The Art of Mobile Gaming

November 1, 2010

The exponential rise in mobile gaming since the release of iPhone and recent Android phones has shown that perhaps we’re letting art get too much in the way of gaming. The argument still rages on about video games as art, with visually stunning games such as the classic Myst series, or more recently Shadow of Colossus revealing advances in gaming technology that allow for more detailed artistic expression. However, with games like those gathering a following of already-gamers and video game art advocates, the number of players are staggeringly small compared to those who purchase casual mobile games such as the recent sensation Angry Bird .

It should be no surprise that social games have a more drastic sway than the visually appealing works for Xbox and Playstation3, seeing as Myst was the best-selling PC game of all time until The Sims came along in 2002, selling more than 6.3 million copies in two years according to Gamespot. This was only the beginning, with the creating of more advanced mobile devices allowing the gamer to not be confined to a computer or television screen.

Though revenue made on iOS games still has a way to go before overtaking giants such as Nintendo , the addition of Android and Windows phones might be enough to make it much more profitable. That being said, the number of players alone make it a competitive market, with Angry Birds selling 2 million copies on Android in three days according to Joystiq. The new iOS game Cut the Rope recently had 1 million copies in 10 days, says Mashable – and it has yet to branch out to Android.

What the number of players should signal is that mobile gaming has tapped a market forgotten since the days of Tetris and Bejeweled on older Java-based phones. While it is profitiable to continue making big-ticket games for large gaming platforms and continually developing technologies to make them more visually and emotionally appealing, trends in mobile gaming should remind us of the base reason behind gaming: entertainment.

Games like Plants Vs. Zombies have allowed female and male players to game on a level playing field (and at an affordable price), creating a long tail of fans and media buzz. Angry Birds and Cut the Rope have also successfully bridged the age gap, among other factors, providing a product that young children can enjoy just as much as the busy professional, the student, or the elderly. Not all games are art, but it is an art form to create universally engaging and affordable games that are accessible without a game console or computer.

Photos from Flickr users marimoon, walker cleavelands, and Picasa user Jeremy Thornhill (respectively) under Creative Commons license.

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