Mobile games seem like they're becoming more and more rampant in the gaming world. It seems like every month, we're hearing that a new game is moving to cell phones and the "mobile platform" and shying away from consoles. The new Professor Layton is mobile, the new Breath of Fire is mobile, even the new Fantasy Life is mobile! Seriously, it couldn't even go two games without going down that road?
Understandably, most gamers aren't a fan of this approach - and even fewer seem to be a fan of the free to play approach to games that has become so rampant with mobile games.
And really, what is there to even be a fan of anyway? They prey on addicts and children with access to their parents' credit cards, they steal your money for only a chance at a reward, and they don't even let you play the game for long without wanting to reach into your wallet like an especially frisky anime character!
If you want to see the frisky anime character, simply leave your financial information in the comment section and he or she will get back to you as soon as possible!
Well, actually... Believe it or not, I've found there are quite a few potential positives to this type of gaming. Not as something to replace gaming as we know it, but simply as another means of it, another type among the many, many other types that already exist. And while I'm not up to date on most of the popular F2P games anymore since I've settled on a couple I like, I can tell you I've got experience with the things.
From the likes of Puzzle & Dragons to its various knockoffs like Jewel Dragons, Konami's own Dragon Collection, and even the (far more interesting) Pac-Man-inspired Pac-Man Monsters to the likes of Square Enix's Guardian Cross to the dozens of card collecting games like Reign of Dragons, Rage of Bahamut, ohhhh lord have mercy, I've dipped my toes into plenty of these F2P games. I've spent many hours in Fantasica, played and been subsequently been disappointed by more games with "Dragon" in the title than I care to count, and that's not even getting into DragonVale and the many, many games like it.
And then, oh what then, I foolishly discovered mobage and the ability to play Japanese mobile games on my phone! And the doors to Black Rock Shooter Arcana, [email protected] Cinderella Girls, and dozens upon dozens of anime, game, and other IP-related mobile games were open to me! But wait! Now these games are coming to consoles? Now there are games like Pokémon Shuffle and the ill fated Destiny of Spirits on my handheld devices whenever I want? Oh good gracious me! Whatever was I to do?
Now that I've proven my street cred, so to speak, let's get something straight. These games are certainly out for your money. If you're an addict or if you have a spending problem, I'd suggest you avoid them, no question. Depending on how you feel about time, likewise, these are probably the worst kinds of games for you, since you will probably come out of them feeling like you've wasted precious moments of your life on nothing. If you don't like the idea of spending your time or money on something that will be gone once it servers are cut, again, I'd also avoid them.
Conversely, though, if you get enjoyment from them and value time in that as long as you enjoyed that time in the moment, then maybe you might be interested.
For me, I'm often in situations where a mobile game that I can break out for a couple of minutes is perfect, and this is probably true for a lot of people. That's the thing a lot of people tend to forget about mobile games.
So let's talk about these games and their design for a minute. To clarify, I'm specifically talking about mobile games and free to play games that are built around energy meters and, often, microtransactions. There are other kinds of games on cell phones, this is true, but they're not what's on the table right now.
Now, for the most part, these are games made for cell phones. A cell phone's primary use isn't really supposed to be sitting around playing a game. Games have been made for phones that do make this tempting and certainly very possible, but ultimately, these things can do a lot now.
While many people find it to be such a problem when these games make them wait to keep playing, to be honest, I don't mind it that much. If I was in a situation where I could play longer lasting games in the first place, a game built around this mechanic, even without this mechanic, isn't really the kind of game I would probably want to be playing, is it? On the other hand, they make for great distractions if you need just that - a distraction.
Depending on the game, they also make for other kinds of distractions too!
That, of course, begs the question. Why should anyone care if it's just a distraction?
Well, as many have pointed out before me, many psycological tricks are implemented in these games to keep people around. Often you'll find that the early parts are especially easy to get you hooked. They might hand you rewards out more early on to get you to stay. There might be lots of flashing lights and all other things to make you feel good. It really is pretty nasty what they do, if you think about it.
In all seriousness, you really do need to be careful - not just with mobile games, but anything with some form of microtransaction. I may be here to show the positives of these kinds of games, but I'm not going to lie to you. Once you use that money up, you're not getting it back. If you use it, make sure you won't regret it.
My advice for anyone looking for a "good" game like this is to same a few at once and pick one or two from the bunch they like the best or feel most comfortable with and delete the rest. When I was doing a lot of stuff a year ago where I wasn't able to be still often, I'd find myself downloading maybe a dozen or more of these things onto my phone at a time, and there would be instances where after a day, I'd have deleted all of them.
"But wait!" you might say. "If you know it's either a distraction or a mind game to get you to pay, why are you bothering?"
I'm glad you asked that!
The fact of the matter is that, despite these games, I do feel like there can be a lot of enjoyment had out of them, and a type of enjoyment unique only to the way these games function at that.
For starters, let's look at how a game of this sort typically is set up. Most of them will see you either collecting things in some way or building up a city (collecting resources you could say) or some other sort like that. The end result is that you'll be grinding a lot no matter what you do, either by waiting or by collecting more things to shove them all together into one massive orgy of grinding in the hopes the last one standing might have gained enough experience points to be able to tackle the boss you're stuck on.
Apply the previous situation however you see fit. Sensei looks forward to hearing the results of your training!
The games usually have a basic campaign, maybe some kind of competetive mode, and almost always some form of social feature that inevitably will just lead to you removing "friends" that aren't active so that you can get stronger, more active friends as you continue playing.
For some games, this is enough. Many tack on a unique style of play, an IP people are familiar with, and call it a day. Others make the story mode interesting so that you're invested in continuing, while others just make your energy drain so fast you have to pay to keep playing. Most of them, if not all of them, offer the option to pay for some kind of advantage, and for many, this is enough. The idea of DLC, and a game not being "whole" on purchase, is enough for many to snap discs in half in fits of rage even now in 2015.
If we look past that, there really is something unique about these games, and that is the idea of events. Many games, mostly MMOs, have events that will last a period of time that will have rewards and other things exclusive to these events.
Am I saying mobile games are good solely because of events? No, not at all! Many are bad because of the way some particular games implement events. These games can be manipulative sonsofbitches sometimes.
What I am saying is that they are a rarely mentioned benefit to that style of game, and one that can really add a lot to them.
Let's say you like a game, or at the very least, are moderately entertained enough by it that you don't delete it instantly. Now let's say that every week, without fail, it gets new content. Obviously this ties into the psycological and more manipulative aspects of mobile gaming that I mentioned before, and so if you're only playing for these reasons, that's another issue entirely, and it's one that I strongly urge you to think about before getting into one of these.
But if it's a game that you feel you already get something out of? Then the event aspect is one that can add a lot.
At that point, if you compare a mobile game to a regular game with this in mind, the whole "it's whole when I buy it" thing suddenly starts looking like a point against normal games considering you can play many mobile and F2P games without paying a cent.
Because the thing is, when you stop looking at additional content as things that got "cut out" of games (as in many cases, much of DLC today just flat out wouldn't exist without the fact that people pay for it), DLC can extend the life of a game. A season pass can keep it going for as long as the season lasts, updates can add balance and new content to games long after release, but mobile games will keep living until they die completely. They're like pocket MMOs in this respect, I think.
This begs the question... How can we combine everything into one thing? When can we get a season pass-DLC-update-MMO!?
Obviously, a lot of what I'm saying isn't going to apply to every mobile game. Like I've said repeatedly now, you need to look at one of these games and, to be blunt, make sure you're the one playing it. Don't get played by a game. It's not supposed to work like that, unless it's a boss fight or something and you're supposed to learn from it. See what I did there with that topical Bloodborne reference?
But hey! Maybe I've made mobile games sound really enticing to some of you. To all two of you, let me offer you some warnings:
If you go into a mobile game, particularly one that ties to an existing IP, expecting something that the game never claimed it was going to be and then getting disappointed is something that, personally, I put on you. That's my policy with most things.
For example, Rockman Xover's negative reception, I feel, was extremely overblown, and the main thing Capcom did wrong was releasing the game in a drought of "real" Mega Man games, because the fact is, as a mobile game, it was a fairly harmless one. The complaints about "no gameplay" seemed to come from people who had never encountered a mobile game before in their lives, and because of the negativity surrounding it, we never got the game overseas, and I find that to be a damn shame.
Expect a mobile game with familiar things slapped on top of it. If you get more (as Rockman Xover actually seemed to try offering), like original content made just for the game or maybe a unique twist on the gameplay (like Pac-Man Monsters), then be thankful, but if not, just enjoy your time waster having familiar things in it.
There are going to be instances where you don't get to play a lot and there are going to be instances where you do. I opened up one game earlier, my "main" one (of two right now), and I was done in about two minutes as all my energy was gone. Last week, I was able to play for about ten because of the kind of event that was going on, and I could have played for more, but I just didn't feel like doing so.
The thing people really, really don't think about with these kinds of games is, like I was getting at before, they're designed for cell phones and handheld devices most often. Phones aren't primarily gaming devices, and handhelds usually offer other options besides for the one free to play game now. When your time runs out, you can just do something else.
More than that, though, these games are meant for the long haul. They're meant to be things you can always come back to, not things that you truly finish. More like things that either get canned or things you choose to stop playing.
If you take away the energy meters and so on, the games just... don't work anymore. You could finish them in a few days.
Some might say that this would be nothing short of beneficial for some of these games, and while this may be true in some cases, for some of them, it would just destroy them. For one thing, that whole event thing I was talking about before? It wouldn't work if you didn't have stamina in most cases.
If people just download your game, beat it, and leave it in a single sitting, why bother putting content together for events? You'll have your core community, but it wouldn't be the same.
The idea behind this system, if you look at it from a gameplay perspective, is longevity. It makes the game last longer. It keeps you coming back. This aspect is, in many ways, just another tool to prey on addicts and so on, but it can also be an interesting form of gameplay if you want to look at it that way, and since it's not like this is the only kind of game in the world, I don't see why I can't choose to do that. Life is all about choices, right?
You might say these kinds of things are also manipulative, and to be honest, I don't completely disagree. That's just the name of the game here.
This one is going to be hard to hear, but if you want to play exclusively for free, then you aren't going to "win." Pay To Win, or P2W, is a real thing, and it's true of just about all of these games. There's no getting around this, and if this puts you off, I don't blame you if you want nothing to do with them.
Why am I still here if I'm not paying? It's pretty simple. I can choose what I define as winning. Obviously the people who pay are going to rank higher and get things I can't get, but do I need to shape my enjoyment of this game and experience with it based on things I don't want to or can't get? Hell naw!
I play within my means or the means that I set for myself and I don't think there's any shame in that or anything wrong with it. If it means I rank high sometimes and extremely low other times, I'm fine with that. So long as I got something out of it for myself, then that's fine by me. Why do I have to care that there are people ranking higher or doing better? Maybe I can aim to be better than them, and if I plan ahead and store up resources, someday, I could really rank pretty damn high. But maybe I just want to have fun on my terms - and if I do that? Then that works too.
If you understand your limits and how far you can go in these games, then you'll actually go a lot farther than you might think possible for a mobile game. Just coming out of them with that lesson, a lesson you can take with you to real life, might be worth a frustrating game in itself. The restrictions, ironically enough, add a lot to my experience because you can always come back from it.
In "real" games with restrictions based on time, often there's an ending. The Atelier series put me off after one entry because of the strict time constraints I found myself under. You'd think after that, I'd want nothing to do with mobile games, but if anything, I just appreciate mobile games more. With the Atelier games, once that timer ends, that's it. Game over. You lose. Tough luck. Have a new game plus with nothing of value.
With a mobile game, though, the game keeps going. You can regroup. While you can't try what you messed up again, you still have the future. Like life itself, in a weird way... if life was really sleazy and wanted to steal all your money.
So it's like life for Nintendo fans basically.
If you want to play exclusively for free, there will be times where you feel like you can't play sometimes.
This is because, believe it or not, managing resources can be a big part of playing these games without paying for them. This is ironic in a lot of ways, considering what you would think the end goal is, but it's very true.
With a normal game, when there is an item you want or have, usually you know you can get it later, and it just becomes an issue of saving money and the like. There is often resource management involved, particularly around games built around the concept, but most don't take it to the level that playing mobile games can.
In many mobile games, the premium items you can pay for are given out as rewards. Money, energy refill items, and other special items will be handed to you for completing tasks, making friends, or just logging in. You can use them up, sure, but you can also let these pile up and save them. Because let's face it - who knows when you'll really need them? And unlike in most games, once they're gone, they're gone. Unless you want to pay real money for them, you can't risk wasting these precious items.
In this respect, a truly great irony if there ever was one, mobile games have actually made me less inclined to spend frivolously. That's not to say my case is a common one, but it is the conclusion I've reached. I guess it helps that, in playing Japanese ones mostly, I don't have the option to pay in the first place anyway. It's not something I can do even if I wanted to.
And because of that, funnily enough, I feel like if they completely removed the pay to win aspect but kept the stamina one, and in fact kept these games otherwise completely the same, these games could have the makings of some rather interesting educational games, if nothing else. The lessons learned might not be the most enjoyable ones, but they certainly are useful in the long run.
I'm not really sure what kind of message I can leave here. Obviously, this is an extremely unpopular opinion, and really, it's not like I play these things a lot. I play two (a number that was none a few months ago), and I don't really play them that often. I check in when I have stamina or if there's an event I'm interested in going on, I get my daily login stuff, and maybe that's it. I do think there are weeks where I play them more than I play "real" games, but I may just not play "real" games at all that week, whereas I might have been in line somewhere with my phone for a while on one day that week. It all depends.
I will say that I don't think this kind of game should replace "real" gaming. I don't think these games are always made with the most pure intentions either. But I do think, for what they are, they're given far more flak than they even really deserve, and while I'm sure now I'll get plenty of flak for suggesting these games are something more than vacuums that want to hook themselves straight to our wallets, it is what it is. All I want to say, really, is that they might just be bringing something to the table that a lot of us aren't really appreciating here.
Now if you all would excuse me, I used up all my stamina on this blog entry, so I think I'm going to take a break until it refills. See ya next time!