Hands up if you’re addicted to the Internet. …Did you let go of your phone just then? I thought not.
The adhesive of convenience and compulsion ensure that nowadays, our smartphones might as well be glued to our hands and faces, which I for one am perfectly happy about. A shiny little slab of jet that will give me twenty-four hour access to YouTube, Reddit and Tumblr? I’LL TAKE FIVE.
I’m not the only twentysomething who occasionally prefers the sweet caress of a smartphone to actual human interaction now; it’s less of a “special snowflake” situation these days and more of a snowdrift. We’re all technophiles and smartphone lovers – especially gamers.
It’s no coincidence, then, that game companies are throwing their games at the mobile market with all the haste and zeal of a monkey flinging its own faeces and hoping something sticks. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies is already optimised and available for your smartphone or iPad; the original BioShock is set to closely follow, and even Nintendo have done some hasty backpedalling. Despite assuring the gaming community that they would never make games for iOS, how dare you, twelve million years dungeon etc., a Pokemon Trading Card game is apparently coming to a mobile device near you this very year. Oh, Nintendo.
No company can resist the lootiful lure of the mobile gaming market, it seems. It’s fair enough, considering EA has had a decent amount of success force-feeding crap down unwitting gamers’ throats, followed by gazing tenderly into their eyes and announcing “You’ve got to pay for that, actually”.
Anyone who’s not a twelve-year old child with an iPad, however, is getting sick of it, rightly mocking and reviling the paradigms of mobile gaming for corrupting the joy of playing games.
Whilst the naïveté of the mass mobile gaming market might ensure legitimate console titles enjoy financial success, the general reaction of the overall core market of gamers is skewed heavily towards insulted. A BioShock iOS release will undoubtedly be far, far removed from the purist, immersive experience of playing the game on PC or console. I’m sure it’ll be hard to be overwhelmed by the terrifying, detailed, suffocating beauty of Rapture whilst squinting at it on a tiny screen whilst Facebook notifications are popping up at the top every thirty seconds. Also, touch screen controls. WHY?! Yes, these devices have next to no physical buttons, obviously, but the fact remains that poking a Big Daddy nonchalantly in the face with a sweaty thumb is just not going to cut the atmospheric mustard in terms of a gut-twistingly petrifying boss fight. Every jab in the face for Mr. Bubbles is a jab in the face for PC and console gamers everywhere.
The iOS release of the latest Phoenix Wright title, however, makes a lot of sense for both casual newbie smartphone owners and long-time, handheld-touting fans of the series. The days of the DS system holding the monopoly over touchscreen technology are well over, and the simple point-and-click, logic puzzle read-along adventure that is the Ace Attorney series is arguably better suited for the sleek smartphone experience. Rather than boot up the 3DS every time you want to jump back into a case, you simply open up a handy app to get playing anytime, anywhere. Sometimes I forget to tote my handheld system around everywhere (a moment of silence for all the missed StreetPasses…) but I’ve always got my phone on me. I sincerely wish I’d waited for the very reasonably priced, super-portable iOS version before I downloaded the 3DS copy.
This is a disturbing truth to admit to myself, having owned as many special handheld portals to procrastination and fantasy worlds as possible since childhood. Sadly, having grown up somewhat, the magic of owning that games-exclusive device has all but worn off, and I crave convenience and practicality. Juggling multiple jobs, studying for a degree, and attempting to maintain a healthy social life all get in the way of gaming more than I’d like them to. I no longer have as many opportunities to sit for hours on end bingeing on perfectly presented games on my PC – nowadays I’m more likely to whip out a handheld on the tube to dive into a portable dojo for half an hour. As much as I hate to admit it, convenience in gaming is important to me, and maybe I’m actually going to jump at the chance to play an ad-ridden, thumbsy, probably QTE-filled mobile BioShock because I simply don’t have the time to revisit the ultimate splendour of my PC version. Maybe you are too.
These mobile releases are quite possibly a harbinger of doom for handheld gaming machines like the 3DS and the Vita, ushering in an age of even more powerful portable all-in-one devices. I think back to the old, grey Nintendo brick that brought me so much joy, my exclusive avenue into saving virtual worlds. The nostalgia is bittersweet, but modern reality means that there are many, more instantly accessible portals to gaming escapism, and that’s no bad thing in an adult life where escapism is more difficult.
Thinking about it, then, the recent influx of iOS titles releases is as much a gift to the grown-up, traditional gamer of old as it is a pandering to younger, more casual gamers. Whilst they are given an easy route into great games, albeit sometimes offensively watered-down and diverted from the ideal forms, at least some of us are given the opportunity to hark back to more carefree memories if we are able to look past or come to accept the inevitable corruptions. These memories are contained in the small convenient shoebox of an app. We can now open it up on the bus home from work, remember, and smile.