March 25, 2013

The Bad Piggies Phenomenon

Do you have a tablet or an iPad? Do you have kids? If you have both these things, you'll probably find that getting a chance to use your tablet yourself is next to impossible. My kids are crazy about our iPad and so am I. I encourage them to develope their iOS-savvy skills, which I'm convinced will aide them later in life.

So, with this conviction in mind, I start searching through the gazillion apps to find ones that are suitable for my kids. I am looking for apps that will stimulate their creativity and will teach them something. And what do I find? Games, games and games. And games. And what's there at the top of the list? 'Angry Birds'. *shudder*

I made the 'mistake', or so I thought at the time, of letting my almost-five-year-old son Bram browse through the apps with me, to see what he might like based on the icons. Naturally, when he saw the 'Angry Birds' thumbnail pop up, he was insistant about getting it. When I say 'insistant', I mean he jumped up and down and screamed, 'I want Angry Birds!! Angry Birds!! Angry Birds!!' about fifty times till I finally gave in. I mean, just look at how angry that bird is! This can't be good for my child, I thought...
To my shock, I discovered 'Angry Birds', and more specifically, the follow-up game 'Bad Piggies' is not only fun, it's educational and clearly aids my childs' development! How can that be?!

All I knew about 'Angry Birds' was that the object of the game was to fling some squawking, annoying birds by means of a slingshot towards a tower and knocking it down. But that's not all. Inside the tower are these round, green, helpless pigs that get beat up and smooshed by the falling tower blocks. I was expecting harm and death, mayhem, cruelty. But the game actually requires some skill when it comes to aiming the slingshot, estimating a trajectory and managing to knock the tower down. Yes, the pigs get smooshed, but the level of violence is comparable to an episode of The Smurfs. To my surprise, in the weeks he has been playing 'Angry Birds', Bram's fine motor skills and jugdment has improved. Could it be that Angry Birds' really is more than a mindless, somewhat violent game?

Then, we discovered 'Bad Piggies', also by Rovio, the same creators of 'Angry Birds'. This game is centered around the round green pigs that are the object of destruction in 'Angry Birds'. But this game has even more to offer. 'Bad Piggies' is all about building a successful vehicle out of a bunch of parts to get a pig from one end of a roller-coaster-type track to the other, collecting stars along the way and finally reaching a treasure map. Some parts work, some don't. Sometimes the vehicle falls apart, sometimes you need to put the engine somewhere else for it to propel the vehicle far enough. Bram totally gets this. I totally do not. That's how clever he is and how stupid I am.

Bram has the engineering gene. He is clearly not an artsy-fartsy creative type like me, he's got the rational-thinking, logical-minded sense inherited from the male side of our family, on both sides, who are engineers, builders, logical thinkers. They get how things work. Via trial and error, one of my favorite things in this world, Bram figures out how to build a vehicle to support his pig and get him where he wants to go. Sure, sometimes he falls down or gets blown up, but the pig never dies. It rolls around for a while, then goes 'Let's do it again!' It's positive, it's constructive and it's teaching my kid more than I ever thought it would.

Just goes to show, never judge an app by its icon.

'Angry Birds' and 'Bad Piggies' are available here: