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How we play is as important a factor as what we play as gamers. The industry has rapidly been evolving the amount of experiences we have at our fingertips, from the tv screen to the small-screen in our hands. While consoles undoubtedly get the superior coverage and praise from events like E3 and critical perception, is there an untapped and unappreciated fun of the handhelds in our lives?
Since June I've been entrapped in a long and probably unhealthy addiction to Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Like some of you, I play it religiously every day hunting for bells and insects. Playing it at home in front of my TV yesterday, I began to wonder: why am I doing this? What's do I play handheld gaming systems when I have two consoles sitting in just feet away from me? The easy answer is the difference of immersion. Big game publishers like Sony tend to bend the truth when it comes to the PSVita's game library, for instance. The idea of a gaming console on the go is a great concept, but there's the reality. Why have a handheld game system like the Vita when I have an Iphone that does the same thing? We might tend to believe that we'll have the same experience on the go as we do on the couch. Lately titles for the handheld market have been dwarfed by the gigantic console wars of today. With recent announcements for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the handheld market once again takes the backseat. For gaming's next generation, the future of handheld games is far too skewed from the original concept. Many games on handheld devices truthfully tend to be more like Angry Birds and similarly smaller games on our phones. Playing the Vita at Gamestop several times, it's an impressive piece of technology, yet it still doesn't bring the same feeling of my PS3. The potential is enormous, yet they still make disappointingly small games for hard-core gamers like me. Where are the great IP’s that made PlayStation great in the first place? Here they are just outsourced, and if you expect them to be as great you would be mistaken. The sad truth is that most games like Call of Duty fall short when created by a 3d-party studio. Why can't the original developer create games for the handheld market? It comes down to the platform.
There are an obvious amount of pros for the handheld, but namely portability takes precedent. Many people travel more than I do and playing games on the go is a massive convenience in favor of not managing a tv and a bulky console on the road. I'd rather have a pocket sized gaming device than a luggage sized console to take with me on trips too. For many with less funds and less time on hand, handheld games are often a better use of what they pay out as well. Handheld games, of course, cost nearly half the price of console ones and many are more designed to be played in short spurts than with massive, hour long levels of PS3/360 games.
The cons also unfortunately tie into the basis of handheld tech. Handhelds are notorious for having short battery lifespans, and the average lifespan for a their batteries is getting shorter with every generation. Handhelds are usually a generation or two behind their home console counterparts because of the limitations of portable technology and the batteries themselves. That gap might be getting smaller with the PS Vita, but more power usually hurts battery life. Some, though not all handhelds, further suffer from less conveniently designed controls. Smaller devices often pack the buttons closer together and are usually uncomfortable because of it. This was the case more for the Gameboy Advance and DS than the 3DS. The weight of the original DS make it more uncomfortable by default as a device, while the 3DS has a far more competent analog slider to make up for some of this discomfort.
(No Hanheld's the apple of your eye?)
In short, handheld gaming is still where it's at for the most part because developers aren't going to put time and effort into something that isn't a market staple. Console gaming is the hottest platform to create games for now. So why do we still have to think handheld gaming isn't near as good as a console in concept? The new technology is what tricks us into the idea of staying put in front of the tv. A new toy comes out that they play off as the greatest tv game experience. There's horsepower and "innovative" peripherals with the latest motion-control doo-dad and such. Handheld gaming has come a long way since the GameBoy and while there's still no technological comparison, but is that the point? We as a consumer base "the Gamer" need to stop buying into glossy visuals alone and think about how we want to be immersed. The feeling of being huddled over your Gameboy under the sheets at night beating a level can give you the same sense or intensity and rush even if the screen you play on is smaller. Having it smaller can almost be an exhilarating sense of power as your eyes are so much closer and more involved with something up you hold in your hands. New Leaf and any Toon Link game have proved to be just as or more popular than a few of their series predecessors. That was because of the great design and gameplay put into them and not the RAM or HDness. Until this is remembered, the console gaming experience will remain supreme, or at least in the eyes of critics.
Games change depending where we are. Mobile games are for 5 minutes of enjoyment until we can get home to our consoles and PCs. The smart phone has undeniably made money in its looked down upon games and it has quite the following. In the war between consoles and handheld gaming systems, the console will always be dominant as long as we are concerned about just tech. The beauty of the idea of both worlds is we can still play the games we love at the end of the day or the weekend, no matter if on our phones or on our home consoles. If we just put aside fanboy loyalties, we can make the most fun out of any game. It just has to be fun. Many players, casual and hard-core alike, can actually have the same fun on Angry Birds as others do on Assassin's Creed, as asinine as one might feel to the other. Because they are two different kinds of gaming experiences, they each have their own strengths. While graphically superior games will always be ahead of the pack on televisions and PCs, it's inevitable that handhelds will slowly but surely catch up sooner than we think. Not because of better visuals, however; simply because of only continuing to elevate their level of stories and characters and immersion that all games are seeking to do.
Time flies when you're blogging and I guess I'm closing in on the end of this blog, I can feel it, can you? For that matter, have a blogging suggestion or comment on your handheld/console preference? Less than a week left folks, it's gonna get crazy for me in these next few days. I hope you enjoy it with me. :)
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