I am one of the 40 million regular “active monthly users” of Rovio’s “Angry Birds” game…er, strategy simulator…and a professor of competitive strategy. I think one of the addicting aspects of the game is the nature of the challenge.
Strategy is about allocating resources to accomplish a goal. Resources are people, equipment, facilities, money, etc. that companies use to deliver value to their customers. Constraints are conditions that act to inhibit the effectiveness of your resource deployment on accomplishing your goal.
For those of you who are not one of the 75 million people who have downloaded some version of the game, here is what it is all about:
The Goal: Kill pigs by hurling various types of birds from a slingshot into structures that act to protect the pigs. The structures collapse and the pigs die in the rubble. (The pigs brought on such animosity by stealing the birds eggs, which made them angry.)
The Resources (birds): You are presented with a variety of birds that each have some sort of special aptitude that is deployed when you tap the screen whilst the bird is in flight.
- Red birds are basic projectiles. They possess inertia and no special “tappable” capabilities.
- Blue birds split into three smaller birds upon tapping. These birds don’t have much inertia, but seem especially effective against glass (one of the structural materials).
- Yellow birds accelerate dramatically when you tap. They seem to work well penetrating wood.
- Black birds turn into a bomb, and explode upon tapping.
- White birds drop a bomb, and zoom off to the upper right when you tap the screen during their flight.
- (I understand there is a toucan in higher levels that comes back toward the slingshot, but I haven’t gotten there yet. More simulating is required!)
The Constraints (structures): These are the buildings in which the pigs hide. They are built from stone, wood, and glass.
The Game: You are presented with a limited number of birds, with varying capabilities, in a specific order, that you must figure out how to use against the structure(s). You choose where to aim the birds; the launch angle; and when to deploy the special power of each bird.
Choosing where to aim often requires thought about what will happen after the bird hits -- will a structure fall over and knock down an adjacent structure, for instance? In essence, you will intend to set a process in motion that will result in competitive advantage (removal of as many constraints as possible with a single resource).
If and when you fail to kill all the pigs, the remaining pigs -- bruised and battered though they may be -- flash a mocking smile just prior to the “Level Failed!” screen appearing.
If and when you succeed, the flock of spectator birds that are apparently watching just off-screen erupt into wild cheering. Very rewarding!
If only stockholders would cheer wildly when a strategy is successfully executed! Oh, wait, they do, right? The share price goes up! I guess that proves my point about just how realistic Angry Birds is as a strategy simulator!
P.S. When I presented my students with this analogy, they all agreed, and then asked if they could play “Angry Birds” in class. I said no -- it's homework. :-)