Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mobile games are evil and the art of getting older

There was a time in my younger days where I would have no problem sitting down in front of a TV with a controller in hand, playing the latest game for hours on end until my eyes burned and my fingers became impossible to straighten or move beyond the demands of the controls.

It seems like only yesterday I played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater until 2 in the morning and finished feeling like my hands were on fire.

Good times!

But as years went by, technology seemed antsy to push the boundaries of video games. More often than not, it is improving graphical capabilities to make games look more real with each generation, though I contend the emphasis on appearance has taken away from developers creating amazing games the way they used to.

However, I recognize this might be some sort of nostalgia bias.

I still own my SNES, though lacking the necessary cables to connect and play it, still own my N64 and GameCube, though they admittedly sit in boxes stashed away for a future where I envision I'll want to play them again.

The latest console I have is the XBox 360, and even that's rapidly becoming ancient technology.

What is a gamer to do when they no longer feel the need to dump money on updating every scrap of hardware to keep up with the times?

Turn to the wide world of mobile gaming!

In this day and age, I am much more comfortable sitting and twiddling with my phone, tapping the screen to give orders to my squad in Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes than I am to get comfy and settle into a long narrative that typically comes with a console game.

To this day, I have not finished Final Fantasy XIII and fear I never will. Not just because it is a monumental undertaking, but it doesn't have the same appeal of the series entries I remember never playing growing up.

And it isn't as though I take any joy or pleasure in mobile games. It is as mindless as it gets. Literally tapping the screen to collect coins, points or some other currency to use towards characters, structures, levels, or skins.

Worse still, there's no skill. No learning curve. Nothing to feel you've spent time on and gotten better at.

It is a war of attrition, and more often than not, the victors are those who paid to get the best stuff in the game.


I am absorbed in Galaxy of Heroes. More so than I was in The Simpsons mobile game, or the Family Guy mobile game. Infinitely more than Bitcoin Billionaire, which featured little more than tapping the screen repeatedly to mine bitcoins.

You get the feeling that all of the running jokes throughout the past 20 years of their being simulators for even the most tedious, monotonous or basic of tasks are coming to pass in reality.

There's a frustration that comes with these games, too.

As opposed to being able to sink hours into a game, progress through a story, learn new abilities, develop strategies, improve and master the game, you're made to wait.

Mobile games limit the number of actions you can perform in a given time period, with the catch being that you can ignore the cooldown by spending actual money in the game.

In Galaxy of Heroes, crystals are the currency that make the universe go round. Crystals can be used to refresh battles, grant energy and sim tokens.

Once I discovered that I could simulate any scenario I had scored 3-stars on, I rarely, if ever, go through a full battle, carefully selecting my actions, attacks, buffs and debuffs. And when I can't sim through a battle instantly, I let the computer play for me, which more often than not results in 3-stars and allows me to sit back and farm gear to improve my characters for more difficult tasks ahead.

There was a time when I would spend money on these games.

As a huge fan of The Simpsons, I would buy donuts (the game's currency) to allow me to speed up character actions, construction of buildings, and anything else to make sure I had the most stuff in my recreation of Springfield.

I don't know how much I spent, but it might have been something like $40 in a month's time. Not a lot, but more than necessary when you consider that it betrays the very concept of gaming that I love so much.

How many hours did I spend playing and replaying levels of Super Mario World to the point where, if I so desired, I could play most of the main route from Yoshi's Island to Valley of Bowser with little trouble or life lost?

Once you master use of the cape, the game is a cinch if you put enough time into it.

That's the key difference. The more time you put into a game like Super Mario World, the more you learn and the more proficient you become at the game. As the game gets harder, you adapt and find new strategies or ways to work around the difficulty.

Many early levels can simply be flown over with proper use of the cape or a purple Yoshi, if you've endeavored to open Star Road.

As time goes on, the levels introduce blocks at the tops of levels. Or remove the shelled Koopas from the player's path to prevent such strategies, forcing you to play the game straight. Forcing you to improve platforming and movement through a level.

Perhaps it is a sign of age. The inability, or even unwillingness, to have the best TV, the fastest internet connection, the latest generation console.

I don't want to be forced to connect to the internet when more than likely I'm going to be playing a game solo.

After the amount of time I spent playing Halo 3 online in college, I know that online multiplayer would become a time sink. And I feel as though I've grown out of the desire to do that.

But apparently I've grown into being comfortable laying in bed, phone inches from my face, tapping away to the action limit for the hour or the day. Then waiting for it all to refresh to do it again. Never improving, having no story told, disengaging from almost everything.

Sort of a bleak development when you think about it.

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