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The Game Changer
There can be no doubt that games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies are slowly pushing video games toward a position of mainstream acceptance. As someone interested in carving out a career in video games, I say this is good. It behooves me for video games to be seen as a conventional form of adult entertainment, to be spoken about by the masses as casually and as commonplace as films, books, and TV shows. Massive social acceptance, I hope, will amount to respect, higher salaries within the industry, and higher quality work due to competition. And that doesn’t just go for me. I believe mobile games can have a positive impact on many aspects of the gaming industry.
Just think about the new spaces that mobile gaming has already created. Touch Arcade and Pocket Gamer are two journalistic websites with formidable followings. Both have a strong focus on mobile games, and both offer gaming communities and job opportunities that simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. My own career in video game journalism started with mobile game reviews, at a time when I didn’t have nearly enough experience to get paid for reviews of triple-A games.
Some high-profile developers, like Ben Cousins, are moving away from blockbuster games and heading to mobile platforms, where development costs are low enough to take serious risks and artistic liberties. He left Electronic Arts in 2011 to work on a horror FPS for the iPad that uses the free-to-play model.
We also have the trending concept of mobile companion apps. At E3 this year, Ubisoft announced that its upcoming RPG, The Division, allows tablet users to control overhead drones during combat. Watch Dogs offers something similar. Even if these mobile companion apps don’t make true on their promises to add real, in-game value, it’s an innovative notion that I don’t think should be thrown out the window. Other mobile games like Mass Effect: Infiltrator, which may not have a direct impact on the primary games in the series, keep beloved franchises and characters alive.
Lastly, mobile gaming offers an additional and much-needed entry point into video games. As Matthew Kato wrote about earlier this month, triple-A games often require a hefty investment of money and time. How can we, as gamers who (I’m sure) love to share our favorite activity, expect non-gamers to give video games a proper try if the initial cost of owning a PS4 game is $460 (console + one game)? My grandma will never understand why I spent 150 hours playing Skyrim if I wait for her to go that route.
I believe the mobile gaming world is at a crossroads. On one hand, we have the very real possibility of a world wrought with games like Candy Crush Saga, in which millions of players around the globe continue to sneak away from their beds at night to compulsively crush virtual lollipops. On the other, we have a possible future in which people who only know Candy Crush Saga will come across one of the more substantial games in the App Store – Knights of the Old Republic, Infinity Blade, Secret of Mana, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Bastion – and maybe, just maybe, give it a chance. I, for one, put my faith in the latter.