Joypad vs. Keypad

Frequently, when ‘fellow games writers’ ask me what I’m up to these days work wise, they react like I’ve just told them that I’m suffering from an incurable disease.

For those of you who don’t know, the main focus of my work these days is mobile gaming – reviewing and covering games on Nseries phones and the iPhone. It was a completely new area of gaming to me, both professionally and personally, but I can safely say that, over a year in, it was a sound move. Not only is the site I write for pretty damn special, but it’s been genuinely refreshing discovering the whole other world of games.

And it really is a whole other world. Because, while some of my compatriots might think mobile games are a mere shadow of their console counterparts, in truth, there’s a lot to love and respect about the companies and gamers involved in this field.

I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so, either. The likes of Digital Chocolate, Glu, Gameloft and even EA of late bring a real sheen and polish to their titles these days, which – on the whole – wasn’t often seen a few years ago. There’s certainly a desire amongst the studios to push the hardware as far as they can with the software. On features alone, many of the sports sims out there rival and even surpass their console equivalents, for instance.

But it’s not just the professionalism of the developers and publishers, but rather the positive attitude of those out there parting with their cash.

I’ve been known to post on a few games forums in my time (ha ha!), and of late, discussions about specific games can be split somewhere down the middle. You either love a game, beyond reason or even sense, or you absolutely hate it, usually before its even come out. Pages and pages are filled pre-release with the supposed ‘fanboys’ salivating over every new screenshot and proclaiming whatever title they’re lusting over as a huge future hit, played off against those who have absolutely no interest in buying the title, themselves only posting to reaffirm their contempt.

The years of build up to Killzone 2 is the most prominent example I can think of right now. On the forums I visited over those years, fans of the original (or general Sony zealots) were confident in their belief that it would prove to be a turning point in the PS3’s lifecycle – a title that swung the balance of power. Conversely, there were scores of people all too willing to proclaim it as a flop, years before release.

Though my actual playing experience is limited to the demo (which, I thought was solid and decent, if a bit clichéd, especially when it came to the tacky musical score), it would appear Killzone 2 neither turned out to be the second coming, nor a disaster, shifting a fairly healthy if not headline grabbing amount of units in the process. Yet, that view was largely drowned out by anyone who had the sense to state it.

From what I’ve seen of mobile gaming forums (and, this might be a surprise to some, but they do exist), such is the formative nature of the industry that almost every title, whether it’s from a studio with a chequered history or not, is greeted with hope and thirst. Naïve, you might think, but it’s also refreshing. People aren’t blasted for getting excited about one particular game, or ripped apart for downloading another. Even if it turns out to be a dud.

In one respect, this makes criticising games that warrant a bit of a dressing down rather hard – very rarely do the folk that post on such forums either agree with, or even want, faults to be pointed out. But this is still vastly preferable to having your flag effectively raised for you if you happen to like a game the ‘community’ loathes, even if they’ve not played the bugger. Naturally, the reverse is just as true.

Case in point, a MGS4 review I wrote last year. Scored 8, was generous, but realistic. It’s certainly not a high point for Kojima in my book, and while there was a lot to love for MGS fans such as myself, there were also whole scores of the game that were nothing more than a self-indulgent car crash. Of course, even scoring the game as high as 8 – which, in my book, is a pretty fucking respectable score – was a travesty, and the review was met with floods of complaints. It was heresy to have Guns of the Patriots down as anything but a solid 10.

I’ve, of course, encountered resistance with some of my mobile reviews, but rarely to the same extent. There’s something of a fresh outlook in these parts, almost as if the gamers are playing and learning as much as the developers. There’s no guarantee that mobile gaming won’t go the same way as its console cousin, but for now, this is an industry with a refreshingly positive fanbase.

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