Hey all - your friendly, neighborhood (the other) Pete here with another mildly rant-like contribution.
BUT FIRST - Acknowledgements / Shout Outs / Big Ups to Ryan who is going going crazy-awesome with content development! It's great. I love it. Keep it up!
SomethingAwful (an old Internet community that uses profane language to express their points, so no link for you!) recently published a well-read article called, "I'm Begging You, World, Shut Up About Angry Birds." The article started similarly to mine, with an upcoming rant confession turned apology, followed by how awful the Angry Birds phenomenon is - mainly because it's been popular for so long and everyone should move on. A similar, less-read article was posted months before on The Yorker called "It's Time to Stop Talking about Angry Birds," which appears to contain family appropriate language and focuses strictly on the gameplay, not the cultural phenomenon. Countering both arguments, although addressing little of the same points, Gamespot posted "It's Time to Stop Ignoring Angry Birds," an article that calls out some of the great achievements the game has had so far - claiming in conclusion that, "This game will sell more copies than any video game ever made before it is forgotten, and it will shatter every perception of what a video game can do" - a pretty lofty expectation, although likely true.
I'm taking a fairly different stance - it's awesome that everyone, including your grandmother, knows about Angry Birds. Computer gaming to non-gamers used to simply be Solitaire or Minesweeper, while console gaming was Mario. This over-simplification led to too many insulting encounters preaching the uselessness of games. Parents, teachers, even strangers would take arms against the childishness of console gaming or the non-stimulating nature of computer games. It was easy to put all of gaming into a single category as useless and a waste of time, a low form of entertainment for the young and easily amused. Violent video games only made matters worse - their loud graphic disturbances scared mature adults away from the living room and made games into an enemy rather than simply a time waste.
Video games became part of a generational divide - something that kids got and parents loathed. They opened a hole in communication and undoubtedly caused unnecessary friction between two sides that had no common ground.
Gamers (and iD Tech) know the truth. While there are many waste-worthy titles in the gaming landscape, hundreds of quality titles exist across all platforms - artistic masterpieces that challenge the mind and body in ways that cannot be achieved in any other media. The New York Times recently reviewed Uncharted 3 with such praise as, "From its engaging, heartfelt script and character performances to its meticulous pacing, dramatic cinematography and lush visual production, Uncharted 3 is mass-market interactive entertainment of the highest order." The article scatters throughout the idea that Uncharted 3 is on par with a major motion picture - or even beyond one. But I'm not here to defend the honor of video games - it's likely that you're already a believer(!)
Angry Birds is a conversation between the gamers and the non-gamers. It's an agreement that games can be worthwhile - even as something that's basically goofy in spirit and design. Angry Birds goes beyond Minesweeper and Solitaire, as there is a strong narrative. It goes beyond Mario because the gameplay is accessible and understandable - a physics game is easier to grasp than a two dimensional platformer with magical mushrooms! The more that Grandma understands about Angry Birds, the better she'll be at appreciating the value of Game Design for the iPhone & Android. Adults that start with Angry Birds may be more prepared to experiment with other forms of gaming, like amazing puzzle-game Portal 2 (and subsequent student mods).
Let Angry Birds be the bridge to comprehension. Allow everyone to talk about it, buy stuffed birds, and reenact it - none of those activities hurt gamers. Remember, non-gamers have to talk about *something*, they might as well talk about something that mildly resembles a modern game, particularly if it helps broaden their gaming horizons.