Today I’ll just play mobile games, I thought, that’s easy play! And sure enough, within minutes I’d found a few free-to-play (yes, hideous in-app payments) games to download from the Google Play Store. Three of them I didn’t warm to, but a couple I found really easy to get into. I’m not going to mention any names for reasons that will become obvious.
So I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea and got ready to immerse myself is the cartoony world of casual games. Two hours later, and I’m still playing, flitting between the different games to get around the cool-down times and lives-refilling that are the standard fare for freemium games. They’re clearly hoping you’ll be so eager to continue to get your fix that you’ll pay real money to be allowed to continue to play.
I find this dynamic pretty annoying, and of course it’s supposed to be: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But it feels to me like all the games I try have the same entry-curve. You start finding it really easy to get the pops and flashes that trigger your endorphins and make you feel great at winning. But pretty soon it isn’t just hard to achieve this, but downright fickle. Half the times boards are impossible to complete without paid-for power-ups. You can persist, and wait for the random number generator to allow the possibility for you to win without paying money, but this is simply a process of being repeatedly infuriated as you try to succeed in a game which the designers have made no effort to ensure can be won.
It’s a similar feeling of frustration as I think I noticed when I solved a crossword puzzle. But I love solving crosswords.
I certainly enjoy playing mobile games. But love them? No way! I actually hate them.
I’m left at the end of the day with a feeling of deep emptiness. Of having wasted my time. Of having sat on the sofa and repeatedly poked at my phone without any purpose and with a lack of any real satisfaction. After all, none of this is a battle against anything but the creators’ desires for you to fork out money.
And now I long for the days when you could buy a game, and its aim would be to grant you joy!
It’s hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones. – Nancy Gibbs
Ease of play: 9/10
Resemblance to play: 8/10
Aggression: Medium-to-High (rising with frustration)
Potential frequency of play: High
(wow – I’ve just described crack, haven’t I?)