So, I have little snatches of free time, like most people, and I’ve wound up with an addiction to two, very annoying, app games.
The first was recommended to me by my eight year old sister, who loves video games with a great affection for app games. It’s called My Little Angela and I hate it so much I check it every morning when I wake up and before I go to bed. I’m actually supposed to check in on it much more often (in fact, it sends me the most passive aggressive little alerts every half-hour or so). The game is simple, you get a strangely humanoid kitten placed in a basket on your door and you have to take care of her. You als o get to name her. I named mine Applesauce.
You dress her up, you feed her, you bathe her, you “upgrade” her house so that she levels up faster, and she ages every five (or so) levels. Mine’s a tween now. You also can beat her, which is a really weird feature that makes me weirdly guilty every time I accidentally tap my iPhone instead of stroking it, because tapping means slapping the child-cat-thing when I really just wanted to pet her so she’d stop sending me notifications about how lonely and sad she was.
You have to take care of her four needs: happiness, food, hygiene, and sleepiness. Happiness can be gained through either playing the mini-games (mostly re-colors of popular mini-games) or through petting her. You purchase her food (from a selection of choices that seem to only impact how hunger they fill, though she makes a sad face if you feed her the same thing too often) starting with only one shop (the baby food store) but gain more as she ages. Hygiene is taken care of through brushing her teeth and bathing her and then sleepiness involves putting her to bed and then waking her up.
All in all, it is not an original game. It’s a tolerable one, certainly, and definitely addicting enough, though I’ll admit my draw is more on that I can play some mindless mini-games without wifi and is less about caring for Applesauce while my sister genuinely loves her “daughter” (though, she has much less qualms about “accidentally” hitting her, which I find alarming). But the game doesn’t really bring in any hugely unique mechanics and, in fact, slides back a bit on the evolution of this kind of pet games: I see little indication that how I’m raising Applesauce is affecting “who” she becomes. Meaning, I could knock her out and then feed her nothing but ice cream with no consequence. Which is boring. And probably why I just keep taking care of her so I can try and beat my high score on Sky High (what most other sites call Tower Stack; a game where you drop something vaguely rectangular down and try to make a really tall stack).
The other game is Pocket Frogs, which is terrible in that it’s a collect-them-all, and at my current level (5), there’s 4416 frogs I have to breed (I have 12 breeds and there’s 368 color combinations of each species). You get more breeds as you level up. I don’t think the game ends. I think my phone battery would love it if it ends.
You start off with two frogs. You also can access the frog mart to buy more, but it will take (real) time for them to be shipped to you. In order to actually do anything with your frogs (besides sell them), you must “tame” them by taking them to the pond and having them eat dragon flies. While at the pond, you can find wild frogs to breed with and little gifts, which contain anything from decorations to new frogs to money.
It’s another not particularly unique game. I can say I’ve not played another collecting game with such a daunting list (you just keep unlocking more breeds. it’s terrible.), but ultimately, it’s fairly standard.
This games do little to further the evolution of the gaming world. They have no narrative. Whatsoever. Any story I make, is mine, and I can say honestly I’m not even thinking while I’m playing these games. The most complicated thought I had about Pocket Frogs was “I wonder if I can make a pikachu one” (you can. there’s even an achievement for it). I’m pretty content to spend the five minutes I wait for my friend to get dressed before class trying to make sure I have Applesauce eating a balanced breakfast (just in case there is something tracking what I feed her; I refuse to be remiss in my childcare, even to a kind of creepy human/kitten thing that lives on my phone).
All of this begs the question though: what does not pushing the limits mean for an industry? Not every invention has to revolutionize the world, obviously, but, maybe it’s just the nostalgic hipster in me: what does it mean that the next generation of gamers are getting their start on largely narrative-less games? It’s entirely arguable that gaming as a whole started that way (Pong not being the intellectually stimulating experience and I don’t recall Pac-Man having a plot beyond “eat circles, avoid ghosts”), so this is just a case of history repeating itself. It could even wind up being a cyclic thing; one generation starts on achievement-based action games, the next on stories, the next on new action ones.