Children, teens and entire families stopped their strolls in the mall to enroll in the Angry Birds Championship. After all, it isn’t every day you get to win a flight to Barcelona.

Angry Birds is the PacMan or Tetris of our day − a good, simple game with simple rules that managed to conquer the hearts of hundreds of millions around the world. There is virtually no one who owns a smartphone who hasn’t spent hours with the birds exacting vengeance on the thieving pigs.

According to Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer at Rovio, which makes Angry Birds, there have so far been 300 million downloads of various version of the game.

Nevertheless, he is not yet satisfied.

“This is a good number,” he said, “but our goal is to become the first brand with one billion fans.”
Currently, the game offers 120 levels. Originally available only on the iPhone, it is now available through a variety of platforms, including the iPad, the Sony Playstation 3, Androids, Nokia and Google’s Chrome.

Rovio is not stopping at games: Its next project is a cookbook in the spirit of Angry Birds. But meanwhile, the game has become a cultural phenomenon. It also exposed the world to Israel’s satirical television show “Eretz Nehederet” ‏(“A Wonderful Country”‏), thanks to an English edition of its skit about a peace summit at Camp David between the birds and the pigs.

The purpose of the competition that commenced

yesterday is, of course, to find out who the champion killers of pigs are in each country, and then match their skills against each other to crown the champion of champions. The first rounds were held at the Kfar Sava, Haifa and Rishon Letzion malls, while the final will take place at Cinema City in Rishon Letzion. Banners for Nokia and Eurocom were readily visible in the background.

Professional competitions with stars earning tens of thousands of dollars or more are not unknown in the world of gaming. But anyone who was at the Kfar Sava mall last night could comprehend that championship is a relative thing.

The Nokia banners kept the possibility of becoming the Angry Birds champion constantly in the air, as did the enormous bird that circulated among visitors to the mall and invited them try their luck. According to Nokia representatives, some 600 people at the Kfar Sava mall accepted the challenge.

But while the promise of a game of Angry Birds, combined with the possibility of winning a trip to Barcelona, drew a crowd, in light of all the media hype about the game, it is hard to say there was mass hysteria. Compared to all the blue shirts of the Nokia staff, there were only a few contestants − some adults, some kids and some teens. And all were just passing through the mall.

The only man who really sounded ambitious to reach the top tried to register a girl who was too young: The competition’s minimum age is 13. “What’s the problem? I’ll sign up and she will be my agent,” he said.

When Rotem, a teenager, was asked what brought her to the competition, she laughed and said, “I love the game.” That is what everyone said.

Lior, another teenager there with her mother and brother, said the time limit had ruined her score. On her iPhone, she said, she has top scores, and she does not play much anymore because it is boring. But for a trip to Barcelona, why not?