Saturday, September 15, 2012

Get Angry: Physics Based IPhone Games are Big Business

Written by Andrew Long 
Almost everyone has played the addictive, yet maddening game, Angry Birds. It is interesting to think that just three years ago, the app was launched and changed the field of phone games. It has become a cultural phenomenon. The game has released multiple editions on multiple platforms and has sold over 1 billion copies, according to Rovio’s website ( The company has also released a line of clothing and stuffed animals. Although the physics of the game is not perfect, much of the game mimics the concepts of real life projectile motions.

If you have not played Angry Birds before, you should download the game immediately (unless you actually want to be productive, then you should avoid it at all costs). After playing around a little bit with the game, you will quickly find that the slingshot with the angry birds allows you to pull back the bird at different lengths to give the birds different initial velocities. In addition, you can change the angle of incidence to increase the speed in either the positive or negative y direction. This is important in order to hit the pigs and beat each level (especially at the higher levels), you have to hit the pigs at certain points with pinpoint accuracy. Although I doubt most people do calculations to shoot off their birds, you could use the formula V0t+(1/2)at2=distance to determine the distance the bird would be shot at different velocities (related to how far back you pull the slingshot).  After trying that a bit you would realize you would need a positive y component velocity in order to reach the pigs on the far right side of the screen so you would have to break up the velocities into its components and solve for the angle of incidence using vectors.

Physics is everywhere nowadays, and people are profiting greatly from physics in many unconventional ways. In addition to Angry Birds, there are other iPhone games that use the concepts of projectile motion in their format. My personal favorite iPhone game is called Tiny Wings by pressing the screen, you can increase the acceleration of the bird towards the ground. By pressing the screen the right amount, you can make the bird’s displacement the perfect amount to go slide along the hill. This is related to the formula Vit+(1/2)at2=distance. By increasing the negative acceleration (assuming you are on a coordinate system that define’s down as negative), you can decrease the distance traveled  by the bird. Of course, the physics of this game is worse than angry birds because you can gain speed by sliding down the hill and fly higher than you were before sliding down the last hill (this is mainly because you get a boost of speed by sliding down the hills, so the physics they use are not as bad as they sound), but, all in all it is an awesome game that makes you think a little bit about acceleration and projectile motion.


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