Keeping It Real – For the Love of Handheld Games

A few months ago I purchased my first cell phone, a Sony Ericsson X10, since 2003.  My previous phone was a cheap Motorola flip phone that had two functions: Send text messages or make phone calls.  For someone like my father who is not very technologically savvy, I would say this was more than enough, because he would never text anyway (at least I don’t think he would).  However, for someone like me, well… I was really feeling behind the times, what with everyone talking about how fun Angry Birds is and what apps they are currently using.

For a couple of months, my new phone was being used as just that – a phone.  For a while this was all I needed and wanted until someone on Twitter pointed out that I was seriously under using the device and made me feel like an idiot for even owning one in the first place.  Why did I have a smart phone if I wasn’t tweeting from it and browsing the Internet?  Smart phones are for apps and games – not phone calls!  So here I am, I have finally made it to the year 2008 (still behind the times, but oh well) with my brand new phone and I am happy to announce that I purchased my first game last week: Game Dev Story.

Game Dev Story: the battery killer

A friend of mine brought up an interesting point the other day while we were discussing the Nintendo 3DS.  She insisted that handhelds systems such as the Nintendo 3DS and PSP were not “for us”, as in adult gamers.  They were for kids who didn’t have cell phones to play games or download crazy apps.  I was kind of surprised by this point of view and while I certainly don’t think it’s wrong (after all, it’s her opinion), I don’t think it’s necessarily correct, either. Every day I see someone chatting about the new PSP NGP on Twitter and it’s usually accompanied by, “I have a cell phone for gaming, I don’t need another radically expensive portable.”  I have only just entered the cell phone gaming world but so far I haven’t encountered anything that would make me believe cell phone games are better than the games I have for my PSP or Nintendo DS.  While I would much rather go on trips with my Nintendo DS or PSP, travelling short distances with them, such as sitting on the bus or train, isn’t always the best idea, so my cell phone has come in handy to remedy this problem.

Someone else I talk to said that they don’t believe there is much of a market anymore for portable handheld devices because not many people would like to sit down on the couch and get engrossed in a game like God of War on a portable.  Most of my handheld gaming – and by most, I mean nearly all of it –is spent sitting on the couch and not out in transit.  I believe the games for these devices are good enough to sit and get lost in (Dragon Quest IX, anyone?) and many of them are arguably better than some of their console brothers and sisters. I will admit that some of the cell phone games are pretty cool.  I love thatFruit Ninja awards Xbox Live achievements and I am in love with Game Dev Story, a game that has sucked my phone’s battery dry twice already.  I would be extremely dismayed if the cell phone market killed off their competition, though I don’t ever see this happening and it’s because most of the cell phone games I’ve encountered just aren’t that good.  Diner Dash for Android is vastly inferior to its Nintendo DS counterpart and many of the games’ graphics nearly made my eyeballs bleed from how bad they were. Is the Nintendo 3DS being marketed to children?  Absolutely, but come release time you’ll most likely see hundreds upon thousands of eager adults standing in line to buy one for themselves.

All I ever needed to be happy.

Let’s get real for a moment: The Nintendo 3DS, love it or hate it, is going to be pushing envelopes all over the place and will do things for handhelds that has never been done before.  Even if it doesn’t appeal to everyone, it’s difficult to deny the ingenuity that went into the thing.  I honestly cannot see an iPhone game stacking up against that behemoth any time soon.  The PSP NGP appears to be a portable console that you can take with you.  PlayStation 3 graphics in your hands! Most kids these days own technology that I never dreamed of when I was eleven.  I had a Game Gear and a Giga Pet when I was a kid.  Now I see thirteen year olds with Blackberries and high-end laptops, so you can be sure that they’re playing games on their phones too.  The Nintendo 3DS’s price point is enough to make anyone balk and cell phone games may be nice and cheap, but then there’s the issue of actually finding them in the app store.  Navigating through the Android market is difficult because it lacks organization.

I’m really enjoying my smart phone and am glad that I made the jump from 2003 to 2008, but it’s not going to be replacing my PSP any time soon.  I don’t see the cell phone game market replacing traditional handhelds and I really don’t want it to.  I’m familiar with the concept of competition but I also think that there’s room for everybody at the gaming table and I’m glad there are so many options out there for gamers.  The Android Marketplace: While great for a quick, light snack, cannot replace a hearty meal that is available in the Nintendo DS library.


heart1llyDana is a book worm, nerd and video game enthusiast living outside of London, Ontario. She owns a Playstation 3, PSP, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and a Playstation 2 that is missing its controllers. Her favourite gaming genres include adventure, RPG and MMORPG.