The addictive little game Angry Birds has over one billion users so we're all familiar with the movements required to control the birds on their revenge quest to decimate the green pigs and any of their fortifications. When you think of the mission, you think of complex gameplay to reach your goal and you get pretty darn excited when you achieve a new level.
Artist Evan Roth wanted to look deeper into the phenomenon of casual gaming, such as playing Angry Birds that we flock to on our mobile devices or tablets. His experiment revealed some interesting art, as well as some interesting insights into the game.
Roth used over 300 sheets of tracing paper and black ink to capture the touch gestures from each level of the game. Each piece of paper was the same size of an iPhone screen; he took the paper, inked up his finger and then played the game on top of the overlay.
The result was, what we actually think of as a complex and challenging past time is really limited to a series of repetitive moves required to move ahead. The secret revealed by the thumbprints that captured the gestures on paper, was they actually varied a small amount when viewed in succession.
In other words - the complexity is in our heads not in our hands.
The inked up paper visualization of Angry Birds is part of Roth's larger project called "Multi-Touch Paintings." The project focuses on other tasks required by our ever-present touchscreen devices. "Angry Birds" and Roth's other works are on display at the Science Gallery in Dublin.
The literature with the exhibit explains the surprising secret of this casual gaming:
Beyond visualizing the game, the piece also aims to make apparent the amount of time and repetitive gestures required to "win" the game. The resulting visualizations contrast the excitement that happens in the gaming environment with the monotony that actually takes places in the physical world. Ultimately, the piece aims to glorify and critically question this new kind of gaming interaction that never leaves our pockets."
Aside from providing some cool art and an interesting insight into our hand gestures as we play our casual games, it's likely most people will never really resonate to the idea that the physical simplicity makes them any less exciting or addicting.
Even if all you need is an opposable thumb and a few basic moves, that doesn't make kicking some green pig ass any less satisfying, suggesting that gaming is as much in your mind as it is in your gestures.