Angry Birds and Addicted Gamers

I was crumpling old newspaper into the fireplace when a familiar graphic caught my eye.  I glanced down and noticed the phrase, “the appeal… it doesn’t punish.”

I immediately pulled the page out of the fire and blew it out.  What can I say?  I’m a behavior junkie.

The article (I will provide a link, rather than the charred fragment) was a Wall Street Journal piece about the incredibly popular mobile game Angry Birds.  While the article is now out of date and somewhat incomplete (the game has only grown since November, with expansions, and the article doesn’t mention the additional quarter million downloads since it hit the Android Market), I was pleased to read the analysis that casual games rely upon positive reinforcement and a lack of punishment to addict their market share.


Angry Birds behavior analysis

click to embiggen

I call myself a poser-gamer, as I am friends with gamers of all varieties (card games, MMORPGs, video games, pencil-and-paper RPGs, etc.) and yet I play very little myself.  But I have said for years that a positive reinforcement trainer would be an excellent consultant to a game company, and a clicker trainer would be a brilliantly wicked GM.

We did get a chance to present clicker training at the the world’s largest gaming convention, Gen Con, last year (2010).  We offered a two-hour workshop called “Beastmaster: the Art of Animal Training for the Real World” which included hands-on practice with rescued pit bulls brought in by Indy Pit Crew.  We got great feedback, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to offer it again this year due to space limitations; a group of excited bullies needs more square feet than a table of miniatures.

Still, I remind my more geeky clients to train their dogs to “farm the mat” and “camp the target like an unethical gamer.”  Because positive reinforcement works for unruly dogs and angry birds.

About Laura VanArendonk Baugh CPDT-KA KPACTP

Laura was born at a very young age and started playing with animals immediately after. She never grew out of it, and it looks to be incurable. She is the author of the bestselling FIRED UP, FRANTIC, AND FREAKED OUT. She owns Canines In Action, Inc. in Indianapolis, speaks at workshops and seminars, and is also a Karen Pryor Academy faculty member.
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