Tighe: Irritation surrounds the growth of mobile gaming

Columnist Samantha Tighe discusses the accessibility and downsides to mobile gaming.

Samantha Tighe

Samantha TigheThe term “gamer” has evolved during the last two or three decades. Once, it was a term used to describe the masses that spent hours at their local arcades. When gaming systems were released to the market, gamers shifted their attention to their own television sets. I can remember my first real console, the original PlayStation. I would sit around and spend hours playing “Spyro the Dragon” and “Crash Bandicoot.” As time passed, arcades became a rarity while gaming consoles exploded in popularity. Nowadays, most video games no longer have limitations on how or where they can be played.

Quick, let’s take a small poll. How many of you have a smartphone? OK, how about some sort of game or app on your cell phone or tablet that you play when bored? It’s no joke, video game accessibility has exploded — you would be hard-pressed to try and find a person our age who does not play some type of game. Mobile gaming has become its own platform of sorts — entire websites and even magazines are dedicated to them and the products they use. It is because of video games like these that the term “gamer” now has broader distinctions.

According to the research company Newzoo, in the United States alone approximately 100 million people have admitted to playing or owning some type of mobile game. To put that into perspective — the population of the U.S. is a little more than 300 million people. The fact that more than one-third of our population plays video games is staggering. Mobile gaming is quickly becoming a fast growing trend in the industry.

Mobile gaming is a broad subject, so let’s take a quick look at a well-known company — how about Zynga? It is the proprietor of such hits like “Draw Something” and “Hanging With Friends.” Zynga has been experiencing great success on the market — despite feeling a decent amount of turbulence within the company itself — we’re talking a revenue of more than $1.1 billion last year alone. Zynga doesn’t limit itself to just mobile gaming either; it first skyrocketed to popularity by creating several insanely popular Facebook games like “FarmVille,” “Mafia Wars” and “CityVille.” Come on, we all have experienced those annoying “FarmVille” notifications that people feel the need to send.

It is through mobile gaming that the “everyman” is able to experience what gamers enjoy. Not everyone is thrilled with the increased popularity of mobile gaming or the rise of the “casual gamer.” To these die-hard players who slave over their consoles, the term “gamer” should be reserved for those who actually spend the hours playing some of their favorite franchises, not for those who play “Words With Friends” on their cellphones.

Charles Mattioli, a graduate student studying statistics, dislikes mobile games.

“Mobile gaming started this whole free-to-play gaming design and it sucks,” Mattioli said.  “Now you can’t just buy a game, you need to keep putting money in just to play it, or it’s designed in a way where it’s impossible to level up without purchasing in-game content.”

When pressed for an example, Mattioli quickly obliged.

“Take a look at ‘Tiny Tower,’” Mattioli said. “You can’t just buy the game, you have to keep buying coins to make it go faster and to actually play the game.”

Mattioli has a console of choice — the PlayStation 3 — and said he has put hundreds of hours into his current gaming obsession, “Dark Souls.” To him, only people like himself should be referred to as gamers.

“We’re the ones putting hours upon hours into our games, building our characters and their skillsets and getting the best weapons,” Mattioli said.

Whether you’re taking sides in the argument surrounding mobile gaming or you don’t care, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s a specialty that has been changing the industry, especially since it’s an area that has been proven to make an enormous amount of profit. With simple interfaces and specific goals, everyone — from your parents to your grandparents — can play. It’s just something we all have to deal with. Until a new word is created to describe these people, I guess you’ll just have to accept the fact that your great-aunt Susan, who plays “FarmVille,” is as much of a gamer as you are.

Samantha can be reached at samantha.tighe@temple.edu.

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