by MARIAH EPPES
Do you punch parrots? Should you punch parrots?
Parrotpunch is a free-to-play video game developed by the company Comatose, released on iOS and Android devices last year. If you haven’t played it, here’s how it works: the timer starts, and you repeatedly tap—or ‘punch’—an image of a cartoon bird. Each tap increases the physical damage done to the bird’s body and raises the player’s score. The feathers fly off with each ‘punch’ until the bird has been plucked clean. High scores are determined by the speed at which the player can remove feathers and the skill in which they dodge various inhibitors to their punching.
However, Comatose has recently come under fire for the game’s additional modes, which depict more gratuitous violence toward the avian victims. Each of the three new modes is classified by gore level: Pretty Ruthless, Absolutely Brutal, and Total Obliteration. The levels cost 99 cents, $1.99, and $2.99 respectively.
Since Parrotpunch has become one of the most popular mobile games available, researchers report that negative bias against birds has statistically increased. One of the largest sample sizes is from a survey study conducted by the University of Washington (Cadazzo et. al). General violence toward birds is also reportedly on the rise, with 140 reported cases of bird attacks this year. Just thirty bird attacks were reported two years ago.
‘I think the studies may be falsely attributing causality,’ said Robert Redding, the communications and PR director of Comatose. ‘Parrotpunch may even be bringing the issue of bird attacks into the public conscious. Who ever heard of people attacking birds before now? If anything, the game is helping these horrific crimes get reported in the first place.’
Even still, those concerned by the game’s impact are especially troubled by the combination of the ‘endangered species’ option and the gory levels, where users can beat the California condor and other endangered bird species into a bloody pulp. For an additional 99 cents, users can add a ‘boil or fry’ option to the game, where they can cook the body of the bird they’ve punched. Score bonuses are given for cooked bird bodies, and the bonus is higher when choosing species other than the default African grey parrot.
‘It’s just irresponsible,’ said Maria Desantis, an environmental researcher working with bird conservation efforts in California. ‘You just think, why? What’s the purpose of this?’
‘It’s kind of fun,’ said B., a commuter who preferred not to be identified. ‘I mean, you do feel bad about it, I guess. But it’s just something I do on the train. I wouldn’t actually hurt any real birds.’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mariah Eppes is a writer in New York City. You can find more of her work around the internet and at birdbyrocket.com.
Image created on neural.love