KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Pop Culture

The mobile gaming hierarchy

by Julia Tulloh , April 30, 2014Leave a comment

Dungeon Keeper Screenshot

 

It’s common, these days, to look over someone’s shoulder on the train and see their fingers swiping lollies or jewels or farm animals around their phone screen. And with no initial cost to download games like Candy Crush, Bejeweled Blitz and Farmville, why wouldn’t you fill your spare time with them? Catching the bus (or going to the loo, or sitting at work with your phone hidden surreptitiously beneath your desk) has never been so all consuming.

There is a downside, though, to the apparently cost-free goodness (you know, apart from the shame of no longer being able focus on actual work). Most of these game apps rake in profits by charging users real money to speed up game progression. In Bejeweled Blitz and its variants, the in-app purchase takes the form of coins, which allow the player to access booster gems more quickly. Game developer King Digital Entertainment is renowned for the huge profits made from the phenomenally popular Candy Crush Saga (and its sister sagas – Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Papa Pear Saga, etc.) in which extra boosts and lives can be purchased in lieu of waiting for new lives to replenish.

Gaming purists tend to dislike these sorts of ‘Freemium’ games that are loaded with purchase prompts for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the integrity of a game is compromised because players depend on money, rather than skill, to advance the game. Anyone can get ahead if they’re willing to pay, which undermines the strategic skills that serious gamers have spent time (perhaps several years) working to perfect. But this is only half the problem. If games companies focus too much on integrating money-making mechanisms into their games, the nature of the game itself suffers – unless you pay, it becomes almost impossible to progress in the game within a reasonable time frame.

While the first part of the above argument is a little black and white (it assumes that ‘serious’ gamers never get caught in pay-to-win scenarios, and that casual gamers are more easily manipulable), it’s certainly true that some games resemble online stores rather than actual games. I had this experience recently trying to play the mobile release of Dungeon Keeper, a challenging PC strategy game originally released in the late 1990s. The original version garnered a cult following (including myself), so the mobile version was widely anticipated: it was also met with almost universal outrage. Actions that took a few seconds in the original game (such as building a library for your warlocks) took literally hours in the mobile app, and speech bubbles kept appearing with messages like ‘Who says money can’t buy time?’ blatantly encouraging players to spend money to speed up the game. I deleted the app the day after I downloaded it, simply because it was so boring and I refused to pay for it.

Games writer Simon Sage argues that core gamers should get over their snobbery and accept Dungeon Keeper Mobile for what it is – a pay-to-win game for casual gamers who, on average, spend less than three minutes on each individual gaming session. However, not all Freemium games are as shamelessly mercenary as Dungeon Keeper Mobile: the two big games from Supercell, Clash of Clans and Hay Day, do contain in-app purchases, but can also be played for hours on end without spending anything.

There seems to be a hierarchy of game quality, even in the Freemium genre – and so despite core gamers’ occasional disdain for casual gamers, they’re perhaps right in defending the integrity of gaming in order to protect both the medium (and people’s wallets) from being exploited.

Julia Tulloh is a freelance writer in Melbourne and is working on a PhD about Cormac McCarthy’s fiction. She tweets at @jtul and blogs at juliatulloh.com.

ACO logo




9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

Frances Abbott

David Donaldson

Why #whitehousegate matters

A few days after the release of the budget, in which the Coalition government announced it was spreading the burden by increasing university fees, cutting school funding, and cutting welfare for young people comes a story that confirms what many already suspect to be the nature of opportunity: it’s much easier to come by if you’re born into privilege. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

womeninclothes-600

Carody Culver

Closet Concerns: Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes wants to tell a more inclusive story, to reveal the pleasures, hang-ups and complexities that reside in the simple act of dressing ourselves, and to remind us that we don’t perform our style rituals in a vacuum. Read more »

4285342-3x4-700x933

Kylie Maslen

The Harp in the South and other stories I wasn’t taught at school

The classics I studied at school were certainly great works, but how relevant are these books to young Australians? Yes, they were valuable to study as examples of technical skill. But they were all by men, all white and all dead. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Taypic

Julia Tulloh

Lovers, haters, and TaySway’s 1989

TaySway is a polariser: haters really hate her. The issue for many feminists and critics is that they simply don’t like Taylor’s version of authenticity, which happens to be embodied by a blonde, white, straight, American women from a reasonably privileged background. Read more »

15115828030_526f79c515_z

Julia Tulloh

The celebrity spokesperson phenomenon

What should we expect celebrity advocates to deliver? Emma Watson is not a full-time activist, but if she inspires young people to take an interest in gender equality, is that not a good thing? Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

WinterSleep-2-poster-450

Rochelle Siemienowicz

A matter of time: very long films

It’s a fatal moment for any film lover: that instant when you look away from the screen and check your watch, holding it up to the light to judge how much time is left before you can escape. A wince of pain as you realise there are still 40 minutes to go. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

ST_Ello_600

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Rise of the High-Minded Startup

Ello’s manifesto is the key to understanding its relative success, and how it has managed to sign up hundreds of thousands of users despite offering a wafer-thin feature set. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

9781863956925

Danielle Binks

Mean girls, bullies and private school privilege: Alice Pung’s Laurinda

Alice Pung’s Laurinda is hard-edged satire cloaked in contemporary YA: exploring class dynamics, everyday racism and bullying. Read more »

2530720_1332353117589.53res_500_400

Chad Parkhill

Mo money mo problems: The value of music in the age of streaming

While music streaming services have existed for a few years now – practically aeons in internet time – it is only recently that their impact on patterns of musical consumption and on musicians’ and labels’ revenues has truly begun to be felt. Read more »

2839965900_c23f818c97_z

Jane Howard

How many women composers? Classical music’s invisible women

After receiving yet another press release for a classical music concert, I tweeted an email I’d sent to the publicist asking why there were no women composers in the program. From then it became a regular task I set myself: when I received a music press release, I’d ask #howmanywomencomposers, and post the results on Twitter. Read more »

3827910256_89135334f0_z

Chad Parkhill

Who killed Amanda Palmer fandom?

Fans and consumers tend to avoid music made by people whose actions disagree with their moral compasses, and, conversely, to reward those whose actions align with them. But are they right to do so? Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. Read more »

thecode_main-620x349

Stephanie Van Schilt

An obligation to be kind? Australian TV critics and The Code

When Margaret Pomeranz recently spoke out about the obligation of local film critics to support the Australian film industry, she generated an interesting conversation in the critical community. Are critics who discuss the small screen in the public sphere obligated to be critically kind in their local coverage? Read more »