Friday, October 18, 2013

The Smartphone As A Portable Gaming Device

A lot of what I would want and could say about this topic has already been gloriously covered by Extra Credits from season 6 episode 18 titled, "Designing for a Touch Screen."  Now, if you haven't seen it, the episode looks at touch screens in the development of games for all touch screen devices.  Right now, I'm going to take one step more and look at specifically smartphones and since I've had a smartphone now for less than a month, I am an obvious expert on this topic.  What else is the Internet for?

I don't have a whole lot of experience in this arena, only what I've played on one of Conklederp's iPhones and her iPad.  Oh, and I've played a bit of Tetris and Snake on an old Nokia, but those weren't "smart"phones, so moving on.  Game-wise, there's been Fruit Ninja, some ice cream balancing game, Tiny Wings, Angry Birds, Bejeweled Blitz, you know, games that came out a number of years ago.

When thinking about smartphones, you have to take into account the size of the screen as most are anywhere between 4 - 5.5 inches, any larger than that and you're delving into tablet sized platforms.  Granted the smartphone I have is titled a "Mini" although it has roughly the same size screen as an iPhone 4, so it's not really miniature.  I didn't acquire a smartphone because I wanted a new gaming platform, but because I would be paying nearly the same as for my previous phone.

Taking into account the size of my hands which measure 6.5" x 7.5" and the area each thumb takes up (.77312 sq in).  Let alone just the size of my thumbs when pressed up against a screen, that's 13% of the screen covered if I'm just using my thumbs on touch buttons in the corners of the screen.  With this in mind, imagine that you're playing a console game, and two football keep moving in front of the screen at the corners.  The standard response would be some variation on "Move!"  This is all taken for granted with touch screen games that there will be something obscuring the screen for at least a portion of the gameplay.

Taking all this into context, I was considering purchasing the Dead Space mobile game, at first on Conklederp's iPad then on my phone when I saw it was available through the Google store.  I was excited at first, then I watched the trailer to see how the game would look on my phone.  That's when it dawned on me that I would most likely not want to buy the game on my phone but on Conklederp's iPad (with her permission of course).  Dead Space is a game that deserves to not only be played, but to be explored and looked at.  I mean there were elevator service checklists in the first game.  I want to look at those and be immersed in the world.  I don't see that happening with my fingers/thumbs covering 13% of the screen; depending on the control set up for touchscreens. 

Presently I have 10 games installed, six of which are from Humble's recent Mobile Bundle 2 and of those six games, only two really take advantage of touch screen controls, and just barely at that.  Are the games themselves any good?  I'll get to that later.  Three of the games I got for free (Bejeweled Blitz, Angry Birds and Angry Birds: Star Wars) make perfect use of not only touch screen controls, but also the fact that the screen is only 4.8 by 2.5 inches and not 32 inches.  My finger (not my thumb!) is on the screen for only a portion of the time spent playing the game.  Another perfect usage of a touch screen device.  The last game Words with Friends I got because I plan to piss off flight attendants, but not really.

So in answer to my title, which really was not a question: no, my smartphone will not replace my 3DS as my portable gaming device of choice.  And developers could take a lot from the people at Extra Credits.


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