added difficulty. I’m not sure why the birds attack pigs. But I digress…
The cartoon-like structures appear to be rickety and easy to knock down but the various sticks and beams collapse in ways that actually strengthen the building making it harder to destroy. I’m telling you, it’s genius. How smart of the game designers to think of everything. It could have been designed to merely fall apart upon a bird attack, but they designed it to crumble and fall as it would if it were a real building. Frustrating, yes; challenging? YES!!!
There are a number of physics principles at work here.
Range: the farthest distance is achieved by throwing the object at a forty-five degree angle. This works well in Angry Birds unless there is a tall structure in the way.
Speed: the birds are thrown from a slingshot so the farther back you pull them, the faster they go and the harder they attack. This is good for multiple hits.
Angle of attack: experimenting with various vertical ascensions so that the attacking bird flies back down at the right spot on the structure to cause the most damage.
Weakest link: the wooden pieces are the weak parts of the structures. When sandwiched between concrete and steel, just a small area exposed, aiming that bird to hit that wood piece can tumble whole sections of the building and maximize the kill.
Each type of bird flies and attacks in different ways. There’s the basic red bird that simply flies into the structure, a yellow bird that gains speed with a touch of the screen as it nears its target, a bird that drops an egg on command like a bomb, one that is flung around your target to circle back for the kill (this is the most difficult one, for if you wait too long, the bird circles back and grounds itself short of the target), and a bird that is a bomb (my favorite for as it lands on the structure, I touch the screen and it blows up whatever is around it). The game provides a variety of weaponry and understanding how each may be used to your advantage challenges the novice to professional STEM.
Sure the birds die in their attempts to eliminate the pigs, but they die slow, dramatic deaths before ‘popping’ into invisibility. And the next round, they are back for more.
I’m hoping for an upgraded application that takes on the world’s tallest structures. Of course that may be hard to explain why pigs are stuck in the pyramids or Eiffel Tower, but it’s just a game, right?