Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Addictive iPhone Games And The Reason For Their Success

Here are a few games you will have heard of if you have a Smartphone or you have a friend with one. They are all addictive & this article explores the reasons they are addictive.

Angry Birds

A description of Angry Birds
You have a slingshot that you use to fire cartoon birds at a structure. The structure is made up of various blocks that are stacked. Cartoon pigs are on and in the structure and the aim of the game is to use the birds to knock over the structure and destroy the pigs.
Angry Birds carried on a tradition that is decades old 
Every now and again a phenomenon comes along that too few people understand or appreciate. Sometimes it happens publicly such as Sonic and Mario making platforming enjoyable, and Final Fantasy VII introducing the western world to role playing games. And, sometimes it happens quietly such as how Thief for the PC was one of the first (mainstream) games to offer a "dynamic solutions" gameplay. 

This is where a game offers you more than one way to complete a level. It is possible for ten different people to play the game and each of them find their own way of completing a level. Furthermore, a person may go back and play it again and complete the same level in a different way. Technically, Thief was not the first game to do this, as Defender of the Crown for the Amiga did it first, but Thief was one of the first modern games to do it.

What does Angry Birds offer that makes it so addictive? 
Angry Birds became popular because it also has offers dynamic solutions. It is possible to complete levels in more than one way. It also has a predictable physics engine and reactive items. This means that it brings together the joys of things such as penny pushers in arcades and bowling at bowling alleys in just one game.
There is a distinct cause-and-effect frame to the game and it is sophisticated enough to allow multiple single-items to fall, move and topple according to the laws of physics. It generates the same excitement and tension as when you see a bowling pin rocking and you hope it falls over, or when you see the pennies moving ever more to the edge with penny pushers at the arcades. 

You can even play it on your Windows desktop computer without downloading anything. It can be played for free so you can give it a go before you consider downloading one of the iPhone versions

Candy Crush

A description of Candy Crush
You are presented with what looks like a box of candy from a bird's eye view. You are allowed to move two pieces of candy at a time by switching one with another adjacent to it. The idea is to create sets of three or more of the same candies. The candy sets you create will disappear and new candies appear to replace them, with all existing candies descending into the spaces created. 
What does Candy Crush offer that makes it so addictive? 
Some people say it appeals to our inner child, but that is an easy answer because of the graphics & game setup. In truth it appeals to that part of your brain that controls denial. It is a game that puts a carrot on a stick & holds it just out of your reach.

The game is clearly easy with a simple premise that even a child can master, and yet it is different to get into a flow as you would with Tetris, and it is difficult to plan multiple hits as you would with Bejeweled. It looks and feels so easy whilst it remains frustratingly different. This leads to a payoff as people become slowly better at it and that is what makes it addictive.


A description of Cube
Shoot and blast your way though the landscape levels in this fast first person shooter. The gaming/graphical engine is very different to most games, which gives the game a massive edge over all the other iPhone games in the same genre. 
What does Cube offer that makes it so addictive? 
It is the definition of a pick-up-and-play game. It embodies the ideal casual gamer ideal that the Wii failed to capitalize on. It offers what the early Doom and Duke Nukem games offered but is a little better looking and has better visual and game dynamics. It is a pick-up-and-play game that takes very little thought or investment, which comes close to elevating it above other pick-up-and-play games such as Snake and Pac Man (though it falls short of them by the skin of its teeth).

Robot Unicorn Attack 2

A description of Robot Unicorn Attack 2
You are a unicorn on a platform game. You have to keep moving forwards as it is out of your control. You have to jump over ledges without being sure of where you will land. You also have a power-force that enables you to move quicker and blast through certain items. The game does have a natural feel to it so that you don’t feel like you are being pushed like in those old space shooter games.
What does Robot Unicorn Attack 2 offer that makes it so addictive? 
It is stupid, with stupid music and a stupid premise. So, why do some people find it addictive? There are two reasons, and the first is the perpetual feeling it has. If you want to know the pleasures of the perpetual feeling within a game then try Temple Run, as that uses a similar idea. It gives you a sense of control whilst also forcing you forwards. The over-riding sense is that you do not feel as if you are being pushed; you feel that you are going just slow enough to control the outcome without relying on luck. 

The second reason is because it looks pretty. Despite the fact that it is stupid, it is visually pleasing. It is also one of those games where it is easy to die (run into a solid star) but also very easy to improve. This may be what gives people the incentive to keep playing and playing. You can play it on your desktop computer. 

Real Racing 3

A description of Real Racing 3
Race on what feels like a three dimensionally rendered race course and try to win the race. Play with the booster and hit other cars for money. Use that money to upgrade your car at the end of the race. 
What does Real Racing 3 offer that makes it so addictive?  
If you are "in" to racing games then you will find them addictive anyway because of the pervading sense of competition and the fix you get from participating. What elevates this game above the rest is the three dimensional aspect. There has always been a two-dimensional feel to these types of games because smaller devices cannot render a realistic enough environment, but this game is more race-realistic and not merely a 2D slideshow. 
The controls are also softer than most games, meaning that you can error-correct your steering or speed without hitting the grass/edge. There is also a money element and upgrades element which worked well with the Gran Turismo games.