What do Conan O’Brien, Justin Bieber, noted author Salmon Rushdie, the current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, a fussy two-year-old, and 50 million people around the world have in common? They, like me, can’t stop playing Angry Birds, the highly addictive video game developed by Rovio for mobile phones and iPads.
Have you heard of this game? This year, Angry Birds is undeniably all the rage
and it is stealing all of my free time. The game has become so popular that it has been written about in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and it is considered by Facebook subscribers the best app of 2010. Please someone release me from its captive grip. Not only has Angry Birds been downloaded 50 million times (as I already mentioned) but it is estimated that people around the world spend a collective 200 million hours a day playing this puzzle game as they launch wingless birds from slingshot into flimsy structures to kill the greedy pigs who stole their eggs. What a waste of (my) precious time!! Somebody help me!
Some fans have even gone as far as to say that Angry Birds is the new Pacman or Tetris.
I think the game is like Pringles—once you pop you can't stop. Others have created International Angry Bird’s Day so that gamers can meet other fans and plan Angry Bird Flash Mobs. (Chicago held its first Meet-Up of this kind two weekends ago at Millennium Park. As it turned out, I was the only one who showed up—which makes me the most dedicated Angry Birds Fan in the city!!!!) And a dork.
Best of all an Israeli comedy show called 'Eretz Nehederet' (A Wonderful Country) has created a hilarious YouTube video that has been viewed over 2.7 million times imagining a peace treaty between the Birds and the Pigs. Here’s the censored version, minus the fowl language.
As a fan of both Angry Birds and Israeli comedy, I might suggest a few additional skit sequel ideas. For example, a Passover Seder scenario with Birds and Pigs. Everything is going just fine until the leader, a green pig, points to the egg on Seder plate, and the birds goes berserk! Another idea would be to stage a wedding ceremony between a pig and bird. When the leader of the ceremony asks if anyone has any objections to this marriage, the door suddenly swings open, and a yellow angry bird objects and the wedding ceremony turns into complete pandemonium with birds begin catapulted everywhere.
There are some like me who think that Angry Birds is one small part of an evil plot to take over the world. They think that the game has the power to steal our attention from what really matters in life.
Oh, sorry, Grandma, I would love to visit you in the hospital today but I have a species to save! They think that Angry Birds is a ploy to get our money. I will pay you anything if you help me clear the next level. And there are some who think that Angry Birds is taking over our minds. Did you just see that boomerang bird fly across the street?
I think thoughts like these are nonsense.
You did see that boomerang bird though, right? I see them everywhere now!!! The idea of using video games as a means to achieve world domination sounds like something from Pinky and the Brain or from some far off Star Trek: The Next Generation episode but not something that is really happening. Note to self-remove these references so you can get a date in this town.
And yet, think about it—200 million minutes a day are spent playing this addictive game. That’s the equivalent of 16 years of human life dedicated each day to what is a mind numbing distraction.
I am just as guilty here. Perhaps there are consequences at play here that are even worse than the time we lose to playing the game. I am worried that playing Angry Birds may have a negative effect on our psyches. Could it be that the game is slowly turning the humans of the world and in particular its Jewish followers into people with bad values? Again think about it. Every time we launch a bird into a building, are we not perpetuating a senseless and epic war? And as Jews are we not taught to advocate peace? Should revenge be our major motivation in life? Are we a people who enjoy breaking down and destroying rather than building up and repairing? And what about this indulgence of blind anger? Is this who we want to be—Angry Birds? I am also troubled about sending these kamikaze birds to their certain deaths. Who do you think brainwashed them into taking such a terrible flight? Why don’t they wear helmets like the pigs do for protection? Also, before killing the pigs, have you ever stopped to wonder if ALL the pigs, even the really little ones are guilty? What’s equally troubling is the gloating and rejoicing the birds engage in each time their enemy is destroyed. That is so not Jewish!! We are taught not to rejoice after the downfall of our enemies and yet the birds gleefully cheer at the death of the green pigs.
At the same time, I wonder, where is the game called Happy Birds? A game that features idealist, caring, loving birds that work for peace—birds that help the pigs to find sensible alternatives to eggs and who are dedicated to building rather than destroying?
Come on! Would anyone play this game? Where is the wisdom that says—rather than play this game, we could all pay more attention to our friends and family. Where is the wisdom that could direct us and guide us toward spending our precious time living out lives of meaning, purpose, connection and holiness—lives that make a difference in the world? As the song from Rent goes, we only have a limited amount of minutes here, so we need to make the best use of every moment. It doesn’t mention anything about Angry Birds as far as I can recall. On a similar note, we addicted gamers might take heed of the advice of the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days so that we may attain a heart of wisdom.” That’s how we live our best lives. That’s how we live most fully. And I am fully prepared to take my own guidance here, I promise-just as soon as I complete level 15 of the Big Set up! Really! It will only take a minute…