Gamers routinely curse the game developers when we get stuck with some particularly difficult puzzle or trophy, but I have to say that Rovio, the creators of the ‘Angry Birds’ smartphone game, has truly risen above all the other demons to take the throne of the most evil game developer there is. They cheerfully created an achievement that can only be earned on one day of the year!
As a father to a very low functioning boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’m very aware of the numerous things in the world that will set him off into bouts of inconsolable anxiety attacks or frustration meltdowns that can only be cured with time and expert redirection of his attention. My boy is particularly sensitive to these kinds of things because despite being a teenager, he can only communicate at the level of about a three-year-old. I got him an iPhone for the GPS tracking ability (in case he wanders off), and being the gamer that I am, I introduced him to a few game apps. He is particularly drawn to games and is quite good at them too, despite not caring about storylines. In true gamer/autism nature, he’s obsessed with always getting every trophy or achievement in every game he plays. The Angry Birds franchise has been a favorite of his — until recently.
Last December I noticed that he was starting to get a little wiggy every time he played the original Angry Birds game. Then right before Christmas, he started getting upset and bringing me his phone while pointing at a page in the game that said “stickers.” I’m not sure when this feature was added to the game, but apparently Rovio added achievements to the original Angry Birds in the form of earning stickers in a sticker book. My boy had earned all of them, as he normally does, save one. The one sticker that he couldn’t seem to figure out was, “Listen through the BirdDay song when it is available!” It didn’t seem too much of a big deal, so I pulled up the world select, tapped on the “BirdDay” levels, and let the song play. Except, it wasn’t the “BirdDay song.”
I tried everything I could think of without success and then turned to the warm, loving glow of the Internet. I immediately found a general consensus that the sticker in question was impossible to get any longer and people were angry and disappointed. They were saying that it had only been available for a short time several years ago on the anniversary of Angry Birds being released. After hitting that dead end, I decided that my only course of action left was to contact Rovio directly, which I did, on December 24th. Meanwhile, my son was inconsolable, repeating “Birdday song sticker – get it!” over and over and over and over and … over.
I was able to soothe him somewhat by telling him that we were waiting on the Angry Birds maker to respond to my email. For the next two weeks, my boy would come to me throughout the day asking, “Email, check it!” in hopes that Rovio had responded. Eventually, thankfully, he gave up on Rovio, as I did too after going over a month without a reply. However, to my surprise, they eventually did answer my plea, but it a typically corporate way. Here’s the text of our exchange:
Me: “Please, how do I get the birdday song sticker? Everything online says it could only be earned in December 2016. Please tell me that’s not true. My autistic son is having fits because we can’t figure out how to earn the sticker. Please help!”
Rovio: “Thank you for reaching out to us. my name is ****, I will be taking care of your inquiry! The Birdday sticker says “Listen through the BirdDay song when it is available!” so according to my information, it should be available to complete around Birdday (December 11th). I hope that helps.”
Me: “Are you serious? You created a sticker that can only be earned on one day of the year? Can it be cheated or triggered some other way?”
Rovio: “Thank you for getting back to us. Unfortunately there is no other way to obtain this sticker then wait for the birdday. Please know that while there are modded versions available over the internet, i do not recommend to download them, as it might be malicious to your device and even result in account ban. I hope this clarifies things!”
In sum, not only is there no fix for this diabolical design, but Rovio threatened to terminate my account if I did happen to find a workaround! So now I face ten months of waiting for a single day to arrive and may the gods help me if I forget to have my boy play this freaking game on that one day of the year!
As far as I’m concerned (and yes, I know I’m biased because this has affected my son negatively), Rovio wins the top evil game developer award for the year! They specifically designed an achievement that is literally impossible to obtain except on one short 24 hour period once yearly. They had to have known that this would drive people crazy and a simple search for “birdday song sticker” will yield a hundred different posts on the topic.
While I do not believe that they designed the game to cause distress to autistic people, the fact is that it does and I would be willing to bet any amount that my boy isn’t the only one out there who has been distressed by this design. Despite all the blowback on the Internet of which a developer like Rubio is undoubtedly aware, they haven’t changed the parameters of earning the achievement. That tells me that this action is deliberately designed to cause distress to anyone trying to complete the game. It’s not just the birds who are angry now!