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Casually Yours: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Mobile Gaming

Welcome, one and all, to the wild and surprising world of mobile games. I will be your guide and trust me, you need one.

Whether you’ve played lots of mobile games or only a few, it helps to have a helping hand. There’s just too much out there to know what’s good. To make matters worse, there is not enough critical media coverage, because mobile games are often not taken seriously; sneered at for not being “real games.” If you’re a person who feels this way, I hope you’ll keep an open mind.

Mobile games are indeed often smaller in scope and ambition than console and PC titles. But not always. Even if you enjoy games on other platforms, I promise you there’s a lot to see and enjoy here.

Beyond discovering great games, there’s a lot to learn about the platform; the way monetization works, what trends move and shape it, how developing for it is different than other platforms, and so much more. There’s also the little matter of the fact that mobile is HUGE and its echoes are felt on other gaming platforms in one way or another. How? You’ll soon find out.

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Mobile gaming is full of agony and ecstasy. Agony, because there’s so much crap, so many clones, so many shameless cash grabs (I’ll get to this in a future column), so many bad ports, and at times so little care given to games by both Apple and Google. Ecstasy because the highs are truly incredible. The outstanding games are instant classics; either unforgettably gorgeous or extremely evocative or just ridiculously, addictively fun.

The outstanding developers also have fantastic stories to tell. Often, the games that leave an indelible mark are made by one or two people or small teams, toiling away in obscurity until they hit it big. Of course many never do and this is another brutal reality of mobile. It’s a crowded marketplace where even a solid game can fail. It happens practically every week.

All this and more is why you need a guide. I humbly submit myself and here’s why I’m qualified. I play games almost exclusively on mobile. This gives me a unique perspective that other mobile commentators who are very active on other platforms don’t have. I know what’s good on this platform and I’m comparing apples to apples, not pitting mobile games against those on console or PC (though I think some can go toe to toe with those!)

I’m also a fairly new gamer. I grew up without consoles, because I didn’t know that gaming was supposed to be for me, and my family probably couldn’t afford them anyway. I didn’t get a PC until high school. I played Oregon Trail and Carmen Sandiego and the first Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt at a friend’s house, but that’s about it. I’ll save my story of playing Tetris in the USSR for another day.

Where on console and PC, deep knowledge and experience is probably important for a critic to have, mobile is still fairly young. Many mobile gamers are so-called “inexperienced” gamers; you know, filthy casuals. I wear the label proudly and am a proponent of the idea that games can and should be for everybody.

Finally, there’s Unconsoleable. I’ve been doing this weekly podcast with my friend Jessica Dennis for over two years. That’s over 100 episodes now of talking about and dissecting mobile gaming and the mobile marketplace from a business perspective. We may not be experts yet, but we most definitely know our stuff.

Our roster of developers and other guests has been amazing. You can hear some of them on our milestone 100th episode. We’ve learned as much as possible from people who have been working on the platform since before we ever even played any games on it. We continue to learn every day.

So I hope you’ll put your trust in me and visit this space every two weeks. It’s horribly cliche, but I’m truly excited to take you on this journey.

Anna Tarkov
Anna Tarkov is an émigré from the former USSR who has been taking America by storm since 1989, failing at or washing out of everything she’s ever tried. Most recently that included working in journalism which was fun, but paid slightly more than minimum wage. Currently Anna is a stay-at-home-not-by-choice mom to an adorable, little autistic preschooler, a casual gamer extraordinaire and the co-host of Unconsoleable.
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Anna Tarkov
Anna Tarkov is an émigré from the former USSR who has been taking America by storm since 1989, failing at or washing out of everything she’s ever tried. Most recently that included working in journalism which was fun, but paid slightly more than minimum wage. Currently Anna is a stay-at-home-not-by-choice mom to an adorable, little autistic preschooler, a casual gamer extraordinaire and the co-host of Unconsoleable.

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