Angry Birds, Museum-Bound

Image by Flickr user chooyutshing
Image by Flickr user chooyutshing

I almost can’t believe my eyes as I sit here looking at a press release titled:

Rovio Announces “Angry Birds Universe: The Art and Science of a Global Phenomenon” Traveling Exhibit 

Angry Birds…in a museum? My mind reels. First off, wow! Second off, thank goodness for United We Game, because how can I NOT write about this?

You can check out the full press release here, but yes, it’s true. Sometime in 2014 a traveling Angry Birds exhibit will be headed out to select American museums and science centers. The announcement came direct from Rovio at this week’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ annual meeting. Rovio summed up the venture as follows:

The exhibit, which will be designed, produced and toured by Imagine Exhibitions and JRA (Jack Rouse Associates), invites guests to explore the world of Rovio’s Angry Birds and will feature a variety of immersive environments and interactive media activities.  Angry Birds fans will not only learn about a wide variety of educational concepts in an entertaining manner, but will also have the chance to experience Angry Birds in real life.

At this point, I can only imagine what “the chance to experience Angry Birds in real life” will mean, but I’m pretty sure it won’t involve flinging children across a room…maybe. Okay, so the exhibit won’t be ALL fun and games; in fact, physics and engineering are at the crux of the whole thing, so visitors will experience some actual science as they explore the world of Angry Birds. This makes perfect sense given the important roles both disciplines play in the Angry Birds games.

Do you remember how everyone got at least a little excited over the physics of Angry Birds when it first came out? The game was unique, though physics in games wasn’t anything new. In fact, it was kind of this “holy grail” of gaming engines for awhile. It’s one thing to set up great environments with great stories and great characters, it’s another to make it truly seem like the players have any impact on that world. Angry Birds told the story of literal “impact” through birds and pigs. I’m sure it might have sounded kind of silly to the game’s inventors and investors early on, but it worked! Angry Birds is all about formulating the right trajectories to create the right amount of destruction. It’s perfectly akin to what engineers do when they’re razing buildings. Except we got to do it with cartoon birds and the haphazard construction of swines. Cause it’s safer that way. Also, pigs are terrible builders, except for the third pig of the Three Little Pigs. Bricks, y’know – smart.

The new Angry Birds exhibition won’t be first time we’ve seen video games take center stage in museums. In fact, there are a number of centers devoted to the subject, and the recent Art of Video Games exhibition at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum saw rousing successes throughout its run. My hope is that Angry Birds will be just one in a long line of games that get their chances to reach the wider population of museum-goers. Whether viewed through the lens of art, the lens of science, or the lens of general culture, we all, gamers (yes, you) and non-gamers can learn a lot from video games.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    It’s not surprising considering how popular the game is, but I can’t help but have mixed feelings. I’m a casual vs. core guy when it comes to my opinions on games, and yet it still feels…strange that Angry Birds is the first series to have a museum exhibit dedicated to it. Is there really enough there to fill a special exhibit? I just…I dunno…

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    1. cary says:

      I totally get where you’re coming from. There’s something a little icky (for lack of a better term) about Angry Birds getting the cultural spotlight over any number of more influential games with more established histories.

      Rovio’s motivations seem legit, so I’m hopeful that this exhibition will be more than just a big Angry Birds advertisement. And it’s nice to see a game take center stage, rather than remain just a cultural footnote. But I’ll reserve full judgment until the thing is released or, even better, I get to attend!

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  2. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    I can’t resist a video games-museum crossover, even if it involves a game as ubiquitous as Angry Birds. Over on United We Game I reported on a new venture by Rovio regarding an Angry Birds traveling exhibition that may be coming to a museum/science center near you next year. As video games make inroads culturally, is this a sign of good things to come or a harbinger of doom?

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  3. Vitosal says:

    I feel torn. While it’s great that games are making an impact I don’t think that this game deserves the exhibit. Of all the games out there, this one gets chosen. I’m sure the person that chose this played it once or twice and loved it. (I’m being mean, sorry)

    Can you imagine like 200 years from now, and these robonoid, alien species come to this museum, and one kid’s like “Oh, I wonder what the human’s pivotal moment in gaming history was?” And there will be Angry Birds…yay

    I am so grumpy today 🙂

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    1. cary says:

      Grumpy or not, your point is a good one. Hard to imagine us looking back with total fondness on the Angry Bird juggernaut. But it’s a start….maybe not an awesome start, but it’s a start I’m willing to accept.

      I’m guessing this venture is Rovio’s own idea rather than the product of collusion in the industry. But the real work lies with the exhibit designers. God willing that at least some of them are familiar with Angry Birds beyond just seeing it in the news.

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  4. darianknight says:

    It’s called milking a franchise to death until it’s nothing more than beating a dead horse. There really is nothing novel or innovative about Angry Birds that wasn’t already done in games like Scorched Earth many years ago. It used the same concept (to a much higher degree) and was multiplayer with a ton of upgrades. That game today lives on in incarnations such as Shellshock Live online.

    The only thing Angry Birds has going for it is some cartoon characters and cross-merchandising blitz to make as many knock-off versions as possible and remain relevant past its 15 minutes of fame. Personally, I don’t think it has any right to be in a museum since the main objective is simply to promote the game itself and squeeze into a venue it hadn’t infiltrated yet while appealing to more kids as “educational” so parents will buy their kids more Angry Birds stuff and not feel so bad about it.

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    1. cary says:

      Your points are well taken. Very often museum, though especially science centers and the like, will often look to pop culture to find “new” ways to distribute information to the masses. (And honestly, Angry Birds is still “new” to some, regardless of any better predecessors.) In this case, from the museum’s point of view, the exhibit is less about Angry Birds The Game; rather, Angry Birds is a gateway to learning about physics. I’m fine with that. Rovio’s motivations may be more questionable as, no doubt, this is certainly a way to give Angry Birds tons more visibility (if unwarranted). Now, if Rovio was planning a video game-centric exhibit with Angry Birds at its core, well…that would be a wholly different story, and one I probably wouldn’t spin so positively.

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