I have a confession to make: I didn’t own a smartphone until the end of 2011. That was four years after the release of the original iPhone. I also didn’t own a tablet until the beginning of this year, almost three years after the release of the original iPad. However, before these devices, I did own an iPod Touch, which was more than just a music player. It was like a mini tablet and a smartphone without the phone. I could browse the web and quickly check my email, which is very important for a college student. Don’t forget to check your email.
Also during this time, I started using my laptop less and less because I pretty much had a computer in my pocket. Beyond that, the iPod Touch had an app store, and I could download games on it. This changed what an iPod could be, and thus, it was also a mobile gaming device.
Moving to the present, my iPhone and iPad are gaming devices just like my old iPod Touch. In this article, I speak about the good and the bad when it comes to mobile gaming, specifically on a smartphone and a tablet (two mobile devices that I now own and have spent quite some time using). While mobile gaming is not new to the video game industry, it has become much more popular than ever before with the growing shift to these devices. It’s brought a new population of gamers, made it easy to find games to play, and lets people game without a dedicated gaming device outside of their computer. These devices are also becoming even more capable, bringing experiences that were not possible before on a mobile device from a graphical standpoint. This is the good, but there are some bad things as well. Controls and the depth of the games are the biggest offenders.
With games like Angry Birds, people that never gamed before can join the pack. These games are easy to understand and never time consuming. They’re something people can take out whenever they need something to do. Additionally, while they may only pick it up every once in a while, they’re still playing a game (a casual one, but still a game nonetheless). Just like the Wii, people who had never played games before are jumping in. My own mom is always playing games on her phone, and whenever I visit, she tells me all about them. Sometimes she talks more about gaming than me.
This is the power of casual gaming. Anyone can play. An example is Temple Run 2, a game I played and reviewed recently, which is easy for anyone to get into. It’s very natural as you swap up to jump, and you go up. This is why it works so well. It’s also fun and addicting since you’re always trying to beat your highest score. Even if you don’t play a lot, it will always be there for you when you come back. Lastly, as a longtime gamer who put gaming on hold during his college years, gaming on my phone has really brought me back into it. Hence, I’ve found it to be a good way to jump back in after some time in the shade.
Another positive is the integration of the app store right on the devices. This makes it easy to find and play new games. Everywhere we go, the store is right there. Someone tells you about a new game they got, and you can find it right away, just like that. You can even find out what people are saying about it and how it plays. It’s simple and accessible to everyone. You’ll be able to find something you’re into right in this one location, as there is a variety of different types of games from which to choose. You can play an endless runner, a word game, or a shoot-em-up. Whether you have Android or iOS, you’re going to be able to play and find games you want to play. For the casual crowd, there’s no need to buy a gaming-specific device or console. The device has everything you need. It’s on the go, and you can play your games anywhere.
The third and final good thing is the graphical capabilities of the devices. When it comes to graphics, mobile devices are becoming even more capable than ever before. Infinity Blade II is an excellent example, but even something like Sonic Dash and Temple Run 2 (while they won’t blow you away) look pretty good. You’ll see a beautiful landscape with mountains in the distance, an ocean with far away islands, and clouds below you as you try not to fall from the sky. They look great on the iPhone, but look even better on the iPad. I see the graphics and performance improving even more as time goes on.
Now for the bad. First off, touch controls do not equal a controller. I’ve played and reviewed the mobile port for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and while I’ve talked about it a lot, this is the perfect example of touch controls not working as intended. This is a console game on a mobile device that simply should not be on a mobile device. A key reason is that you have to touch the screen in two different places in order to fully control the game. With a game like Temple Run, the running of the character is automatic, and you simply control when to jump, when to slide, and when to tilt the screen. It’s that easy. If the player had to control the running and control these other movements at the same time, it would be problematic because the controls are too limited to have a complete handle on the situation in the game. They simply don’t work for multiple inputs from the player.
On the flip side, most popular games on mobile devices are too casual and are not as deep as the games on a console or PC. Angry Birds and Temple Run are fun, but the player only has only one thing to do at a time. All you have to do is jump or shoot. That’s it. The games are built with touch in mind, and this limits the depth of the games. What also limits them is that the hardware is not up to the standards of a console. Besides a select few, most of the popular games are not breaking any new ground in the graphics department. A lot of it is cartoony and very basic. Angry Birds is the perfect example. While it looks good, it’s not going to make you go, “Whoa.” It’s more of, “Hmm, this looks decent. Now where are the real games?” Looking to the future, next-gen consoles are right around the corner, and none of those games are going to be seen on a tablet, at least not any time soon. This puts them at a huge disadvantage.
To conclude, mobile gaming on a smartphone or tablet definitely has its perks. More people can game now, it’s easy to find and play games, and they’re becoming more graphically capable. Yet, it’s not quite there for those looking for a traditional gaming experience. While the graphics will gradually become on par with current consoles, the controls are still going to be limited unless a traditional component is added to the device. If you could play on these devices with a controller, then I think gaming would be even more acceptable on them from a traditional gamer’s standpoint. I know if I could play Vice City with a controller on my iPad, I wouldn’t hesitate to play it more. However, the tablet was designed to be used with just the screen. Adding a controller sort of defeats the purpose of a tablet. At the end of the day, it is perfect for casual games, but traditional games will still need a controller.