You know what? As you’ve seen already, I love gaming. No matter the console, the platform or the shape of the device that runs games, I just love them.
But after MANY hours playing games on my iPod Touch and my Motorola XooM tablet, I can’t help but think that those experiences feel more empty than my DS and 3DS could offer. Hell, after a full hour of Infinity Sword 2, I had the URGE to play something at one of my consoles. Anything on any console. Even PC!
It’s just that. Mobile gaming isn’t there yet. Yeah, you can argue all you want about how “the iDevices are becoming a viable gaming platform” and such, but at the rate things are going, I just dissagree and here’s the main reason.
Gaming needs design choices that favor it.
You know, you can have any game from the App Store or Google Play in a matter of SECONDS, but here’s one particular thing that stands in the way: The overall design of the portable devices does not favor gaming.
This dates back to the first smartphones, PDA’s and tablets. As Windows Mobile platform grew giagantic, everybody was wondering why there aren’t any good games ported to those platforms? Then, come to think of this, most, if not all of those devices weren’t designed for gaming but some small distractions in interactive form. Such as a version of Refersi or Tic Tac Toe. Hell, even chess was a go.
As the iPhone came by, it knocked the dated (by all standards) Windows Mobile OS out of the league by introducing a newer slickier way to rock a smartphone, without having to search for shells, apps, hacks e.t.c. It may threw away the OS, but the standard design of a candybar touch-enabled phone stayed, with a fresh coat of paint. So did the apps. They just stripped away all the complex menus and crap leaving sheer functionality.
Now, I don’t criticise the way things are today. THERE’S NO OTHER WAY A PHONE COULD WORK. The Nokia N-Gage incident pretty much talks by itslef and so does the Xperia Play. Both phones tried to reach gamers but failed as phones because they tried to combine two designs that, at the time being, they’re incompatible. So, my point is that a phone buffed with apps, connectivity opportunities, social integration e.t.c. is still a device that’s not designed with gaming in mind. The games instead have changed to fit into the phone, so we get easy experiences, designed to be interrupted oftenly and they control the same as ordinary apps with touches and swipes.
Apple, Google and Microsoft started to push gaming on those new supercharged phones because it sells. People always liked distractions. I mean, look at Snake and Solitaire in Nokia’s Devices back in the 90’s and early 00’s. People LOVED having those on their phones. In many cases, people bought those phones for the little games alone. The prospect of downloading new ones with a price around $1, was what they really wanted. But the world of gaming doesn’t work like that.
Those games belong to their own category. They are gaming experiences that it’s better off to be seen as a genre of their own. Not better not worse than the regular games we’ve come to know and love, but they are games SHAPED to fit into multopurpose portable computer devices with gaming not being their particular strenghth by design. Actually, they’re not designed to have their own demands from the hardware but rather cruched down from the hardware itself
But, what about tablets?
Tablets, ah those joyous fuckers. It’s easy to be obsessed with a tablet.
Anyways, tablets follow almost the same principles. Tablets aren’t gaming devices even though gaming is a nice addition to them. But still the controls and ther overall design isn’t made with games in mind.
Just play some Sonic CD from the recent re-release to see that touch controls are as atrocious as they’ve always been. Add that, in some bigger tablets, namely the 10,1 ones, there are problems grasping them. So, games not only controls fairly bad, but the handling is okay for everything else but gaming.
But some games are nice, you know, Fruit Ninja really pops out with the larger screen and stuff, but those games who take advantage of the tablet screen don’t really justify tablets as an overly competitive platform.
In a quick comparison with Nintendo’s Gamepad, it’s easy to see what’s designed differently in order to fit in gaming and not vice versa. Many iPad fanatcs have ditched the Gamepad as a “Fisher Price tablet” but really, it’s not even a tablet the fact that it’s designed specifically for controlling games, justifies why they didn’t fit everything in a smaller package. And it’s true, somebody cracked open that stinker and found the components and loads of empty space. That’s because they wanted it to be shaped for gaming. Easy for the holding hands and durable for the awkward little dinosaurs out there. The device is not made to slide into some pocket or some bag. It’s a controller for a home console.
Then there is Achos Game Pad (I see lawsuits coming) which tries to be an oversized PSP. Most of us will see a potent GP2X alternative in that one, and that’s OK (at 160 Euros, is a smash deal!) but that doesn’t change that we use the Android platform for emulating old gaming systems instead of playing games of today, programmed for Android, and that’s because of all the reasons we stated. The 16-bit era titles can fill your gaming needs better than most of the games in Google Play.
One must wonder, “PC’s are multipurpose devices, so why you don’t bitch about PC’s as well”. Well, the PC has many other things to consider. First of all, the hardware limitations are absent. You can shape a PC the way you want it hardware-wise. Also, Keyboard and mouse control schemes work mostly because they are easy for your hands. Also, they’re highly custimizable for enchancing your gaming experience. None of those parameters are present in tablets and smartphones. The closest thing to customization you can get is to drag around virtual buttons on the touchscreen and that's it. Also, don’t forget that PC has its own distraction games such as Minesweeper and Solitaire. Hell, even the timeless yet basic DX BALL is one of them.
So, the reason PC didn’t slump into the sheer meh of the gamers, is that it can be a serious gaming platform if you want it to, while not limiting other functions such as browsing. It’s far more flexible by design, and you can always hook up a controller to satisfy your gaming needs.
So, unless there’s a serious effort to find the distinctive line between hardware and software design that allows gaming or at least have some flexibility to include it without limiting it, mobile platforms won’t cause a videogame crash anytime soon. Except if people just stop playing traditional games and find their holy grail of entertainment in such devices.