Mobile Mindspace

The rise of the mobile gaming over the last couple of years has been covered rather extensively already. And up to this point, I would have argued too extensively. As a phenomenon, it is certainly interesting seeing a market emerge in real-time, but it never really seemed to impact me. The “gamer” population swelled with the ranks of people playing Candy Crush, which had little to do with any core gamers. Maybe a few well-known studios released a mobile app, whatever.

This past weekend ended up being pretty busy, but I still managed to squeeze in around 5-7 hours of gaming. And close to 100% of that time were spent in mobile games on my phone.

Granted, a few of those hours would have been dead time had I not had my phone with me. But close to half of the total was literally me sitting at my computer desk, dicking around with Clash Royale and similar “time wasters.” Part of it was undoubtedly post-game depression stemming from completing Mass Effect: Andromeda. It is always tough for me to mentally transition from 80+ hours of one title into a brand new game that promises similar hours required.

The other part, though? I am wondering whether it is due to my age that I am gravitating towards more instant gratification. Or maybe traditional game designers are getting worse at their jobs?

I spent approximately 20 minutes playing FFXIV over the weekend. I logged in, talked to some NPCs, teleported to some cities, talked some more, then had to take a minute Chocobo ride back to the main base camp to complete the quest. The main story quest, mind you. I had more fun in the 60 seconds of dead time on the Chocobo than I did in the entire 20 minutes playing overall, as I was able to boot up a mobile game, snag some rewards, and restart some locked chest timers.

Now, of course watching chests explode with goodies is a cheap, diversionary tactic at best; it is hardly fair to compare such things to the slow burn of a (supposedly) epic narrative. At the same time, those now-empty chest slots drew my eye to the 2v2 Battle button hovering just above, fat with the promise of compelling and amusing gameplay just a press away. And if I just get 6 more crowns from destroying enemy towers, I can unlock another chest with even more goodies. Hmmmmm.

Needless to say, I logged off FFXIV soon after getting off the Chocobo.

I guess what I’m getting at is the shift towards mobile is a multi-layered “problem.” There is the vapid dopamine rush from getting easy rewards, sure. There is also the front-loaded fun gameplay in quick gaming sessions. Then there is a whole class of game (MMOs) which are utterly reliant on back-loaded… everything. And it is not even that clear that such back-loaded fun is actually required to be back-loaded – that is simply how things have traditionally been done. Why doesn’t Waking Sands in FFXIV have a teleporter when just about every other town does? Is there a legit reason?

I am beginning to question everything. Opening a chest is a vapid reward. Is it more vapid than gaining levels in a traditional MMO? I am playing a Monk in FFXIV, and even after the revamped combat that came with the Stormblood expansion, I’m getting bored to tears with such a limited amount of abilities. I am stuck with limited abilities because the designers don’t want me to get all of them at the beginning because they are afraid I won’t feel rewarded enough in levels 20-60 after having received my full rotation. And they are right to be worried about that – it sounds awful.

Know what else sounds awful? Spending my time playing this game when I can play something else and be having fun right now.

Mobile gaming has not completely consumed my gaming mindspace, as evidenced by the fact that I spent 90 hours in Mass Effect just before this. But I am finding that the proverbial Fun Floor has risen dramatically over the last few months for me, more than it ever has before. Presumably, I am going to remember the twists and turns of FFXIV’s (later) story way beyond Quick Battle #4,872, and thereby justify the time investment.

But sometimes you just want to, you know, have fun when you play videogames. Right now.

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Posted on August 1, 2017, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hmmm for me it’s somewhat different.
    I actually play very little mobile games, the reason is that I expect those games to allow me to close the lid of the tablet at any time and then be able to reopen it when I feel like going on, this cuts out any “real” game. So even if I’ve played a bit of several, the lifetime is always short.
    I’m a lot less thrilled by the opening of random chests, as I always feel cheated (“I do what I’m asked, and I get completely random stuff in return”). I also find the games shallow (yes, even Clash Royale), and when I’m home, if I want a quick fix of fun I’ll take the computer over the tablet anytime. Eyesight does not improve with age and a large screen is more comfortable. Explosions look much better in World of Warships than on tablet games, also.

    Right now I’m “playing” War Dragons, which I’ll drop soon having hit the limit of how many times I can breath fire on the same layout island, and Idle Heroes, which is really Idle. I mean, after a 5 min session I have nothing to do but wait, so it’s not like I can play it for longer :) It makes for a great time-hole-filler. Tiny Rails also occupied me for some time, just looking at the scenery go by is relaxing…. Next on the list is Dawn of Crafting, which I saw mentioned at Tobold’s.

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  2. The moment Albion Online released, I couldn’t bring myself to go back to FFXIV. I’m not about to claim the former is objectively the better game, but it’s absolutely the more enjoyable way for ME to spend my time right now. I’ve had more fun flipping items on the player market and building up a little farm on my personal island in AO than literally anything I did in FFXIV.

    I’m sure AO will lose its shine over the next month or so, but it is satisfying to have something to really sink my teeth into after trying so hard for weeks to figure out why FFXIV doesn’t want me to have any fun.

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