Module: Psychology Of Design
Assignment 1: Psychological Deconstruction
of Angry Birds

M.Des 1.1
Name: Harshal Desai

Lec...
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Summary..........................................................................................
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Never before has there been a moment where using different species of grimacing birds as
projectiles to...
INTRODUCTION
Angry Birds is one of the top ten downloaded games today, having over 300 million
downloads and growing. Sinc...
GAMEPLAY
The overall gameplay is quite simple. Players control the birds via a slingshot and can angle
the trajectory to t...
One can consider the entire premise as a military warfare where players have to plan how
to use the birds according to the...
GRAPHICS
Niklas Hed, COO of Rovio said that they already had the concept of using stern looking birds
within their game, m...
AGGRESSION AND DARK HUMOR
Angry birds have a distinctive blend of dark humor and subtle aggression.
According to the story...
REWARD SYSTEM
The reward system of angry birds is in three parts: The scores and stars, the bonus golden
eggs and the audi...
actually classify the players into groups too, as those who are determined to get three stars
could often be perfectionist...
Figure 7: Angry Birds Slot Machines. (Source: http://pressxordie.com/2011/06/22/the-addictive-nature-of-angry-birds/angry-...
CONCLUSION

Based on the theories, Angry Birds owes its popularity on its simple gameplay and its
enticing reward system. ...
WORKS CITED
(n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2011, from Goldsmith
http://www.gold.ac.uk/psychology/staff/premuzic/

Universi...
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Psychological Deconstruction of Angry Birds

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Never before has there been a moment where using different species of grimacing birds as projectiles to knock down and destroy grunting diseased looking green pigs been so very addictive. Angry Birds has become one of the rare video game sensations that jumped from being a game on your phone to a huge multiplatform franchise.
But what makes the game a success? Why is Angry Birds a masterpiece of addictiveness? Is it the simple gameplay, or the visual graphics used? Could it be just a hype that exists simply because everyone is playing it or is there any substantial techniques and theories behind the game?
By analysing the gameplay from a psychological perspective this essay aims to understand the reason behind the addictiveness of Angry Birds.

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Psychological Deconstruction of Angry Birds

  1. 1. Module: Psychology Of Design Assignment 1: Psychological Deconstruction of Angry Birds M.Des 1.1 Name: Harshal Desai Lecturer: Filip Fransen Date of Submission 17/11/2011 Word Count: 1520
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS Executive Summary.................................................................................................................... 2 Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 3 Gameplay ................................................................................................................................... 4 Graphics ..................................................................................................................................... 6 Aggression and dark humor ....................................................................................................... 7 Reward system ........................................................................................................................... 8 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 11 Works Cited .............................................................................................................................. 12
  3. 3. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Never before has there been a moment where using different species of grimacing birds as projectiles to knock down and destroy grunting diseased looking green pigs been so very addictive. Angry Birds has become one of the rare video game sensations that jumped from being a game on your phone to a huge multiplatform franchise. But what makes the game a success? Why is Angry Birds a masterpiece of addictiveness? Is it the simple gameplay, or the visual graphics used? Could it be just a hype that exists simply because everyone is playing it or is there any substantial techniques and theories behind the game? By analysing the gameplay from a psychological perspective this essay aims to understand the reason behind the addictiveness of Angry Birds.
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION Angry Birds is one of the top ten downloaded games today, having over 300 million downloads and growing. Since its release, players have spent over 200 million minutes per day on the game, or 16 years of gameplay in just one hour. Angry Birds is a casual strategy and physics based videogame. The premise of the game is that the pigs stole the eggs from the birds, hence making them angry. The only way to retaliate is to launch the birds via a slingshot in a kamikaze dive through the fortified structures (made of wood, glass and stone) of the pigs, and destroy them in the process. Several games have tried to imitate Angry Bird’s success by trying to copy their gameplay, their realistic physics, and sometimes, even the visual graphics, although none have succeeded to the level that Angry Birds has achieved. It makes one wonder if Angry Birds is just a one-time hit or can its success be duplicated again. By studying the elements of the game, this report aims to identify and answer the reason behind the success of this multiplatform casual game.
  5. 5. GAMEPLAY The overall gameplay is quite simple. Players control the birds via a slingshot and can angle the trajectory to their liking and then simply let them fly off to cause destruction and damage on the fortified structures of the pigs. To keep the gameplay exciting the initial levels are quite easy and they steadily start increasing in difficulty where one can be stuck on the game all day until they hit the structure at the right spot causing a total collapse. Figure 1: Gameplay instructions (Source: Self-shot via iPad) There are also benefits as the levels increase. The players unlock an arsenal of different birds, each with their own unique traits and there are seven birds in total. If a player is frustrated and stuck on a level too long, they can always use the ‘mighty eagle’, a special bird that swoops down and clears the entire stage, equivalent to a nuclear bomb. However, a player can use it just once every hour.
  6. 6. One can consider the entire premise as a military warfare where players have to plan how to use the birds according to their unique strengths and weaknesses. Figure 2: Angry Birds Level Chart (Source: Google.com) What makes the game appealing (and addictive) is the challenge of trying to smash all the pigs. Due to its repetitive behavior of gameplay, the player simply has to aim, shoot and win or quickly correct his aim and try again. Also, since the game does not require long hours of focus, players often play the game during the commute or whenever they want to kill some free time. Their reward system and sound effects give an illusion of importance within the game (Miller, 2011)
  7. 7. GRAPHICS Niklas Hed, COO of Rovio said that they already had the concept of using stern looking birds within their game, mixing realistic physics and cartoonish effects together to get maximum appeal. The physics used in the way the construction work splinters and breaks depending on the angle is quite realistic, while making the birds and pigs unrealistic. (Kendall, 2011) Using green diseased looking pigs was in reference to the swine flu epidemic that was rampant during that time. Since people already showed negative emotions towards swine flu, it was easily justifiable on a subconscious level to destroy them by any means necessary. The colors used are mostly shades of the primary hues, keeping the overall tone of the game vibrant and active, often resembling that of Looney tunes cartoon. Part of the success behind the game does rely on these modern day graphics as it would not have caused so much appeal 10-15 years ago, as seen on the left. Even the gameplay would change tremendously as touchscreen systems were not widely available in that period. Overall, visually appealing graphics and a good storyline do play some part behind the addictive success of the game. (Mauro, 2011) Figure 3: Angry Birds Retro (Source: http://laughingsquid.com/retro-version-of-angry-birdsfrom-1992/)
  8. 8. AGGRESSION AND DARK HUMOR Angry birds have a distinctive blend of dark humor and subtle aggression. According to the storyline, the pigs were hungry so they stole the birds’ eggs causing them to retaliate. Konrad Lorenz talks about this aggressive behavior as instinctual aggressiveness. He had combined Freud’s theories on aggression with Darwin’s theory of evolution talking about how the survival and success of a species depends on the violent tendencies they exhibit in order to survive or eliminate their competition. (Lorenz, 2002) Angry Birds follows through with an expansion of Konrad’s theory proposed by a group of researchers at Yale led by John Dollard, which focuses on aggressive tendencies being shown due to frustration or an impulse created by an innate need, in this case, pigs stealing the eggs. Users playing this game find it an effective release for their aggressive impulses (Svetlik, 2011) . Dr Tomas Chamorro Premuzic further proved it in his research, stating, “Players may not realize it but angry birds provides them a cathartic effect”. (Goldsmith University of London) In addition, the humor within the game allows players to legitimize the actions of tossing kamikaze birds who break through the pig’s defenses and kills them. Since the overall layout and graphics of the game represent a fictional cartoon style, in the mind of the player it gives them free reign to cause as much damage and destruction as they please without feeling guilt or any sense of empathy, despite the fact that the pigs were just hungry and looking for food. (Svetlik, 2011) However, one must note if the game were to replace birds with other graphics such as babies or inanimate objects they would not be as appealing to the players, which explains why other similar games have been unsuccessful e.g. Crush the Castle, All rabbits must die, Cannibal Casserole etc.
  9. 9. REWARD SYSTEM The reward system of angry birds is in three parts: The scores and stars, the bonus golden eggs and the auditory and visual rewards. It can best be explained using B.F. Skinner’s radical behaviorism theory of operant conditioning, specifically reinforcement and extinction (O'Donohue & Ferguson, 2001) According to the theory, operant conditioning has two basic purposes, to either increase or decrease the probability of repeating a certain behavior. Stimulus Type Effect: Increases Behavior Effect: Decreases Behavior Positive Stimulus Negative Stimulus Positive Reinforcer Negative Punisher Negative Reinforcer Positive Punisher Figure 4: Operant Condition. Derived from: (Skinner, 2011) If we base this on Angry birds, the positive reinforcer is could be the rewards gained such as golden eggs, three stars etc. The player also hears a military victory parade music where the birds cheer and praise the player for a job well done and moves on to the next level. Figure 5: Three stars + Score based rewards (Source: Self-shot via iPad) A slightly less positive reinforcer would be gaining two stars. This is comparable to getting a C in your exams. It is tolerable and will allow you to proceed to the next stage if you wish, or you could replay the level until all three stars are achieved. By looking at this, one can
  10. 10. actually classify the players into groups too, as those who are determined to get three stars could often be perfectionists, and people who probably do not get enough sleep. Negative reinforcers in the game are the sounds of the pigs sniggering and grunting at the player as a means to mock and taunt him, often followed by a “LEVEL FAILED” message. Figure 6: Negative Reinforcers (Source: Google.com) The sight of a sniggering pig would cause the player to get back at them in an attempt to prove their own superiority. Angry Birds does not have any punishers in their game. According to Steven Grant, chief of neuroscience at the National Institute of Drug Abuse, playing video games like Angry Birds often trigger a release of dopamine in the brain, typically when the player receives a reward, such as launching a bird at the pig. Basically, the dopamine signals the brain that there is a potential reward coming but it cannot identify the intensity of the reward. The bird may just slightly bounce off the structure, causing it to wobble a bit or hit the right spot and decimate all the wooden and glass structures along with killing the pig. (Chorost, 2011) This ambiguity generates tension and the brain craves for a release. It will make the player do whatever is necessary for that release, in this case, firing bird after bird in order to receive that reward. The addictive nature is also comparable to slot machines. Slot machines also follow a simplistic approach of just pulling a lever and getting rewards. The visual motion of the slots revolving, the bright colors and the simplistic potential of a victory make slot machines one of the most addictive casino games in the world.
  11. 11. Figure 7: Angry Birds Slot Machines. (Source: http://pressxordie.com/2011/06/22/the-addictive-nature-of-angry-birds/angry-birdsslots/) Comparing Angry Birds to Slot machines we find both share similar characteristics: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Requires little to no training to learn Hardly requires hours of focus although players play the games for hours Offers instant rewards whether it be financial or points or audio and visual rewards Both follow an incremental reward system, reinforcing correct behavior There is an opportunity to gain attention and recognition through competitions Both offer lesser rewards where the player does win but in small amounts, for instance winning a few dollars instead of the jackpot, or one star instead of three. (Harrigan, Collins, & Dixon, 2010) Games that follow the simplistic nature of the slot machines often end up being a success. The most notable example of such games was Tetris. In Angry Birds, these rewards are obtained in every level, and since the gameplay just involves the player to pull the slingshot and be rewarded with crashing structures, screaming birds and exploding pigs, it makes the game extremely addictive.
  12. 12. CONCLUSION Based on the theories, Angry Birds owes its popularity on its simple gameplay and its enticing reward system. It is a fun and unique game that grown to the heights of being named one of the all-time classics. Its addictive nature stems from its simplicity and its reward system that subconsciously keeps the player wanting to interact with the game over and over. Even when a player manages to complete all the levels of gameplay, they are given an additional two games to try and compete in. For most it is a way to distract themselves in free time, While some may still consider it as a hyped game that cannot grow into successful expansions, the current two variations, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio are receiving high appraisals. It remains to be seen what steps Rovio takes next to further increase the Angry Birds Franchise.
  13. 13. WORKS CITED (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2011, from Goldsmith http://www.gold.ac.uk/psychology/staff/premuzic/ University of London: Chorost, M. (2011, January 4). How I kicked my addction to the iphone game Angry Birds. Retrieved November 16, 2011, from PsychologyToday.com: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/world-wide-mind/201101/how-i-kicked-myaddiction-the-iphone-game-angry-birds Harrigan, K. A., Collins, K., & Dixon, M. J. (2010). Addictive Gameplay: What Casual Game Designers can Learn from Slot Machine Research. Vancouver, British Columbia: International Conference on the Future of GAme Design and Technology. Kendall, P. (2011, February 07). Angry Birds: The story behind iPhone's gaming Phenomenon. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8303173/Angry-Birds-thestory-behind-iPhones-gaming-phenomenon.html Lorenz, K. (2002). On Aggression. Routledge. Mauro, C. (2011, February 6). Why angry birds is so successful and popular: A Cognitive teardown of the User Experience. Retrieved November 12, 2011, from MauroNewMedia.com: http://www.mauronewmedia.com/blog/2011/02/whyangry-birds-is-so-successful-a-cognitive-teardown-of-the-user-experience/ Miller, D. (2011, August). Angry Birds: A psychiatrist explains the addiiction. Retrieved November 17, 2011, from Kevinmd.com: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/08/angry-birds-psychiatrist-explainsaddiction.html O'Donohue, W., & Ferguson, K. (2001). Operant Conditioning and the Experimental Analysis of behavior. In W. O'Donohue, & K. Ferguson, The psychology of B.F. Skinner (pp. 73100). California: Sage Publications Inc. Skinner, B. (2011). About Behaviorism. New york: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Svetlik, J. (2011, March 9). Angry Birds: The psychology of its success.

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