Game Philosophy: Mobile Phone Games

Hm? Oh sorry, I’m just chatting with my girlfriend on my iPhone while playing Sonic Dash on my iPad and looking at the time on my iWatch as I write this on my Macbook.

Ever notice how the Macbook seems to be the odd one out there?

Anyway, time for another:


Today’s topic:
Mobile Phone Games

So let’s just say you’re in the business of porting games over to different platforms.

You look at the charts and say “Oh hey, there’s a bajillion amount of people who use Android Phones or iPhones!”

You get this little lightbulb in your head (which, honestly, I suggest you get a doctor to look at before something bad happens) and say “I will port this game to the Mobile Phones!”

Then randomly your best friend comes in, storming through the door.

“Oh hey, Elitist McJerkJerk! How you doing buddy?” you tell your best friend with the very oddly appropriate name.

He huffs and puffs like he just stormed through the building from the entrance up to your floor (No seriously, I’m talking Dubai Tower types of heights. You gotta appreciate the dedication at least) before screaming off the top of his lungs:


And that’s where I come in between you two (yes, I was in the room all this time, don’t judge me) and explain that you are both wrong.


First off, you. Yes you, with the T-Shirt and Shorts. Did you really think about whether the game fits with the mobile devices?

I’m not just talking about graphical capabilities, I’m also talking about the actual gameplay.

Many people look at the specs of the newest iPhone and immediately think about what games it can potentially run. The newest iPhone is in fact powerful enough to emulate Nintendo 64 games. No seriously.

But what they don’t look at is how the game controls or flows as a result.

A Mobile Game works because of it’s very brief playtime needed to get a satisfactory feeling.

You can pick up Angry Birds and try to finish one level for a 3 minutes as you wait for your friend to come back from the toilet.

Most games on consoles or PC don’t have that. Generally they try to keep the player invested enough to continue playing for at least an hour or so.

That is one of the faults of porting a PC game to a Mobile game, it’s flow doesn’t work with the audience it’s trying to reach.

On the other hand there is also the fact of the much smaller screen.


This can’t simply be fixed by simplifying the colours so the textures aren’t a jumbled mess on the small screen (although I’d argue that’s the problem of the modern graphics nowadays to begin with, but that’s another story), lots of people forget that the player’s fingers are going to cover the screen too.

This is why I’m generally of the opinion that putting virtual controllers on the screen in Mobile Games is completely missing the point, you are almost permanently blocking 1/4 of the screen with it.

A game on the Mobile Device should always make use of the intuitive touch controls it has and be built around it.

Instead of walking around with the virtual thumbstick, you should be looking at the character from a top-down or isometric view as you simply press to the area they have to walk to.

Huh... come to think of it, Pokemon would actually work pretty well as a Mobile Game...
Huh… come to think of it, Pokemon would actually work pretty well as a Mobile Game…
Who's up for a Mobile Version of the Isometric Transistor? ;D
Who’s up for a Mobile Version of the Isometric Transistor? ;D

Instead of giving us a virtual button to attack, have the player actually slash the enemy by dragging their finger across them.

Heck, maybe you attack simply by running into the enemy while the game simply focuses on moving left or right, that works too.

There will always be exceptions to the rules, but before you break a rule, you should at least consider why the rules were already there.

A Mobile Game simply has a different type of audience. It works by having a very simplified set of rules and controls and gives the player enough to work with to simply pick up and play.

And because of that, they don’t deserve to be called “Not Real Games” by Mr. McJerkJerk over there. They’re simply a different breed, a breed you should respect enough not to think a simple porting job will suffice.

Published by Huy Minh Le

Huy Minh Le is a Video Game Enthusiast, Movie Lover, Writer, Content Marketeer and regular TvTropes reader! His studies in Game Design, Art, and Writing has led to a very creative, yet analytical mind.

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