I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Can't sleep. Birds will anger me.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a news item on BBC Breakfast. It featured some pigs. My reaction was to shout KILL THEM WITH BIRDS.

I blame Phil.

As it goes that's twice I've blamed him for something this week. The first was for getting me to enter a half-marathon next April; this time it's for me being the UK's number one Angry Birds HD player. So that's the iPad game, not the iPhone one. Here, let me show you.

total score national leaderboard 3rd nov 2010
See that there 'dsf' is me. I've got the best score, as logged in the in-built online leaderboard system "Crystal", in the UK. I'm also 12th in the world.

Fuck me.

It's not down to Phil that I'm (currently) the best in the UK, of course. But it is down to him that I played the game in the first place. Back in mid-June a mate and I went to Warsaw for the Big Four Sonisphere debut, and we stayed in Phil's flat. The morning of the day of the gig, after a fucking huge night's drinking, out came Phil's iPad for us to have a play with. Actually just for me to play with; Chris refused to touch it because he knew that to touch was to want and to want was to buy. iPads ain't cheap.

I, on the other hand, was convinced I had no use for one. I touched, thinking, what use is this device? I don't like ebooks. What else can this thing do? So I had a bit of a browse, a bit of a tweet, a bit of a play with the UI. Yeah, it was alright, yeah, the keyboard wasn't as bad as I expected, yeah, it was shiny and pretty, but ... meh.

"Here, have a play of this".

Angry Birds HD. Level one. What do I do? Just fling the bird from the catapult to try and kill the pig and destroy the stuff around it. Oh, OK. *fling* *squawk* *oink* *snort* *crash* *cheer*.

Ooer. This is fun. This is lots of fun. This is lots and LOTS of fun. Yes, I know the gig starts soon, but look, I just need to get through the next level. And maybe the next one.

We made the gig, and it was fucking awesome (though Dave Mustaine's voice is shot to pieces now), but that was it. Seed sown. I needed an iPad. Even the fact that I pulled a few days later didn't detract from the fact that I had to play Angry Birds HD. My justification for this utterly frivolous and profligate purchase was this: it was my birthday a couple of weeks later.

First, I played through the levels. It was enormous fun. I stayed up 'til all hours playing it, and gave it 90 minutes or so each morning before work too. Then I went back to 3* every level -- though before managing this, I lost my save game and had to start from scratch, grr. I 3*ed everything, I checked my scores, and I was in the top 20 worldwide for each episode. Yay me!

Some terminology: when you fling birds to kill pigs, you're playing a level. The levels are grouped in 15s or 21s into worlds, which themselves are grouped 2 or 3 to an episode.

So, there are a lot of levels. Yet on a combined basis, I was pretty bloody good at this.

More levels came out while I was on holiday, for 2.5 weeks, without my iPad. Whoa! Got back and 3*ed them all in moderately short order. Things changed on the scoreboards, and you could now see your overall place, all scores combined. And I was getting higher, because I'd gone back to the start and played each level again until, on most of them, I eked out anything from a few hundred to tens of thousands more points (such improvements causing me to shout GET THE FUCK IN or HAVE THAT YOU CUNTS quite a lot).

I took a break... to play Angry Birds Halloween HD. No leaderboards for that; universal opinion is that it's a harder game. I 3*ed every level in 3 or 4 days.

Back to the original. By now I was checking my position on a per-episode or per-world basis, spotting where my deficiencies where -- because that was also where the most points available to me were, clearly. And I saw something I could achieve, a natural target: I wanted to be number one in the UK.

10 or so days ago I was about 170k points behind that guy. Firmly in number 2 spot, a good 170k or so ahead of number 3, the only way was up. I got to about 140k behind.

The bastard played it some more. He was 200k ahead.

I've put in about 20 hours of it in the past week I think. Maybe even more. Playing the same old levels. Figuring out where my 3*s resulted from getting a score only just above the threshold, thus meaning there was a lot more available to me. Hitting shots which gave me an extra 10, 12, or 15k on a level. Realising I'd missed out an entire world on my first rerun. The points came thick and fast.

Suddenly I was 120k behind.
Then 80k.
Then 40k.
Then 12k.
Then 6k.

Then last night. Fuelled by 5 post-work pints, I was simultaneously determined to not go to bed until I was number one, and pissed and drowsy enough that I almost missed my stop on the train on the way home. But I had to get there.

Then 500 points.

Then half an hour of frantically starting a level, throwing a bad shot, giving up. Picking levels at random. I'd completely forgotten which levels I had mentally noted were ripe for a few more points. I was just going all over the show, on the verge of achieving this desperately sad ambition...

... *fling* *squawk* *crash* *oink* *snort* *cheer*

An extra 1k.
500 points in the lead.
UK number fucking one.


I don't think, in my entire life before or after today, I will ever be the best at something in the UK in such a public and measurable way. The only score charts available are on Crystal, and I top them. It's a game that millions of people have downloaded and played, and of the hundreds of thousands to have done so on the iPad, I am 12th best in the world and best in the UK. In this insignificant (yet fun) sphere, I currently fucking own. Awesomes.

I know exactly why I like Angry Birds. The reasons are similar to why I like Guitar Hero so much, or pinball. Not to the exclusion of other game types, but these are, to me, games of pure skill. You have a task, this task is always the same, and you just have to do it. You don't have to do lateral thinking, you have no AI opponents, you have no real opponents, you just have a start point that's identical and an aim: to do better than you've done before. And because of the lack of opponents, because it's not a match with a win/lose outcome but only scores, and because there are no external factors weighing on what happens, games like this are the perfect experience of practice, improve, practice, improve, practice, improve. And I like improvement.

Like my newer hobby of running, fuelled as I am by times and distances (as well as weight loss and stuff), I am competitive against one main competitor: me. Beating me is what's most important; conversely, losing to me sucks. And if I can then, after beating myself repeatedly, look up, survey the landscape and see that I'm better than everyone else? Well fuck me, I call that an achievement.


Brian said...

Pretty random that I ended up on your blog, but happy I did. Brilliant post, demonstrating a sick competitive streak that we should all be so honest to admit to.

And although I have only played a little bit, Angry Birds does seem quite addictive.

AisforRandom said...

you should try entanglement or facebook scrabble. You won't accomplish anything for another year. Maybe you shouldn't try it.

Aaron Chassidy said...

I just hit "next blog" and was pleased with my decision. The post on angry birds was hilarious. Not to mention being number 1 in a entire country at something that so many people play is completely badass. Try not being able to sleep because money is angering you and start playing the stock market with the vigor you play angry birds, then send me some money for giving you the idea. Awesome post video game olympian.