Erin's Musings

Why I am not going to sleep until I complete level II-3 of Angry Birds.

I am not what anyone would call a "gamer." Not since clinching the Ms. Pacman high score at the roller rink in 1985 have I bought into that time-wasting mindlessness when there's so much to do in this short life. So why am I compulsively, angrily playing Angry Birds at 4:00 a.m?

Some back story might help. I have a new iPhone 4. My first. I was not about to get sucked into the AT&T vortex four years ago when the Verizon iPhone was surely just a mere few months away. So now I'm a neophyte, knee deep in apps including Nike + iPod that promises me a great workout once I walk around and activate my sensor which, as it turns out, cannot be found in an old pair of Asics.

Since the iPhone's arrival, my four-year-old son has been greedily eyeing it, sneaking swipes at the passcode in hopes of finding Angry Birds, one of the most downloaded games in the world by Rovio Mobile Ltd.

I've never seen it, but there is zero chance that I would pay money for something so violent, so mainstream! I decide to investigate this game my son has mastered on his babysitter's phone so I can speak intelligently about why this needs to stop. Finding a free limited-feature app to download makes me feel better -- I won't need those five extra game levels in the full-featured paid version since I'll only play this once.

My son goes to bed, and I get started. Quickly I learn the game involves nothing more than slingshotting revenge-seeking birds at egg-stealing pigs housed in increasingly sturdy levels of architecture. I think I hear the pigs saying, "Look, Mama!" and "Can't get me." Mama accepts the challenge.

Sailing through the first few levels gives me a giddy sense of self-confidence. I like this game! What was I so worried about? The characters are adorable, and I'm really quite good. The pigs' taunting jeers become appreciative cheers as I move my way up, until, quite inexplicably, I get stuck at level II-3.

This is ridiculous because I now have an extra weapon, a tiny blue bird with which to catapult at the structure of wood, ice and stone sheltering the pigs. A few levels ago I thought those blinking smiling piggies were cute, but now I am too far gone to the dark side to enjoy anything but their slaughter. Also in my arsenal is a pair of yellow birds with Groucho Marx brows, plus a short-tempered cardinal.

I manage to score 22,010 points, enduring more cackles and a distracting pop-up ad for bluebird food. Not good enough. The pigs snort coldly as I fail level II-3 time after time, and no thank you very much, I don't want help or tips -- my preschooler can do this!

I know I can figure out the proper trajectory of the slingshot if given enough time. The Nyquil may not be helping my aim as much as it's helping my head cold, though consuming alcohol has always bolstered my pool game and grasp of Spanish. It seems to work better when I go for the bottom of the fortress and smash it from the foundation up, but no matter what I do the last green pig sits there smugly in its unbroken stronghold. I'm starting to like it when my wingless, useless birds explode into a poof of feathers and smoke after each launch.

Level failed! after Level failed! I keep soldiering on, knowing that the juvenile genius will be waking up in a few short hours. If he shows me the secret to getting through this, I might invest in the paid version so he can cruise through those five extra levels. While I nap.

- Erin O’Connor

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