Team Meat boss/human megaphone Edmund McMillen updated the Team Meat blog after over a month yesterday to talk a little about the upcoming mobile Super Meat Boy game and talk a lot more about how mobile games are treating consumers like “dumb cattle who they round up, milk and then send them on their way feeling empty or at times violated…”
Hit the break for his statement proper.
There is an on going theme these days to use a very basic video game shell and hang a ‘power up carrot’ in front of the player. the player sees this carrot, and wants it! all the player needs to do is a few very rudimentary repetitious actions to attain it, once they get to it, another drops down and asks them to do more… but then the catch… instead of achieving these ‘goals’ by running on the tread mill, you can instead just pay a single dollar and you instantly get to your goal! better yet pay 10 and unlock all your goals without even having to ever play the game!
words can not express how fucking wrong and horrible this is, for games, for gamers and for the platform as a whole… this business tactic is a slap in the face to actual game design and embodies everything that is wrong with the mobile/casual video game scene.
It’s very hard to disagree with Ed here. Most games on mobile devices seem to follow this formula exactly. Draw Something, the latest Big Thing, is a prime example but with the extra trait of not actually offering much to begin with. It’s an asynchronous Pictionary where you draw nouns, verbs and adjectives to your friends and guess what they drew back. The kicker is that you start with an extremely limited color palette and are offered the chance to buy more colors or play hours worth of games until you have enough coins to finally unlock the color green, so you can draw better pictures. Maybe.
To be fair, Draw Something isn’t the worst about this. It simply just don’t offer much cause to buy anything or continue playing after a few weeks. A overwhelming number of mobile games take this formula to the logical extreme. They offer a simple gameplay environment with a few twists from the standard (instead of a helicopter, you’re a guy in a jetpack!; tower defense… but with cute animals!; think Bejeweled but with beer instead!). Then they offer a collectible angle with which the player can play hours worth of games to unlock things like skins, extra power ups or even shortcuts through the game so you can do the same thing you’ve been doing all along while wearing your carrot. This is the kind of thing that gets looked down on in MMORPG games and here it is as the standard for mobile games.
It’s easy to see why someone who takes game development as seriously as McMillen would take offense to this kind of game. These mobile games, even if they’re designed to be quickly played and easily forgotten, are infringing on true game design by being nothing more than interactive storefronts and loyalty cards. They don’t seek to offer an involved experience that tests, challenges and satisfies the player. They don’t even rely on the risk/reward system that has presided over many of the best moments in gaming. They simply exist to offer you a reason to buy trinkets.
It’s hard not to pigeonhole mobile games like this. 99% of bad lawyers ruin it for the rest, right? Team Meat hopes to give mobile players a game they can be proud to have on their phones, MP3 players, and tablets with a game made specifically for them and offering all the challenge, satisfaction and depth that it would on established platforms like the PC or Xbox 360. Super Meat Boy won’t be the first to do this as there have been plenty of great mobile games, but here’s hoping they help kick the trend.
Incidentally, the much maligned by “true gamers” Angry Birds didn’t follow this terrible formula. Go figure.