Although Gameboy devices have been around for many years, gaming on the go seems to be at an all-time-high right now. With modernity dragging with it the latest smartphones and super-light super-powerful handheld consoles, the time is right for gaming while travelling. We no longer have to bring our PS4s to the airport to enjoy a good game. But in this potential heyday of portable playtimes, there are still some games developers who struggle to create a great game to play while we move. So what must a game have to make it right for this purpose?
Firstly, developers need to understand that their audience can’t sit down for a long tutorial and hours-dense learning curve- the game needs to be easy to play from the outset. It can’t take a player ten hours to get to the meat of the game. This is why basic games such as Flappy Bird and Candy Crush are so popular- as soon as you start playing, you’ve got the entirety of the game at your fingertips. Progression comes not from being taught new moves and skills, it comes from learning these new skills yourself from repeated play and utilising them in the endlessly similar levels.
Games that you’ll play for five minutes whilst waiting for the bus can’t have complicated narratives. While this isn’t a concrete rule, and some games manage to weave surprisingly developed narratives, traditional RPG-style weaving, meandering and twisting storylines won’t be appreciated by audiences that want to play something quick to pass the time. You’ll be much less receptive to themes and emotions huddled in an airport corner than sitting on your sofa, console controller in hand. Some games, such as Antiyoy, even manage to get the player to form their own narratives instead of prescribing one.
It’s not just the content of a game that is important, but the delivery method too. One of the major detractors to portable gaming is when a game isn’t easy to open, as no-one wants to wait five minutes for a game to load while they walk to the shops. This is why the otherwise excellent Pokemon Go seems to have trouble- you open it for a quick walk but it’s only opened by the time you get home. Ironically enough this is one of the reasons the non-Go Pokemon games are so great for travelling with- the DS lets you flick a switch or a screen to boot up the game instantly.
Although some may be surprised to find that such games exist still, a great feature of a game is the absence of advertisements. There seem to be few games that can get them in appropriately, with most popping up to smother the screen every time you finish a level or play a word. However it can really benefit a game, especially in pacing and playability, when the screen remains dedicated to the game at all times. Of course these aren’t rules so much as guidelines, many games find success by bucking the status quo, so if obnoxious advertisements or winding stories can actually benefit a game, no-one would be upset at that. But games, especially on smartphones, that ignore the above guidelines tend to suffer for it. There are so many games floating around that anyone can find the perfect game to play on the go that’ll satisfy them for hours. These can be popular phone games or ones that you find in the deepest darkest nooks of the App or Play Stores. So if you haven’t found the game that glues you to your screen even when outdoors, you just haven’t looked hard enough yet.