Forget Angry Birds. This Video Game Targets Angry Investors

Updated on
Argentina Economy

A banner shows a vulture, symbolizing a U.S. hedge fund, carrying a bag of money in front of the U.S. flag outside Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Photographer: Natacha Pisarenko/AP Photo

It looks a lot like Angry Birds, that addictively silly iPhone game -- only in this version, the target is bondholders.

At a state-run amusement park in Argentina, the government is encouraging children to take aim at virtual vultures, a not-so-veiled reference to the nation’s international creditors.

“Mission accomplished!” the screen proclaims when players shoo the digital critters away from hospitals, factories and schools. “We’ve recovered our national sovereignty together!”

The game, it’s safe to say, will never become a global phenom like those famous little birds from Finland. But it nonetheless underscores the lengths to which President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is going as her government battles with spurned creditors. The message is clear: Even the children of Argentina can play a role.

On a recent winter day, 11-year-old Lucila Aranda stepped up to the chest-high console to battle the vultures along with a handful of other kids. Using digital sling shots, they hurled spheres depicting different government programs at the birds.

“It was fun -- the birds were funny,” Lucila said afterward. Her father, Joaquin, wasn’t so sure. “It’s clear propaganda,” he said.

Unlike the real version of Angry Birds, everyone wins this video game. Afterward, players are herded into a small room to collect their reward: A psychedelic video of fire-breathing vultures, greedy politicians and U.S. dollar bills. The video screen stretches onto the ceiling and the images bounce off of mirrors to either side of park-goers, turning the windowless room into a walk-in kaleidoscope.

Surreal Scene

The surreal scene, playing out in a squat concrete building at the park on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, is the latest twist in the long-running battle between Fernandez’s administration and investors that refused to settle after the country’s 2001 bond default. Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management shunned restructuring terms in 2005 and 2010. While a U.S. judge awarded the holdouts $1.7 billion in a ruling, Argentina decided to default on its debt again in 2014 rather than pay them.

Argentina’s benchmark 2033 bonds rose 0.24 cent to 96.7 cents on the dollar, with the yield trading at 8.8 percent at 3:23 p.m. New York time. Investors haven’t been paid interest on the notes since the July 2014 default.

Argentina’s Economy Ministry spokesman Jesica Rey didn’t respond to an e-mail from Bloomberg seeking comment. Elliott Management spokesman Stephen Spruiell didn’t respond to a telephone message.

The video game, combined with government board games and cartoons, is part of an “effort to spread a certain world vision,” said Jorge Todesca, a former deputy economy minister turned political consultant. The government wants “to get to the kids and then their parents.”

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