When Angry Birds was starting to become really popular, I was surprised that anyone who played the game enjoyed it and would get almost obsessed with the game. I was a Blackberry user for several years, so I was behind the curve a little when it came to mobile apps and games. Since I never had played the game, I didn't understand the appeal. Friends would tell me how sometimes they would stay up until late at night trying to beat the next. This was very surprising, especially considering how wide the appeal was. Is this just a social phenomena? Or was there something about the game that made it appealing?

So when I bought the new Evo 4, Angry Birds was one of the first apps I downloaded. It instantly became popular in my house. In fact I found myself being more and more drawn to finish the game. I wanted to finish each level. I was finding myself spending a lot of time on the game. I couldn't understand why. I enjoyed playing the game, but I didn't understand why I felt addicted to the game. I would promise myself just one more level, which would always turn in to one more. I kept telling myself that I could stop whenever I wanted, but I found myself unable to do so. 

I discovered in the book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" why this is the case. The author lists 7 attributes that makes us enjoy an experience. Each of these attributes is present in the Angry Birds game. We play the game because it makes us happy.
  1. Challenging Activity that Requires Skill- Each level on Angry Birds, is a confronting task. We need to knock down all of the Pigs. These require some level of skill and calculation. As well as strategy. But for each level, we believe that eventually we will find the right combination and that there is a chance of completing.
  2. Concentrate on What We Are Doing. We can concentrate in Angry Birds. We are flicking our fingers and watching the birds fly through the air. We are captivated by the the challenge, goals and feedback.
  3. Clear Goals- Knock down the pigs and complete the level, with only the limited number of birds. Very clear.
  4. Clear Feedback-  Immediately we see if the flick worked. We understand if we have to make adjustments. 
  5. Removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life- Playing Angry Birds allows us to slip into a trance. I see it whenever my 5 year old starts to play. He can't hear me. He forgets he has to go to the bathroom. He forgets he is tired. He forgets that he is hungry.
  6. The Paradox of Control- This means that it allows us a sense of control over our actions. We feel in control of how long we want to play, when we want to play. It is available on a phone or ipod so we can choose. We feel like we are in control of improving our skill too. We each develop a strategy and we improve on that strategy. (Always go for the most difficult bird first)
  7. Transformation of Time- Duration of time is altered, time passes quickly, hours appear as minutes. Next thing we realize is that it is midnight, we didn't eat dinner and the wife went to bed hours ago. (Was she mad? Not sure.)

These principles can apply to many other situations in our life. When we have all of these moments at once, we can realize that we are happy. While Angry Birds did a lot of things right, like design, this is the most crucial. It makes us happy.


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