October 23, 2009

Gamin' Where it Don't Belong

You may call them "casual" games. I call them ridiculous. The two biggest culprits here are the iPhone and Facebook. Remember the good old days when cellphone gaming consisted of Pong, Tetris, and Pac-Man? Whatever happened to those days? Remember when people would visit websites specifically for flash games when they were bored? I do. I miss those days.

It's not so much an issue of gaming going mainstream and becoming casual as it is game developers trying to force gaming where it doesn't belong. I've seen, time and again, big name titles ported to the iPhone- a platform with no buttons. The iPhone was never specifically designed with gaming in mind. The controls have to be mapped on screen as touch buttons. Do you know how awkward it is to play something like Doom or Earhworm Jim on a touch screen alone. It's frustrating. Yet, the masses seem to love it. At least "dumbphones" have buttons. It may still be awkward, but only because the device is tiny. The though that, someday, full-fledged 3D games will be deigned for the iPhone in which characters will need to move in a third dimension makes me cringe. What are they going to do, make a virtual analog stick? We all know how well that turned out with Mario 64 DS.

Now, some may bring the DS up as being a touch screen gaming system and may ask why that's not a problem. Simply, the DS is a gaming machine. It was designed specifically for that purpose. It has buttons, and so the touch screen can be used in intuitive ways. The problem here is that there need to be more original games developed for the iPhone and not simply ports or iPhone versions of established series. This brings up another problem altogether (the lack of originality these days) but I personally believe that if iPhone gaming is to continue, developers need to make original games geared toward the buttonless platform. I mean good games. Either that, or leave it with stuff like Bejeweled or that stupid ice cream scoop game. Don't go developing deep, full-fledged games on and iPhone. You will likely fail unless it's well thought out.

The other problem is Facebook. I think one problem is that people have become so lazy that they demand one website do every possible thing ever. "Oh, I feel like playing a game. But I don't want to leave Facebook. Farmville!" I hate this rationale. People have told me they play games on Facebook because they're bored. Hey, what about this? Or what about these? Notice the iPhone is incorrectly placed on that list. But now even game developers are getting in on it. I recently read that a special version of Civilization is being developed for Facebook. Again, Facebook is not a gaming platform but a social networking website. I remember when the internet was a place for independent developers to get known. It seems the Behemoth will be the last of its kind. The Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, and WiiWare seem to have taken over this job, which is alright because at least they're game consoles, but it's a shame that indie developers now face far more restrictions than they used to. Nowadays, your game must go through processes to get certified. But this is besides the point, original Facebook games are either not of sufficient quality, or cheap ripoffs of better games that casual gamers haven't played (Harvest Moon anyone?). But besides that, I despise when big name developers water themselves down for the masses. We have other companies for that. There's no excuse for EA creating Mass Effect for the iPhone. It's just stupid. Go play the original Mass Effect. What, you've never heard of it? Then you have no right to play the "casual" one.

Now go get yourself a real game system and play something good. Or go look for some actual flash games. Anything as long as it's in its proper place.

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