Angry Birds: Philosophical reflections on a video game

“Angry Birds” is an exceptionally successful video game.  Both the free, lite version and the paid one are among Apple’s top apps.  It has a story line of sorts; pigs steal the birds’ eggs and the birds try to punish the pigs (aka ‘kill them’); the pigs try to protect themselves.  Kids apparently love it, and sells a blue Angry-birds t-shirt for girls/women. 

There are also several features that could inspire, in succession, reflection from a philosopher. No doubt there are more, and if you can think of some, I’d love to hear about them.

1.  If you think about conditions for perceiving objects and tracking them through space, you might have asked whether you need stability or some sort of sortal.  The birds particularly have different causal properties and odd kinds of stability.  If there are sortals, they are odd, hybrid ones.

2.  Practice makes you better, but I don’t think it is possible to articulate what you are learning, at least not in any informative way.  One learns to be more accurate in hitting a target, but it is very difficult to say what that consisted in.  Thus one gets a nice case of knowing-how to think about if one works ones way through the growing literature of the knowing how/knowing that distinction Ryle drew.  If you are particular to resisting intellectualizing human capabilities, you might want to look at the recent Noe article on this in Analysis.

AND THEN, the feminist reflection.  We are told that all sorts of things, such as stereotype threat, can degrade one’s performance.  It’s often presented a bit mysteriously.  You start off on an exam, the threat is triggered, and your score is lowered.  In a game like Angry Bird, the effects of fleeting negative thoughts can be dramatic and immediate.  Think “O I can’t do this,” and you won’t be able to.  “I can’t figure out a strategy for this,” is going to quickly incapacitate you.

Finally, it can get hard to put down.  One is quickly inundated with rewards (points and celebrating birds) or punishments (failing scores and the grunts of self-satisfied pigs).  What is going on as one finds oneself caught up in it?

And, believe it or not, it is actually fun.  Solitaire is my normal game.

Education Maintenance Allowance

Among the many terrible things being done in the UK in the name of austerity, one of the worst is the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance. This is a weekly payment (10 to 30 pounds) given to poorer 16 to 18 year olds to help them stay in school How much of a difference does it make?

Research out today suggests that seven in 10 poor teenagers would drop out of school if the EMA is abolished.

And almost two-fifths (38%) say they would not have started their course had they not received the grant…

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “The axing of the EMA is a vicious attack on young people, their families and communities.

“EMA is not pocket money, it is vital support to the poorest students and allows them to buy books and pay for travel to college. Without this support many young people will be forced to drop out, or rely on their families to step in. For many families already facing pay freezes and job cuts, this will simply not be possible.

For more, go here.