The Mobile Gaming Monster

Everyone has an iPhone. Some people may haughtily say, “No, this is an iTOUCH.” Or they’ll less haughtily say, “Actually, this is an Android.”

Let’s get past our differences. You say you’re going to “Google” something even if you use Yahoo (which I seriously hope you don’t. Yahoo? Really?). And I’m not going to go through my entire life saying “piece-of-technology-that-has-apps-on-it-and-fits-in-your-pocket.” I suppose I could say “smart-thing,” but that’s so vague I could be talking about a sentient can of tomato juice. SO! iPhone is the generalized smartypants technology title we’re using today. If you don’t like it, then get an Android… because that’s what I did, about 3 days ago.

My phone is about the same size, but the similarities end there.

Lo and behold, I was welcomed with fireworks and all-around general awesomeness when I finally took the plunge from “klunky flip-phone that can’t make calls even when standing on a cellphone tower” to “4G, unbelievably fast, voice-recognizing sexiness.” And, of course, the first thing I downloaded was Angry Birds. Shortly after that, Words with Friends, Gold Miner, Unblock Me, and Fruit Ninja.

I left off Gold Miner because I don’t really like it that much.

Sweet deal, I’m looking pretty good in the apps department. Also, I nabbed a couple useful apps and a GameBoy Color Emulator. (Which was also a “sweet deal,” per se. When I was a kid, I had a Nintendo Power subscription when GameBoy Color came out, so I read about all the cool updates and awesome games, but I never got one so I never played any of them. T_T ) Anyway. I digress.

The point of all this is, I now have apps! And apps, as every smart-thingy owner knows, are an ENORMOUSLY HUGE market. A truly staggering amount of money is poured into creating, marketing, selling and buying these things. As we also know, the biggest market in apps is games. You can’t go anywhere without seeing some annoying jerk wearing an Angry Birds hoodie, or an Angry Birds baseball cap, or an Angry Birds wristband, or an Angry Birds balaklava, complete with stuffed animal attachment. People are freaking out about these apps, day and night (and yes, I know I’m a bit behind, they’ve been freaking about apps for a couple years now). The question, of course, is why?

This coin represents the question “Why?” in video game-y form.

The answer lies in a couple of places. The first place is your iPhone. LOOK AT IT! It just sits in the palm of your hand, going anywhere you go. You want to play a game, but you left your DS at home? Before smartphones, your mom said “too bad, read a book.” Now, your mom doesn’t say anything, because she’s too busy playing Angry Birds and driving to be concerned with your entertainment needs. The point is, your handheld entertainment is now handheldier than ever! It’s ultimately super-convenient, and wherever there’s a boost in convenience, there’s a boost in money. True story, just look at how much stuff you pay more for just because it’s now wireless: phones, mice, keyboards, microphones, amplifiers. Convenience = $$.

Now, after that delightful announcement from the Another Gamer marketing department, let’s figure out why games like Gold Miner, Unblock Me, and Fruit Ninja are so popular. Why aren’t there games like Final Fantasy I, or the original Zelda game, that are awesome, epic adventures, full of twists, turns, and other things that keep you going till the very end? Because…

People are stupid.

Okay, that’s oversimplifying it a little bit. People are actually pretty intelligent, but they generally use their powers for evil (aka “going to work and making a living.”) The idea of complex video games on their iPhone is less appealing than something simple, addictive, and fun. And if we look at the most popular games for the iPhone, we notice that they all have certain qualities:

1. Uber-simplicity:

An instruction page is useless in most of these games. You can figure out Unblock Me and Fruit Ninja in seconds. The goals of these games are incredibly simple. Angry Birds and Gold Miner aren’t that much more difficult. They provide simple instructions and examples, and then let you figure out your own way.

2. Gaming Speed:

When you play these games, you go from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds flat. There is no “Nintendo Presents,” then Mario popping up and dancing around, then loading, then the file selection screen, then more loading, then another stage selection, then more loading, and NOW you’re playing a game. You can leave off at one second, and come back the next, and have lost practically no time. It’s essential for those people who are playing as a time-killer, because boredom strikes faster than a heavily caffeinated king cobra.

3. Control Schemes Sent Down from God:

Click. Click & Drag. Click, Drag & Release. Drag over and over and over until EVERY LAST FRUIT IS CHOPPED IN TWO!!!! Did I miss any commands? These control schemes are so easy to learn and pick up, that your brain logs them away immediately, and you’ll never ever forget how to play Angry Birds ever again. The people who created these apps made the controls as fundamental as possible, so you don’t have to pick things from menus, you don’t have to squint to read small text… you just CLICK STUFF. And that pleases the masses.

Now, that’s it for the anti-social, let’s-be-alone-in-life kind of games, but there’s one thing extra that a certain OTHER brand of games possesses: the ability to connect with friends. I think the title of the game “Words with Friends” is pretty darn self-explanatory. It’s Scrabble, but you can play 20 games of scrabble with 20 different people all at the same time. It’s like those games of chess going on in the park, where you walk by one day, and move a piece, and then your mysterious opponent walks by at a completely different time and moves his (or her) piece. Only, instead of it being a mysterious opponent, it’s that one guy that you used to work with at Togo’s, that you never really liked but he started a game with you so what the heck… and then he plays the word “Xelque” on a triple word score and you suddenly like him even less.

Of course, Words with Friends isn’t alone. There’s also Draw Something (and Draw Something: Ignore Hitler),  Hang with Friends, and all other manner of awesome games that inspire social contact and competition. They tend to sell well, too, lord knows why. It’s not like this “social networking” fad ever caught on.

So there’s a lot out there! It’s a big, app-filled, scary universe, full of wonder, mystery, and people who are ungodly good at Fruit Ninja. (Have you seen the high score runs? It’s obscene.) But what does it mean for video games as a whole? Well, honestly, quite a bit. The market that these games tap into is essentially NON-GAMERS, which is (obviously) a previously untapped source of revenue in the video game industry. When the smartphone boom happened, it was like instant app Darwinism, and these games came out on top of the food chain because they fit the needs of the consumer so perfectly. Though I’m well behind the times, it’s cool to look at a video game phenomenon like this and be able to not say, “This is what will happen next,” but to be able to say, “Look WHY this happened.” I’m better at that, anyway. So was Darwin.

There was no way he could have predicted the rise of Angry Birds, however.

In the end, I will just say this: now more than ever, though, I’m continuously more convinced that there is a game out there for EVERYBODY. Hooray for video games!

~Another Gamer

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About Isaac Smith

I write about music, technology, video games, and probably many other subjects that don't bear mentioning here. Either way, most of it's worth reading, and you may even enjoy yourself!

Posted on June 1, 2012, in Miscellaneous and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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