Does Angry Birds Deserve the Hate?

There’s no denying that Angry Birds is a huge success. Just look at how many talk show hosts like to drop references to the game in order to appear trendy and reflective of the cultural zeitgeist. The news that it recently became the biggest selling game on the PlayStation Network, despite being the most expensive version of a title available on almost every modern phone worldwide, solidifies the fact that Angry Birds is a cultural phenomenon. enjoyed by gamers and non-gamers alike.

Naturally, this means it sucks, right?

Angry Birds backlash has swept the gamer community like a tidal wave. You can get a decent example of some of the hatred (with, admittedly, some spirited defense of the game) in the comment section of this Destructoid article on the PSN sales. As you can see, while some people attempt to present genuine criticism of the game, there are yet more who simply respond with blind, unjustified hatred. I’m willing to bet that a lot of people don’t even know why they hate Angry Birds, as evidenced by the sheer lack of thought that’s gone into some of the posts slamming it. The message seems to be that it is popular and it is not like a “normal” videogame, therefore something is wrong with it. As one commenter put it, the success of Angry Birds is enough to make one “lost faith” in humanity. Yes, Angry Birds is humanity’s lowest ebb.

Because of course, the Stalin’s Great Purge and the Rape of Nanking were nothing compared to Angry Birds selling a few million copies.

Now, some people do have a semblance of constructive criticism concerning the game. The most popular is that Angry Birds is essentially a re-skin of the Flash game Crush the Castle. No, Angry Birds is not an original concept and nobody’s wrong in pointing that out. However, does that mean Angry Birds is a bad game and unworthy of its accolades? Of course not. Crush the Castle was, itself, a twist on the “artillery” genre of games, a genre that stretches back as far as 1976. Games that use judgement and practice to line up angled shots against a distant enemy are nothing new. It started with a game that was simply called Artillery, it evolved to include well-known products such as Worms and Scorched Earth, and eventually elements of environmental destruction were included to create titles like Crush the Castle and Castle Clout. That Angry Birds “copied” this idea doesn’t really say much at all.

The truth is, Angry Birds did it in a way that resonates with the public, on an emerging mobile platform that found a fresh new audience. Yes, Angry Birds’ gameplay is inspired by an earlier online game, which was itself inspired by decades of artillery titles, but that doesn’t invalidate the design of Angry Birds’ puzzles, the appeal of its visual style and premise, and the success that was ultimately earned.

The developers at Rovio took existing gameplay, presented it in a unique style, and sold it to people who would never have looked twice at Crush the Castle or the games from which it had been derived. Are they bad people for that? Is the game terrible for that? Does it really not deserve to be a hit? Seriously, if this is the best argument people have against Angry Birds, that it “copied” another game, then we might as well shut down the entire videogame industry. Let’s not pretend that, outside of Rovio, this industry is full of creative, inventive individuals who have never lifted the concept from another game and made it their own before.

I find that, when examined, the “Crush the Castle” argument really doesn’t hold water. Rovio did nothing that hasn’t been done by nearly every developer on the planet. It took an idea, made it personal, and then sold it. That Angry Birds became a huge mega success is the only crime, here. That’s the sense I get from people who hate it — it’s popular, therefore it sucks. Just look at the people who mindlessly dump on Call of Duty without backing up their opinion if you want to see how blatant it is.

Of course, Rovio has not done itself any favors when it comes to public image. The studio has, lately, made itself sound very smug. It’s laughed at Nintendo for selling “$49 pieces of plastic” and criticized Microsoft’s business methods, despite the fact that both Nintendo and Microsoft are still very successful in their own ways. The studio very famously stated that consoles are dying, now that mobile gaming is becoming popular. Statements like these really do inspire backlash, and I don’t blame people for disliking the company. Yes, Angry Birds was a success, but so far it’s Rovio’s only success, and the studio is now acting like it somehow knows everything about the industry and is some sort of market prophet.

This overconfident smugness based on the success of one not-too-original game and its many, many ports has certainly helped earn some ire. As much as I defend and support mobile gaming, I find it very hard to stick up for egotistical behavior from mobile developers (not just Rovio) who suddenly believe that they’re masters of the market because they had one breakthrough success.

However, Rovio’s attitude does not a bad game make, and Angry Birds is a good game. It’s quirky, it’s simple, and it’s perfectly suited to the mobile platform from which is arose. People who say they don’t “get” the success of Angry Birds must not be thinking straight, because it’s very obvious — it’s a simple game suited to a simple platform, with a silly, random, humorous premise that most people can appreciate. Is it really so difficult to grasp how it became successful? More to the point … do you really think it’s a shit game, or have you just seen a picture of it on the Colbert Report and decided it was shit because everybody’s playing it?

Makes me wonder how many of you would shit all over Okami if it had sold more than five copies.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

15 Comments on Does Angry Birds Deserve the Hate?

RowdyRodimus

On April 11, 2011 at 6:12 am

As I said on Twitter, if an unfinished “game” like Minecraft can be loved by so many gamers and win GOTY awards, Angry Birds shouldn’t get any hate.

A: It’s an actual game
B: It’s finished

It’s just more of the “ZOMG, people who can’t name the composer of the last 12 Atlus games are meddling in my games. Now we’ll never see that Hentai FPS Dungeon Crawler from Korea that sold 3 copies over the last two years come over here! The casuals ruin it for everybody!”

Vince (Not Vance)

On April 11, 2011 at 6:17 am

Good way of putting the argument against (and for) Angry Birds into an actual coherent thought, which puts you a large step above all of the haters.

If you don’t like the game, fine. No big deal. The “Crush the Castle” argument makes no sense, since I can make a similar argument about any game ever made (Madden 2011 is just a re-skin of Football for the Atari, Call of Duty is just a re-skin of Medal of Honor, etc).

The dumbest thing I see is people saying “UGH WHY IS THIS GAME SO POPULAR WHEN THERE ARE LIKE 10 OTHER GAMES THAT SELL A FRACTION OF WHAT ANGRY BIRDS SELLS”. Right, because ing Angry Birds is TOTALLY cutting into those lucrative Enslaved, Lost in Shadows and Super Stardust sales, right guys?

No

On April 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

It is a puzzel game and to make it more interesting they through in random elements everytime. So that you may get lucky one time and beat the level but do it again it wont happen. It adds replay value but do you really want that in a puzzle game?

Dan

On April 21, 2011 at 8:20 am

The reason Angry Birds is a bad game is because it has terrible gameplay. All it consists of is guessing where to throw a bird such that it kills all of the pigs, but this doesn’t require any actual skill (queue fanboys raging about their 100% 3-stars). I’m sorry, but the trial-and-error gameplay is just boring. Also my opinion of the game is superficially lowered further by the fact that the developer is such a .

Ben

On September 22, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I think the reason gamers “blindly” hate angry birds is simply because it is the one that became popular. In the last decade hundreds of games have come out over many platforms, and as a gamer I feel like I speak for everyone when I say that it is amazingly depressing that such a simple and blandly repetitive game has become the “gem of the gaming world”. There are so many games that are so much more deserving of this kind of attention. I think a good example of how (real) gamers are reacting to Angry Birds is if back when wine was just starting to become seen as a legitimate, artisan craft, a community of wine aficionados had to watch as everyone drank a two-buck chuck equivalent wine and said, “Hey get a load of this amazing stuff.” Then they would have to watch as everybody goes around patting each other on the back for drinking this basic, cheap, and tasteless wine while they have been trying there best to be merely accepted get people to even just taste their own creative, inventive, and awe-inspiring creations and see the worth in them. It’s just a blow to the gut that when given the choice between the statue “David” and a pink flamingo lawn ornament people are choosing the lawn ornament, and Michelangelo is going out of business while some corporation is using stacks of hundred dollar bills as cup holders.

Kendall

On November 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

@Dan:

It does require some skill with good aim and a reason why you are aiming there to get through a number of levels in Angry Birds.

If you want to kill pigs efficiently, that can require a lot of skill and thinking to get right.

The success of Angry Birds is that it can be what people want it to be. Someone can just flail birds for a few levels and watch stuff fall over. Others can try to work through all the levels and get a sense of accomplishment that way (because as I said some levels do require some skill to complete at all). Others still can really examine the levels in detail to come up with their idea of an optimal solution.

I can take or leave the game myself (no 100% 3-stars here) but I can easily see the appeal.

Andy Erickson

On November 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm

It’s the difference between an independent film with a deep and nuanced storyline that requires thought and X-Men First Class. It’s not a game for gamers. It’s a game for the masses. That’s why they call it pop culture.

Bill

On November 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm

The problem with AG is unrelated to its originality. It’s that it’s sold millions of copies simply because it had already sold millions of copies. Everyone who develops games or supports developers by buying games can resent when something is perpetuated by being a meme rather than actually attracting interest based on merit. AG can sell as many copies at it wants, but when I see it in a tv commercial, it’s not fair.

Shayne

On November 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm

People love to hate successes, and I accept that, its an unequal world and thats not a good thing. But Angry birds came from a largely indy studio and made its success fairly. It achieved what companies like EA failed, which is to say , it “cracked” the mobile market. Its a similar sort of achievement to Minecrafts stunning ascent.

I enjoyed the game. Got it on my iphone, and every day on the lunchbreak, me and my workmate would have turns trying to beat the levels over lunch. Its that suitability for disengaged casual play that it nailed so well.

We tried other games for the casual lunch play once we had finished angry birds, but none really nailed it for us. I think they are onto something.

Gerhard

On November 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Video games are just that: games. When you get over he hubris about your ability to click a few buttons and get a life you will realize that games are just part of entertainment and diversion from actual tangible things: like living a full life. There is a place for them, but that place is below literature, film and myriad other parts of life.

Revlis

On November 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I am an avid gamer. I own hundreds of titles, ranging from side scrolling action games from the 80s to the modern MMOs (and more than just WoW). I swing both ways (PC and console gamer) and have more than my fair share of handheld gaming devices.

Angry Birds is in my collection. Yes it is simple to play, yes the masses can play it. So what? It’s got a sleek design, easy-to-use controls, and yet provides enough of a challenge to keep someone like me occupied while I’m standing in line at the super market. More power to ‘em for creating a throw-away flash game that went viral. If it turns more people on to gaming, then maybe we’ll get more games. And no, I don’t see the big-time developers dropping production of their titles in favor of appstore games. I personally think it’s great that independent game developers have a profitable niche again.

Johnny bravo

On December 11, 2011 at 5:40 am

Why do people love this game so much? I’ve been been games that are EXACTLY like angry birds for years. Definitely not the first of its kind.

Alaqius

On December 13, 2011 at 7:09 am

Totally overhyped game. In Finland we’re going to have Angry Birds themed playgrounds for kids next year. There are be hundreds of very original and innovative flash games, that would deserve even a slight percentage of the attention AB has received with it’s recycled idea.

Laffin

On May 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm

The first every computer game (from the 50s?) was an artillery game. Played over massive mainframe servers. There is no surprise it is still catchy. I like AB more than worms. That´s for sure.

Kat

On June 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm

God-bloody-awful gameplay depending on luck and trial and error rather than reasoning, strategy, hand-eye coordination, knowledge or anything else resembling a skill (don’t blame it on Angry Birds being “simple”; it’s entirely possible to make a well-designed casual game with simple mechanics that rewards you for actually being good at it – just look at any puzzler on Facebook). I know why people like it and I’m not gonna expect everyone to be a game designer, but it IS terrible.