Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

pigeonsThis kind of goes back a ways. Hang tight.

Almost three years ago, the staff at the Game Lab (then GAMBIT) decided we wanted to try to allocate some time to developing little game projects together that had no real research agenda. We thought it would be cute to maybe give ourselves a month of very part-time work for whoever wanted to be involved. It was very relaxed, and not structured very much, and just a kind of fun little side project for some of us. We called it “Game of the Month” because apparently I have a thing for “Game of the (time period)” names.

Our first project was a little game about feeding pigeons. We really wanted to make a bird feeding simulator and see what kind of game we could develop out of it. The first step though was to think about what the essentials of the experience of feeding pigeons were, so that we could prioritize what we want the player to be able to do and experience in the game. We also, for a variety of reasons, wanted this to be an historical piece — a pigeon feeding simulator set in the mid 1940’s.

We began the project prototyping in flixel, but not long after migrated to Unity. We got pretty far along on the project, with a combination of temporary and concept art, and some really basic behaviors, but then like many things that don’thave a lot of structure, it got pushed to the back burner as we got more and more busy with other things.

Fast forward 3 years.

We have our new weekly game initiative at the lab, and so a number of us thought it would be nice to return to the pigeon feeding game, commit some more resources to it, and see where we could get. For most of the week it was the tech director, Andrew Grant, and I working on the game. This was especially convenient since we share an office, which reinforces the notion that co-location can be really helpful to productivity and communication.

I don’t want to talk too much about future plans for the game, as we want to keep some things about it close to the vest. But we do want to put out the prototype for people to try, and we welcome your feedback. The UI is somewhat confusing at this point, and the game doesn’t teach you how to  play, so allow us some explanation.

– You can throw crumbs to the birds by clicking and dragging with the mouse. The speed of your drag influences how hard you throw.

– Pigeons will eat until they are full. As they eat a heart grows over their head.

– When a pigeon is full it becomes “lusty” and will start chasing after other pigeons.

– When two “lusty” pigeons pair, they fly off together.

We don’t have a wrapper for getting in and out of the game, so you can use the browser buttons to return to this page for links to the different scenarios.

Have fun!

Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Scenario 3

Scenario 4

Scenario 5

Scenario 6

Scenario 7


Abe Stein is a Research Affiliate at the MIT Game Lab and recently completed his SM in the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, writing about sports videogames. He has authored a number of articles about sports and sports media and is co-editor of the book Sports Videogames. He currently works as an Associate Director of Communications at Wheaton College, in Norton, MA and as a researcher with the eSports company Azubu, and have studied and written about sports media.