It is a little known fact that Angry Birds was invented in the 1970’s by two small boys in the barren urban landscape of Wester Hailes on the outskirts of Edinburgh. How do I know? I was one of those boys. The other, Stuart Douglas, is so far behind the mobile device times that he thinks Angry Birds is a Jimmy McGovern reaction to something involving Nerys Hughes.
I admit, this is a bold claim but bear with me. To give this some context, in Wester Hailes in the 70’s there was NOTHING to do. All the open spaces in which you could play football were decorated with Vulgarian “No Ball Games” signs. If ever there was an entrepreneurial landscape; this was it. Forget the iPad infested SXSW love-ins. This was invention as a necessity, not as any kind of glory hunting, fortune seeking, “look at me I made a thing” creativity. So, is it any surprise that this is where Angry Birds was really born?
This was when toys didn’t have batteries. Toys didn’t do things. You did things with toys. They were inanimate lumps of plastic or lead painted metal. In the grim urban squalor (am I over-doing this yet?) of Wester Hailes what else could you do but to get violent and use the toys to get angry. People will tell you that modern video games make children violent. Well, we managed it with long before I became Quake fodder.
So, the game. Stuart had the traditional box of cars, lorries and toy soldiers. Sadly, no bike, this still scars, taunt him, you’ll see. You took turns to select a car or lorry or whatever from the box until they were all gone. Then you did the same with the toy soldiers. Then you had your defences and your army.
The next, crucial, phase is to arrange your cars etc into a defensive position and the place your soldiers behind the barricades. There was one special soldier, a knight who had a cross on his shield. We called him “The Priest” (for reasons only an entirely irreligious 8 year old could explain). He was special because he was the only weapon.
Taking turns, you threw the priest at the opposing defensive position aiming to knock over the soldiers. Starting to sound familiar yet? The winner was the team to have the last people standing. Once you took out the last opposition soldier – a whoop of delight and the recriminations would begin.
Most often, the most damage could be done by aiming for the defences. If you could move a vehicle you could take out a lot of soldiers. It meant you had to throw hard, which meant you’d often get a plastic soldier in the face.
It’s Angry Birds innit? The similarity is as astonishing as it is entirely unenforceable in law. But I don’t care about the money. Or the fame. Or the glory. None of that.
One memorable game we took the whole game down the burn and setup the opposing army on either side of the raging torrent of water and low grade sewage. It was like Helm’s Deep long before WETA and CGI.
So, Rovio blokes, two wee boys got there first. You have stood on the scrawny, mince fed shoulders of small giants. But it doesn’t end there, you have more to learn. Not only am I not going to chase you for prior art, I’m going to give you more ideas for free. Here goes…
Angry Birds : Battle Edition
Connect two iPhones/iPad/device of choice. Each player gets the same scenery at either end of an open battlefield (or over a burn) and has to decide where to place their birds. In advanced levels you could also place the scenery, cars, lorries whatever. Once all the birds are in place, the battle starts. Same game, same rules. First person to take out all the opposition wins. It would be proper good fun. Get on with it. I’d pay at least £0.59 for it, perhaps more. Might go to a quid.
There you go. The next big thing in mobile gaming. Made in Wester Hailes. Whodathunkit?
Next week : how we invented the game “Diving about in dog shit“. Rovio – get it touch if you want to get in early…
I used to play a similar game with those small green toy soldiers and then, stupidly, with Transformer toys. Our game was occasionally a little dangerous as we launched pieces of concrete blocks found in our battlefield (the road being built in place of an old railway line behind our house) at the structures we had built. I got in the way once, and only once, and I’m sure that under my hairline there will still be a scar.
The Transformers Edition was fun whilst it lasted but as you can imagine the toys soon started to lose parts. I remember Metroplex losing a leg. It’s always the same as a kid, you take the joy of the moment and don’t think about the consequences. The good news is I could actually get a Metroplex on Ebay now for around £30.
I really like the idea of being able to decide what the in-game objects you are aiming for are. Great idea!