A Compulsion That’s for the Birds
by David Weinshilboum
When I was a kid, addictions seemed straightforward. I was naïve and I gathered most of my information from television and the movies. I figured that addictions had to involve drugs of some sort. If you drank too much, you were an alcoholic. If you snorted something, chances were it was cocaine. To me, the most complex addictive substance was morphine. How did I know about morphine? I saw the movie “The Deep,” where a boatload of morphine is lost in the oceanic depths off the Florida Keys and watched over by an enormous moray eel.
Nowadays, though, addictions are far more bizarre than eel-guarded morphine. National talk show hosts are addicted to oxycontin. As I learned growing up, addictions extend well beyond mere chemicals. In hindsight, I think that my father was addicted to his work. (To be fair, my father still managed to focus on family while tending to his compulsion.) Other addictions are much more puzzling to me. Famous athletes—who dub themselves “King” or refer to themselves in the third person—are so addicted to themselves that they make Narcissus look humble. Clearly, some of my Facebook friends are addicted to social networking. Those 3 a.m. posts of “Anyone out there?” are really just cries for help, aren’t they?
Of course, my rant on addictions is fragile business. Although I’m not obsessed with drugs, work, or Zuckerberg’s zillion-dollar baby, I undoubtedly have firsthand experience with addiction.
Angry Birds is a teensy little application that creates a big-time addiction. The game’s premise? A bunch of green pigs have stolen eggs from some birds. The birds want their eggs back, and a modicum of revenge—not necessarily in that order. To retrieve the aforementioned eggs and to exact their bloody retribution, birds load themselves into a slingshot and catapult their bodies into various architectures where the pigs hide. The goal is to destroy evil pigs that hide ‘neath the battlements. The game was designed for hand-held devices, so one can touch the screen, determine angle and velocity and fire away.
I downloaded the application for my 10-year-old son, Alex. When he had trouble besting the pigs on a given level, he’d seek my assistance. I’d lend a hand. Until…
“DAD, GIVE IT BACK!”
“I thought you wanted my help.”
“YOU’VE BEEN PLAYING FOR 20 MINUTES!”
“But I haven’t won yet.”
“NOT THIS LEVEL, NO.”
20 minutes turned into 30. The half hour of Angry Birds transformed into an hour. I couldn’t help myself. I breezed through the first iteration of the game. Then I tried to better my scores and earn “three star ratings” for each level. I found myself cursing at my iPhone’s iscreen. “That’s bullshit physics. Clearly, the bird was at terminal velocity and should have mashed through that wooden wall!” I screamed.
I learned that I wasn’t alone in my addiction. I recently found out that a colleague was up until 4 a.m. attempting to demolish the flat-nosed enemies. A family friend admitted that she was once late for work because of an Angry Bird binge. To those of you who find yourself up late, missing work, or ignoring hygiene all in the name of one more level, one more star, I beseech you to get help.
Luckily, my infant son sensed my addiction, borrowed my phone and (perhaps deliberately) deleted the Angry Birds application. With support from friends and family, I’m taking it one day at a time.
Alas, my family remains engulfed in ABA—Angry Birds addiction. I learned of my wife’s ABA unexpectedly. I was sleeping soundly one night as my wife remained awake … playing Angry Birds. Remember how I told you that the game’s physics was slightly off? Well, one night my wife was trying to attain three-star status on a given level; she decided that catapult trajectory could be altered by violently tipping her phone to one side. Suddenly, I found myself getting elbowed in the side as she jerked her phone to the right.
“What are you doing?” I asked in a somnolent haze.
“Nothing,” she replied. “I just need…” (tip/elbow/OUCH!) “to get the building … to tip the other way!”
I’ve yet to muster the courage or energy for an intervention. But I’ll confront her—just as soon as I finish playing Fruit Ninja.
David Weinshilboum, who has a love/hate relationship with his iPhone, can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.