Angry Birds Attack the Epic Citadel: Why We Play What We Play

When it comes to video games on mobile devices, I don’t think the games that look the greatest are the games we play the most. And I’m kind of curious about why that is.

A few weeks ago, during Apple’s iPod announcement event, two dudes from Epic Games took the stage to show off what their Unreal Engine was capable of creating on an iPod Touch. What they showed was amazing, a better-looking game than anything I’ve seen an iPhone or iPod yet, and when I got to experience their demo of that technology on my own device with Epic Citadel, I was blown away.

But here’s the thing: I’ve had games like Hero of Sparta and Madden 2010 on my phone for a long time. And I rushed to buy them the moment they were available at a price I found reasonable. But I’ve hardly ever played them. Why? They’re too involved.

What I’m looking for when I have a spare moment to play a game on my phone is not something deep and immersive, but something fun and short, something that I can play again and again but that I can also put down at a moment’s notice if I have to take a phone call or get on a subway car or pretend that I’m paying attention to my family during dinner. The games that, in theory, I would be blown away by, sit unplayedwith in my games folder, collecting virtual dust.

Ask yourself this question: Why do games like Angry Birds, Skee-Ball, and Tetris dominate the App Store’s Top 25 while Madden (one of the most popular games on the consoles) barely makes the list at #24? Sure, the comparably low price tags help, but I think these games win fans on mobile devices for the same reason that I played pretty much nothing but Tetris back in the day on my Game Boy: they’re simple and have tremendous replay value. I can only experience the thrill of beating Hero of Sparta once, and that Madden game I bought will be irrelevant come next football season, but I can shoot angry birds through the air with a slingshot until the day my device shits the bed. That game never gets old.

Is this just me, or do you find yourself sticking to simple games on your mobile device, too?