I had a debate a long time ago. In general, it was about if something was popular, does that make it good? Specifically, we were discussing the Backstreet Boys. The elitist hipsters among us were categorically against this argument, but the more esoteric or abstract thinkers among us, weren’t so sure. In other words, there’s something to be said for mass appeal and consumability. For example, I personally don’t like Justin Bieber‘s music, and believe it’s but another example of the atrocities mankind is willing to inflict on one another. Still, that opinion – from what I understand - puts me in the minority. So, yes, it’s popular. Still, is it good? If we can all agree ‘good’ is subjective, and hundreds of millions of people believe it to be good, then it follows that by virtue of his music’s popularity, it is good music. Ouch.
And so, to my dilemma. As a long time gamer, the elitist in me would like to believe that games like Angry Birds and Farmville stink like turds covered in burnt hair. Then there’s the harsh reality that Rovio (makers of Angry Birds) just turned down Zynga’s $2 Billion buyout offer. Not much more commentary required the game’s popularity, eh? The ease of design and play are testament to how an app can have over 600 Million downloads to date, with roughly 4,500 new downloads per minute. Here I thought the games I played (WoW and Call Of Duty) were popular.
Look, maybe they’re not the games I like to play, but I can’t argue with the fact that my wife, who has never before shown any interest in video games, now spends a good part of her day flinging irate fowl at green pigs. She’s online with friends (and strangers) playing Scrabble on her iPhone, and I’m loving it, because I know what it’s like to play something you enjoy. The science is rudimentary and well-founded. A level gets cleared, you feel you achieved something, endorphins get released in your brain, you want to play more (Rinse repeat). I’m slowly realizing that graphics, plots, camera angles, sound and lighting may be important for me, but they’re not a universal recipe for success.
I guess I’m just saying that I always thought games on phones, tablets and Facebook were just dumbing us down, and simply were not real games - just giant time wasters. Back to the argument above though. It could be that these video games are reaching more people than ever before. It could be that usability, consumability and portability are new paradigms in game design that must be taken more seriously. It could just be… they’re really good games.