The Universe in your Pocket: What Mobile Gaming has Become

By Michael Sylvester

A computer is in your pocket.  This is no news flash to anyone, but still as we begin to rely and fully take for granted the utility of our mobile devices, games are now as portable as ever.  Thanks to the digital age, the technology we routinely drop in toilets or break horsing around with a buddy puts to terrible shame the library of congress’s vast store of information. If you’re lucky, your insurance will replace your pocket-sized portal to the combined wealth of human knowledge and creativity that is the information superhighway.

Mobile gaming really first blew me away with an iPod Touch whilst fighting strangers in a street fighting game.  This was after I had lived under a rock for a few years and was a total tech noob. The astonishment was quickly overtaken by two shooting games for Droid that changed everything I believed a mobile game could be. Shadowgun and Modern Combat made a very clear statement that a touch screen combined with a quad core processor could compete with console gaming in terms of performance and control innovation.

My Samsung is not just a tool, it nearly doubles as a trusted friend to keep me company when (eek!) boredom threatens my idle thumbs. Combined with modern app purchasing, our devices are mini-entertainment centers in their own right.

And, let’s not forget my Gear VR, because who needs reality or responsibility? I just strap my phone to my head and have a psychedelic tunnel escape with Bob Marley singing about not worrying. How on earth has mobile gaming come so far (or perhaps I should ask how long it’s been since I have bathed, eaten, or spoken in person to another human being?).

All kidding aside, portability in gaming has always been a cash cow that industry giants have vied to dominate ever since the original Gameboy. If you are younger than the thirty-plus gamer I am, Gameboys were worth their weight in fairy dust when I was growing up. The Gameboy was the first device that I can remember being able to change games on and take it wherever you go. It was also a status symbol amongst my public school ilk, and theft of someone’s Gameboy, as unforgivable as it was, was nearly as understandable and commonplace, simply because everybody wanted one.

The Sega Game Gear would give way to the Nintendo DS and PSP, until Apple turned smartphones into portable game stores. Droid and Microsoft would follow suit. The cartridge would become obsolete, the controller would have to share the stage with a touchscreen, and finally, we can walk around with phones and cardboard held to our faces looking like fools, but not caring.

What on earth is the next step? I am skeptically going to predict something no larger than a coin projecting a holographic medium within ten years. I am also stupefied that this possibility could even be anything more than science fiction in my own lifetime. “Help me Obi Wan, you are our only hope!”, to appease the grieving geeks who first saw this stuff AS science fiction, myself included.

Mobile gaming makes portable entertainment a modern miracle, and now thanks to data plans and modern payment methods, it also gives the ocean of content that is the modern internet through Google Play, the Microsoft Store, or iTunes.  And now the utility is so ubiquitous that we routinely drop them in toilets as well. When it comes to information technology, this sure is an exciting time to be alive.

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