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The Questionable Rise of Mobile Gaming

By Quentin Dunnigan ’22 A photo illustration of a mobile gamer playing candy crush.

Photo illustration by Victor Beck’20 | A photo illustration of a mobile gamer playing candy crush.

By Quentin Dunnigan ’22

Around the late 2000s, mobile games gained much popularity, becoming more accessible and more frequently used. Now, almost every phone or other portable device has one or more video games installed.

Video games have been around since 1958 when physicist William Higinbotham and created the first video game, “Pong.” Since then, video games have become more and more popular, gaining the attention and time of many people.

Recently, however, mobile games have dominated the gaming scene, becoming widely popular and greatly downloaded. The success of these games can be attributed to a few key factors.

Accessibility and portability are mobile games’ most appealing factors to all audiences. “This high level of accessibility and portability has helped attract people who would not traditionally consider themselves to be gamers, broadening potential audiences,” said Valerie Waldron, the computer and video game archive manager at the Art, Architecture and Engineering library of Michigan State.

Broadening the audience that they have due to the high percentage of United States citizens owning a smartphone, mobile games have been able to dominate gaming culture. Often times, this wide accessibility allows friends or peers to cooperate or compete in mobile games quickly and easily.

“The thing about the portable though is that it is easier to connect with friends because in the modern day and age, everyone has a phone,” said Will Warner ’21, who plays video games both casually on his own time and competitively on the Brophy esports team.

On top of their accessibility and portability, mobile games are far less expensive than most games that one would find on many other household consoles.

This allows the downloader to install a mobile game often for free, whereas on other systems, higher end games are often anywhere from $40 to $60. “The ease of distribution led to an impressive surge in inexpensive, simple to play games,” Waldron said.

When adding this to their wide accessibility, smartphone users have been able to download millions of applications, or “apps” for short, from the Google Play Store or the App Store.

Though low costs and wide accessibility are large benefits to mobile gaming, these factors can often cause major drawbacks such as a lack in overall quality or abundant in app purchases or ads, which can often ruin the quality of a game.

“It’s not as engaging. It’s just kind of ads everywhere, and it’s just a cash grab,” said Andrew Ray ’21, reflecting on the current rise of mobile games.

Microtransactions are online payments used on virtual goods, seen most often in free-to-play games as a way to earn revenue for the developer and benefit in the game. “I think that they’re exploitative and that they get people addicted to games,” Ray said on the topic of unavoidable payments in mobile gaming. Warner agreed with Ray, saying, “Realistically all those things do is nothing, and it doesn’t add to the game.”

Addressing another downside to mobile gaming, both Ray and Warner agree that due to the restriction of the device, mobile gaming is a lesser experience.

Comparing the games and features of the mobile device to those of more professional and dedicated systems such as the Xbox One or Playstation 4, Warner said, “I think we all agree that they are a lot worse. It’s just different because obviously it’s not like you can run as much and they’re not as popular or even like unique games you could say.”

Making a similar comparison between dedicated games and mobile games, Ray said, “I think they’re lesser than; they are on a tier below that.”

Compared to devices and consoles that are made for gaming, mobile devices such as cell phones are not in the same league because of their small size and commitment to other features due to the fact that they are made predominantly for communication, rather than for gaming.

Despite the power that these more dedicated systems have, their lack of portability has caused the mobile device to become the most popular choice when on the go or playing away from home. However, newer systems such as the Nintendo Switch have developed portability while keeping a large amount of their dedication to gaming, providing the best alternative between portability, graphics, and performance.

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