Opinion: Mobile Gaming Should Supplement, Not Replace, Traditional Gaming

Confession session: I’m a huge console gamer, a huge handheld gamer, and a mobile gaming skeptic. From the dawn of the iPhone and smartphones, Angry Birds was the start of the end for me.

Being the guy who totted around a GameBoy in elementary school to the Nintendo DS through high school and beyond, mobile was an affront to what I want out of today’s gaming and the future. Short, mindless games, ads everywhere, pay to pay, and ripoffs everywhere. Of course, some of these features were rampant in other genres too, but coupled together with devices that were advertised as the all-in-one miracles, and everyone is playing these games. Are there pluses? No doubt, as these mobiles games were sold with free versions, development from independent developers to the big guns was encouraged, and even the resurrection of classic genres helped get everyone in on the fun. Casuals began to forget about the dedicated systems and relied solely on their phones to take care of their gaming needs. To that I say nay, blech, and never. The instability of smart phone controls, dependency on internet and connection to play, and a lack of dedication to these games have upheld their status as “mind-numbing time wasters” in my book. Don’t believe me? Try Flappy Bird on your computer. Had this game been developed for the computer initially, it would not have been as popular as it was for one moment in 2013.

For me, I want my gaming time spent on something worthwhile. I pay for the rich Nintendo 3DS library today because I know there is effort behind these project. Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid, Kid Icarus, Super Smash Bros. These franchises adapted to the new system and thrived, pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible and taking gamers along for the ride. I’m excited for a new 3DS game because not only are the titles designed for this specific system, but they attempt to innovate as the system does. The mobile phone is not innovating gaming; gaming simply becomes more accessible and less challenging. Everybody appreciates the ease of touch screen use in the games on their phones, but the Nintendo DS had to win over audiences and paved the way for touch screen gaming, which Samuel Tobin argues in his book, Portable Play in Everyday Life.

So that brings you to current-day me, the pessimist with a Nintendo 3DS closer to him than his phone. However, I came across the answer I feel has taken too long to come. As last month’s wave of Star Wars hype got everyone excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was just happy to spend some time with Star Wars: Battlefront on Playstation 4.

As I’ve gotten better at the game, I noticed the advertisement to download the companion, thinking it was a slightly convenient application that would inform me when my friends are playing the game. What I found was that, in the game, there is a mode called Base Command. A small mini-game (not too much unlike the mobile games I’ve despised) that allows you to command your Rebel army to ward off waves of Imperial attackers. Other than some interesting strategy and fun animations, why would I bother playing this? Well, the game is connected to your Battlefront account and rewards are given for doing well. Say you get three stars in a mission, you get credits for your in game account. These credits allow you to purchase important things such as weapon upgrades, new power-ups, and even some aesthetic improvements.

Here’s the thing about all of this. The game is not ground-breaking, but it does accomplish a few things for me. One, there is a point to all of this. The mini-game’s fun tactics reward me for playing by helping my console counterpart gain some serious upgrades. Two, the game does not bother with ads or pushes for money, keeping the flow going in healthy doses. Three, the mini-game is enjoyable and any fan of Star Wars will be happy to see how these military units matchup against each other. I don’t need to play this game and doesn’t change my opinion on the status of mobile games, but if I need a game to kill some time, I’m glad it is a game that will benefit me outside of my phone. This shapes what these games can lead to, which is co-beneficial partners to the consoles.

With so many different major video game companies now into publishing mobile gaming (even Nintendo), I can see how more of these “companion games” would be beneficial. Coupling a small component of the game to help your console is similar to Nintendo having the Gameboy Advance support the Nintendo Gamecube in certain titles (Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, etc). Using a mini-game to unlock extra content, support gameplay, or even provide is the right step. The Wii U has shown off the power of a tablet in single-player and multiplayer situations, so using a mobile device to supplement gameplay can work great (Just Dance is using it already as an alternative controller).

While I don’t know if the game will be supported as the season pass rolls out later this year, I am excited that my phone can be productive to my gaming efforts. What do you think of Alex’s revelation? Are mobile and handheld destined to clash or can a truce be made across the board? Let us know what you think in the comments below or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

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