Have you ever done something that was so frustratingly difficult that you couldn’t remember why you’d even tried in the first place? A task so massively daunting that it doesn’t even seem humanly possible. Maybe it could be as simple as beating a friend 1-on-1 in basketball, or maybe it’s just trying to dunk once on a regulation height basket, or it could even be something as huge as 3-peat-ing in the NBA Finals, but everyone at every level probably has a goal that seems impossible to them.
And some do go on to glory and make these dreams come true but the rest of us just hit face first into the brick wall of reality before begrudgingly taking a consolation prize.
This is what it’s like to complete an Angry Birds game (oh… you didn’t think I might be talking about that PhD that I failed, did you?). Finishing every level is super hard, getting 3-stars on each of those levels is damn insane, but achieving the highest possible score out of all the elite players in the whole world, that’s just fucking ridiculous. Well, for once I want to put all the effort required into a difficult task like this and then be the one to actually get something out of it!
I may have failed at many things in life but I have made it my goal to somehow, someway, get the highest score in the world on at least one Angry Birds level and cement my name in the annals of app gaming history (or at least have it stand online for like a day).
You’re probably saying to yourself right now “What a waste of time!” but I ask you this: how much different is playing this game to any of the other stupid shit you have to do in your lives? Careers, families, education, exercising, dieting, crafting, all that garbage, you’re just getting a little reward each time you hit a new checkpoint. Work some hours – get some money, blow a load – have a baby; why are these things more fulfilling than a trivial game like Angry Birds? Because they are pursuits legitimised by “society”? Well, this game is legitimised to me… by Star Wars!
I’m choosing to attempt this quest based on the Star Wars Angry Birds game, an incredibly deft re-telling of the original trilogy in goofy app game format. For at least a good 6-8 years of my formative childhood years, I focused everyday on Star Wars, and I would say that’s probably the same for any dude my age (late 30s). We’re not talking about some middling fascination with reading Harry Potter books, or playing a few games of Pokemon, this was a complete daily engrossment into a fictional universe: watching, discussing, re-enacting, collecting, staring at action figures! The only thing in my adult life that ever took as much spectacular attention was working on that damn PhD! So hopefully this quest will remind me what it’s like to enjoy spending time on something and getting a real reward in the end.
True, even if I get the highest score in the world on every single level I couldn’t then go pro on the Angry Bird circuit. And applying the required mathematical and spatial skills to these problems, as well as struggling creatively to think of new ways to manipulate my environment, will all be frustrating but this effort will mean something when I see the nickname jozhloser stamped on the Angry Birds Nest homepage for having achieved the highest recorded score on a level of a game that represents everything good and challenging about life, don’t you think?
So here now I present to you my process for playing Angry Birds Star Wars: Chapter 6 – Death Star 2.
1st – Play every new level once without re-starting.
Every new level is just a landscape with a bunch of obstacles spread out in a unique design. Amongst those obstacles are a number of pigs. You must take your bird, arm it in a slingshot and knock out those pigs. Depending on how well you do this, you are given points and those points translate into a graded star system. You get 1 star for just eliminating all the pigs, no matter how low you score, but you get 3-stars if you get rid of all the pigs and use less birds and destroy as many of the obstacles as possible.
You have a number of birds at your disposal with a different Star Wars based super-powers to help you destroy stuff (like Han Solo Bird in that picture who can shoot 3 lasers at a target you touch on the screen). And you pretty much know as soon as you’ve launched that bird if it’s going to be good or a dud. If you fire a dud bird then you probably won’t knock out all the pigs. If you play any further after this realisation then it’s just a waste of time.
However, just out of pure superstition, every time I get to a new level I must play through without restarting even if it’s an obvious dud. If I hit pause and re-start on this first attempt without having seen it through, stars or no stars, then I have officially jinxed myself.
2nd – Get 3-stars in every level
Even if I do jinx myself, it really has no consequence (obviously)… with or without that first attempt ritual, gaining enough points to get 3-stars on a level can be incredibly time consuming.
Usually the best way to get 3-stars is to wipe out all the pigs on the screen by using the least amount of birds. Therefore, when I shoot that first bird and realise it’s not going to work out, I just go into an automatic response loop, fire-fail-pause-restart-repeat. This can go on for hours with the same level just trying to get that elusive score that will qualify me for 3-stars.
And then sometimes I’ll just get 3-stars on the first try.
Now this is a strange phenomenon. In my case, if I get 3-stars on a level in the very first try then it’s not really exciting. I’m sure there are many people at the highest Angry Birds level who can do this and find it fun but for me the struggle of trying to get the 3-stars is what holds my losery attention span. I don’t want it to go on too long but I also don’t want to be good enough to get 3-stars right away. This is my problem. And once I do eventually get 3-stars on everything, it gets even worse!
3 – Achieve the highest score possible
When I see my scores on a leaderboard, either against friends or strangers, I start to get competitive. I want to be at the top.
It’s very easy for me to imagine that if I went and wrote a great novel that I would be a successful, rich and celebrated writer but since I don’t actually really try to do that then it’s still technically possible. Failing that PhD showed me very literally that there are things that I can’t achieve while it is apparently very possible for others. That’s what I see when I look at the global ranking for Angry Birds, a difficult task that is probably something I can never accomplish no matter how hard I try.
I can no longer appeal or resubmit the PhD, but maybe, just maybe, I can use the infinite number of restarts and repeats afforded in Angry Birds to let me get that top spot in the world for something! As pathetic as this may seem, I’ll be damned if I’m going to fail again.
Below is a table that charts my progress through the first 14 levels of the Death Star 2 chapter of Angry Birds Star Wars. I indicate how many tries it took me to complete the level with at least 1-star (the bare minimum), how many it took me to achieve 3-stars, my eventual score, and the currently recorded highest score on the Angry Birds Nest website leaderboard.
* 6-11 = heavy multiple tries
This was the first level in the chapter that required over an hour of repeating the same shot over and over again. The bird you are using is The Rebel Pilot Bird, which you can tap on while its moving to split it into 3 birds.
In order to get 3-stars you really need to use only one bird and tap it at just the exact right moment so that it splits into the different gravity zones (represented by the circles around the planets) and gets pulled down into the perfect spots to knock everything over.
Even though I was intentionally recording the number of tries for this blog, after a certain point I just stopped counting – it was too depressing. Eventually I stepped away, and even more annoying was that I soon as I came back to it – Boom – got in done in like 5 more tries.
** 6-13 = turning to youtube
What’s particularly annoying is that after all those tries I was doing the exact same thing that they show in that video. I suppose some might consider watching that video as cheating yet all it did was confirm that I was doing it right anyways.
I was always a minor fraction off on that move using the Princess Leia Bird’s pink tractor beam to pull down that Imperial Pig Cruiser. It might look easy in the video but it’s damn tricky.
Working repetitiously for over an hour on the same task and then finding out that you’re not doing anything wrong and you just suck, that’s pretty frustrating… but typical for good ol’ Dr. Loser!