Peter Bromhead: Enslaved by Angry Birds

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Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

Jaakko Lisalo has a lot to answer for. A Finnish cyber designer, it was he who conceived a game featuring grumpy-looking birds with no visible legs or wings.

Developed by Rovio, Angry Birds has now spread with the ferocity of bubonic plague through mobile devices.

My seven-year-old son is totally enslaved by the pastime. Any attempt to converse intelligently on anything else is futile. His teachers have forbidden him from even mentioning the subject because he's corrupting fellow pupils with the fanaticism of a prophet, persuading them that obliterating small pigs is more rewarding than following a tedious educational curriculum.

At every opportunity, he "borrows" the caregiver's mobile phone to play until he has exhausted the battery.

Changing mobile codes or erasing the program is futile because he cracks codes and reloads the stuff with the speed and efficiency of some sort of android supercomputer.

Even my breakfast table is laid out with cereal packets and condiments to represent Angry Birds settings. Any attempt to break the composition by reaching for the marmalade is perceived as an act bordering on psychological child abuse.

My home is full of paper-mache reproductions of birds, pigs and other characters from the game. They peep over cupboard doors or from behind the cornflake container.

Recently, I foolishly committed myself to helping him build some sort of space version of the game involving robots and other interplanetary paraphernalia.

Having no idea what this involved, I researched the subject on the internet and, to my surprise, discovered that even Nasa has collaborated with the game's creators, seizing an opportunity to present educational space programmes by devising interactive experiences for the cast of bad-tempered birds.

Usually, when banal electronic games come along, I pompously scorn such time-wasting pursuits - a puritanical stance I have held since early Pac-Man days. I just never felt any drive or enthusiasm to play games on mobiles or computer screens.

However, after watching an interview with a nerdy computer controller in the US military casually discussing his warrior status as an armchair pilot guiding armed predator drone aircraft on surgical assassination missions, I'm suddenly treating gamesters with new respect. After all, it's now only a short hop from cyber-blasting imaginary piglets to experiencing the wrath of real-life angry birds.

The question is, will tomorrow's game-playing geeks know the difference, or care?

- NZ Herald

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