Android Analysis and the Future of Gaming

With the untimely passing of my second Blackberry, I took the leap and got an Android phone, the Galaxy Samsung S. The reason for the shift, more than anything else, was the exposure to Android I received when I got my Nook Color. The resistance to getting one of these touchscreen phones to begin with was the fact I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to data entry. I am a touch typist and the fact my fingers would just go roaming across the screen with no traction was a bit off-putting. When you get a new phone from my place (and I imagine most places nowadays), you have an opportunity to check it out for X hours/X days to see if it works for you. The difference between getting a new phone and getting my existing phone replaced was nominal, so I decided to go with the upgrade. The bottom line? I’m pleased.

I’ve adapted to the phone quite readily (again, thanks to the Nook Color), and I enjoy the tactile feedback the keys give when I press them. There has been a bit of a learning curve lasting a few weeks and now it’s business as usual. Of particular interest to me has been the applications available from the Market. A wide variety exist, but it does seem to be a wide open platform for development, and Android users are growing by leaps and bounds. Some games have made a huge market (and profit) for a handful of companies who have taken the plunge, but the phone market reminds me of the early days of video games in some regards with some notable differences. The barriers to entry are much smaller. The SDK–software developer’s kit–is readily available. What I find must striking, however, is the lack of creativity in some regards. It’s not unusual for certain established game types to be mirrored on new platforms, much as they are (to various degrees with tabletop RPGs). People want to invest (both in time and development costs) in tried and true styles of games, but it’s wide open in terms of creative possibility. Early adopters to new systems (be they tabletop or technical) –and Android is still young in terms of a stable business platform– are often the most technically savvy, and it is a rarity for them to have the creative chops as well as the coding proficiency to bring entirely new concepts to the table. We’re seeing people still trying to figure out exactly what to do with these little portals to other worlds and the mind boggles with the possibility. Angry Birds, for an example familiar to everyone, took a simple, unique concept and grew out of control. It reminds me of Pac-Man in that regards. It has easy game play elements, but has blended them perfectly with the touchscreen interface to give the user an easy to pick up and play interface. The same goes for Bejeweled and its countless knockoffs. In some of my idle moments (which are rarely that idle), I have combed through the Market and looked at various games and what they offer. Some have interesting premises, but fail to deliver. Others, such as flinging birds at pig houses, have premises which are lackluster, really, but absolutely shine in place. Consider Slice It! another game where you simply are cutting things up. This is not something, conceptually, to write home about, but I have spent countless hours playing the game, fully conscious of my actions. I get sucked in to a game because it ramps up complexity as it teaches you the concepts of its environment. What I’m waiting for is a game able to capture a nice RPG feeling, but the major limiting factor is the screen space. I’ve tried a few and while they may look absolutely gorgeous (such as Dungeon Defenders running the Unreal Engine), they have failed to fully suck me in (even when I play it on the Nook Color). I think its the hurdle (in the case of DD) of adapting to the control schema which, for me at least, feel like I’m playing with a controller covered in Crisco after drinking some Peppermint Schnapps (which is to say, I’m lacking the fine finesse I get when playing on a proper gaming console). Still, it shows the potentiality for the platform and is an amazing technical achievement. We’re on the threshold of some amazing games at our fingertips all the time. Yes, you may counter some gems exist, but they are still, by and large, a rarity powered as much by novelty as anything else. It also begs the question of what types of traditional RPGs could be aided by applications beyond simple dice rollers. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

If you’ve played an Android game or seen some super app of any sort pushing the technological frontiers, feel free to share your technological savvy.

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!

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