No, it’s not 42. And besides, the ultimate question isn’t “What is the meaning of life?” It’s “Why are people so damn addicted to Angry Birds!?!?”

Charles Mauro, a human factors engineer, looked into this big question himself. What compelled him to explore the Angry Birds phenomenon is in the numbers: Worldwide, people spend 200 million minutes a DAY flinging bad-tempered fowl at green helmeted swine. That translates to 1.2 billion hours per year. To put that in perspective, a total of 100 million hours has been put into creating and editing content on Wikipedia, since its inception. Mind. Blown. (And all hope humanity lost)

So, what did Mr. Mauro conclude? Why do we spend our time like this? It has to do with the game’s simple interaction model. But it is not simply that the UI is simple; it is both simple and engaging. Why? Because of “the carefully scripted expansion of the user’s mental model of the strategy component and incremental increases in problem/solution methodology.”

He also goes into many little details that make Angry Birds unbelievably addicting: (continued after break)

  • Cleverly managed response time: i.e. There’s a reason the birds fly at the speed they are flung at
  • Short term memory management: i.e. When the screen first loads, the user is shown a very quick view of the structure that is protecting the pigs. Just as quickly, the structure is moved off screen to the right in a simple sliding motion.
  • Mystery: i.e. Why is the game’s play space showing a cross section of underground rocks and dirt? Why do the birds somersault into the sling shot sometimes and not others?
  • How things sound: i.e. We hear the birds chatter angry encouragement to their colleagues as each prepares for launch. We hear avian dialogue as the birds arc toward their targets and hear the pained response from their victims when they strike their targets.
  • How things look: Angry Birds has a look. One might characterize the visual style of Angry Birds as a combination of “high-camp cartoon” with a bit of greeting card graphics tossed in for good measure.
  • The unmeasurable
If you are interested in UI design, and/or you just want to know why you can’t put Angry Birds down, I highly recommend you take a look at Mauro’s analysis of Angry Birds: