Are you among the 200 million people that play Angry Birds on your smartphone? If so you’re in good company.
Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and Jon Hamm are fans and British Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted to being “mildly addicted” to the game. Since December 2009, folks have been flinging flocks of birds at pig’s fortresses, downloading more than 3 billion versions of the app.
This weekend the Angry Birds game takes the next logical step, catapulting onto the big screen with their very own movie.
Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad and Maya Rudolph star in The Angry Birds Movie, a story that tells us why the annoyed avians — like flock leader Red Bird, Bomb the Black Bird and Slingshot Stella the Cockatoo — are so angry. Turns out they feel betrayed by the tittering piggies that pretend to be their friends but are really only interested in stealing their eggs. Cue the catapults and mountains of TNT.
It’s a brand with a built-in audience, a combination Hollywood finds irresistible, and while it has colourful, easily marketed characters, the game itself doesn’t offer much in the way of story. But that has never stopped producers before.
Remember Super Mario Bros? Siskel & Ebert gave that one two thumbs down and star Bob Hoskins, who played Mario, called it “the worst thing I ever did.”
Despite brutal reviews and box office failure, Nintendo Power magazine praised the film, calling it a trailblazer in the genre of videogame movies.
Which leads us, 23 years after Mario and his brother Luigi stunk up movie theatres, to The Angry Birds Movie. Why is a game from a developer in Espoo, just outside Helsinki, Finland, popular enough to take flight as its own movie?
The success of Angry Birds has to do with something called schema formation, a five-dollar term for mentally grasping and embedding how the game’s interface works the first time you play it.
The addictive part comes in as the action of the game changes. In Play at Work, engineer Charles L. Mauro explains the appeal: “These little birds are packed with clever behaviours that expand the user’s mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased.”
The game’s genius is in adding playing details at just the right moment to increase user engagement. In other words, it’s fun. I guess that’s why gamers spend 200 million minutes a day flinging Angry Birds at various targets.
According to marketers AYTM, that’s “equal to 16 years of gameplay every hour of every day.” They also note that players have flung over 100 billion angry birds, a number equal to the amount of real birds on the planet. Those are the kind of statistics Hollywood can’t ignore.
One person unlikely to pass the time with Angry Birds is U.S. communications surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden. In 2014 he claimed the app was “leaky,” and was vulnerable to the harvesting of information by outside groups.
Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio Entertainment, the makers of Angry Birds, denied Snowden’s claims.
“We do not collaborate, collude, or share data with spy agencies anywhere in the world,” he said, which must have come as a relief to another of the game’s biggest fans, former Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney, who, apparently, also enjoys hurling a bird or two in his spare time.