What can we learn from Angry Birds?

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Education is catching up with modern trends.  We use books in schools, comics, magazines, films, cartoons and toys all to aid learning.  But we are slow to make use of one of the most popular forms of entertainment, especially for children; Video Games.

Last year I had a go at teaching a topic based upon games, primarily video games but also board games, playground games etc.  It was hugely popular with the children.

Whilst teaching the topic last year I wrote the following article about using Angry Birds to teach, enjoy.

Angry birds is an extremely popular game made by Rovio.  It made it’s biggest impact on the mobile platform but is also available to play on most other gaming devices.Loading_screen

The game is centred around pulling Angry Birds back on a catapult to fire at Pigs that are waiting in and around elaborate towers, the Birds then collide with the towers and destroy the Pigs for points.

The game is incredibly simple in concept and yet users have clocked up millions of hours of pleasure from it.  What then is Angry Birds doing so well and what can we learn from this in the world of Gamification?

First and foremost the game is accessible to all.  I’ve seen young children and old men and ladies busy playing Angry Birds.  It’s mechanics are incredibly simple to pick up but it feels like it takes some practice to master.  The challenge of angling the shot of the Angry Bird remains the same throughout but it does feel as though you get better the more that you play.  This feeling of development in the player is a wonderful method of getting players to keep coming back for more and that sense of quick achievement that comes from completing a level.

This leads us onto another really fantastic feature of Angry Birds which is speed.  It is really, really quick to get into and play.  A number of levels can be tackled and completed within a matter of minutes.  On mobile in particular this is an important game mechanic as players commonly don’t play mobile games for long.  Players get the satisfaction with progressing in the game frequently and quickly.

The levels, although quick to complete, are all scored and offer users stars for completion.  Each level has a total of 3 stars available and the better the player does to complete a level the more stars they receive.  This instantly creates the possibility for competition between users as they have something that can be compared between their game and a friends.

The levels also gradually get more challenging the more you complete.  Players must think harder to complete them and the 3 stars become harder and harder to achieve.  This difficultly is perfectly ramped up against the players ever increasing skill at the game again pushing players to keep on playing as they always feel as though they are just beating it.

As the player works through the levels they also are given access to more and more Angry Birds with different abilities.  These abilities all gently affect the outcome of the levels and create more interest for the player.

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Gamification lessons.

The game mechanics in Angry Birds are wonderfully well thought out and this has resulted in this simple yet incredibly popular formula for a game.  Gamification is focused on using game mechanics in the non video game world.

Angry Birds shows us the power of an activity being easy to access but people’s desire to be challenged.  The feeling of always improving is a powerful one and Angry Birds uses this incredibly well to keep players playing.  When using Gamification it should also be noted that we should allow our customers/students to access what we offer them but provide some challenge based carrot on a stick to coax them to keep coming back for more.  Points, stars and badges are all powerful incentives but more than this games such as Angry Birds encourage players with ever increasing challenges.

Competition is also a powerful incentive that Angry Birds uses.  When trying to use Gamification we should also embrace a well managed sense of competition.  A simple, easy to monitoring system that the users can see is important to allow people how they are doing, what the challenges of the future are and how other users are getting on.

Angry Birds is a wonderful game that adds some fantastic, simple gamification methods to the meta game to improve upon the simple firing of Birds at Pigs mechanic.  Without the extra mechanics of points, stars, levels, bird types the game would have been a flop.  Rovio have come up with a simple game idea but build around that a well managed system to keep players coming back for more.

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