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iPhone: To Game, Or Not To Game?

When Steve Jobs took to the stage to introduce the world to the iPhone, he boasted it as a 3 in 1 package:

-A widescreen iPod with touch controls.
-A revolutionary mobile phone.
A breakthrough internet communications device.

Turns out he could have went for a fourth, and quite possibly the most groundbreaking: a new gaming platform.

If you’re like me, even with the progress Apple has made, gaming isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think Apple. That’s all changed.

It’s time gamers of all kinds finally accepted the iPhone as a gaming platform above and beyond all other mobile platforms, and on par with the DS and PSP, and to some extent, even superior. If you’re thinking to yourself you never doubted it, or that you’re on board, then good for you. If you’re still an unbeliever, read on.

Convert Me

I’m the sort of guy who has been gaming my whole life. From the Intelevision, NES, to the PlayStation, Dreamcast and beyond. I’ve even dabbled in the PC realm as well. One thing I could never get into though, for whatever reason, was handheld gaming. I don’t have anything against it; I’ve even made leaps toward trying to like it. I purchased the original GameBoy, GBA, SP, and even spent a little time with the Game Gear. With those all failing to captivate me, or reveal the point in having them, I’ve yet to plunge into the DS or PSP crowd as a result. I have played many titles on both of them but again, I fail to see the point of it all.

There’s just something about carrying a gadget on me strictly for gaming that I’ve always felt annoying, if not just the image factor alone. Am I really that addicted that when I leave I must make sure to shove a large plastic device into my pocket to stare at later for the two minutes I’m away from my home consoles? And along with that, a few games in a handy carrying case, you know, because 1 game might not be enough for my ten-minute bus ride. But, you can’t be too careful… the bus may just be 40+ hours late and when that happens, I’ll be the one with the last laugh as I plow through a lengthy RPG.

Now I’m not just outright insulting an insanely large demographic of people out there. And while I am exaggerating a tad, I really don’t get it. To me, if you’re going to invest in playing an in depth RPG, or a game with an actual story, I’d rather be playing that on a console. Not in a noisy waiting room, or a cramped bus, and especially not at home. It just goes in circles, because with portable gaming, you’re either getting some quick bite sized gimmicky fun, or an involved story based/strategy game that makes you question why you’re playing it when your PS3, 360, or Wii sit ironically a few feet away and 9 times out of ten is available on one of their networks to download.

Again, I have been stretching things a little bit so far, but the main point is this: I’ve never fully been hooked by any portable gaming platform yet. The titles haven’t absorbed me, the idea and concept behind it feels contrived, and the whole ‘gaming on the go’ thing just doesn’t work for my lifestyle. I’m never in those circumstances. Even on long trips, I’d rather be soaking in the trip itself.

And then the iPhone came.

A Whole New World

I lost myself immediately in browsing the App store. At first it was just really cool seeing all of the neat stuff I had access too right off the bat, and for FREE. Then to my surprise I found some old favorites, like “Vay,” an RPG I loved on SEGA CD. I had to get it, it’s been years! Then a load of “why not? it’s only 99 cents” flooded my machine. And soon I was justifying 5-10 dollar purchases. What had I become? A handheld gamer? But how? And why?

I’m not sure if it’s just the pure fascinating fact that one small device is capable of so much that it makes the event of downloading a full featured game in seconds that much more appealing, or if it’s the insanely good bargains, but there’s something different about the iPhone that made handheld gaming feel right to me.

When I’ve got some downtime, I’ll always pull out my iPhone, check my Facebook, email, look over a few of my favorite websites, Twitter, and then bam! It happens. I see an automated Tweet from a friend about his new high score on Run, or Doodle Jump. Hey, I’ve got 5 minutes to kill, why not play and try to reclaim my throne? And that’s just it. They’ve made it so easy to transition from one thing to another so naturally that before I know it, I’m knee deep 10 hours into an RPG, or stuck on the same Mega Man level I was stuck in as a kid. And the best part of it all is that I don’t have a separate beast I gotta’ drag out and pop a cartridge in. It’s all there in one place. If I get a text, I see it. I can even keep listening to my iPod at the same time in some games.

Check And Mate

So whether it was the smarts of Apple, or a complete accident, they’ve managed to convert many people just like me into buying into portable gaming. I bet there’s people deeply invested that aren’t even aware of it. People that wouldn’t even call themselves a gamer but every day at break they’re playing Words With Friends, or Flight Control.

There’s over 140,000 Apps now available, and a large chunk of that is made up of gaming content from some very talented indie studios, to all of the big names like Capcom, Konami, and more.

It’s much easier to be hooked into a gimmicky game when there’s no trip to your local store involved, when silly little games feel harmless because they’re free or only 99 cents. When you can have them now, anytime, or anywhere. You get sucked in. You can literally play games that some people spend $40 on for the Wii, or $30 bucks on the DS, and we’re not talking poor ports here, they’re often sporting improved visuals, and added content such as Cooking Mama or Assassins Creed.

Just recently announced as well, were two huge franchises joining the onslaught of games available for the iPhone. Those two heavy hitters were none other than Grand Theft Auto, and Final Fantasy. Crazy, right? iPhone gamers have access to what many called the DS Game of the Year, for a fraction of the price.

The gaming content on the iPhone is steadily increasing day by day, delivering more and more polished games to people around the world. We’re talking visually impressive games, with full featured online multiplayer, options, updates/add-ons and killer gameplay to boot. From first-person shooters, puzzle, to strategy, music games, and classic platformers. It’s been made accessible, user-friendly, and incredibly convenient to the point where anyone is capable of being a gamer. The only thing that stands in its way most of the time are the controls. Sure the touch screen can ruin some experiences, while others have tried remedying it by sacrificing screen space for on-screen analogue sticks; it’s definitely not perfect. But some games nail it, and some don’t. You get that on any platform.

I guess in the end, the important thing to get from this is that if you have yet to give the iPhone a chance, don’t be ignorant like I was my whole life. Handheld gaming can be sweet, you just gotta’ find the right thing for you. Give it a chance, you’ll have fun, and save some cash while you’re at it. It’s a real contender and should be taken seriously by any gamer, and may be able to become the first true competitor for Nintendo in the future.


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  • Do you think the Ipad will have an impact on this, for instance my great hope interactive comics, and the like. I think if your right the Ipad is only another huge leap toward this. Not an apple fan myself but I don’t disagree with the ideas your presenting here.

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  • (Sorry for my bad english)

    About the iPad, I think that is the only platform that can compete with PC/Mac (mouse driven platforms) in the RTS genre.

    Maybe one day we’ll see Starcraft in iPad?

    (Again. Sorry for my english)