“I feel like the last New Yorker who looks at the world and people around me every time I ride the subway.”
So says Steve Bolger of New York who posted this comment on an article by the New York Times about society’s obsession with handheld games.
The paper highlighted games you can play on your cell phone. Noteable culprits were Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Farmville. Last year, NextiPhoneNews compiled a list of the top 100 free iPhone games. Included on the list were Rage HD, Tap Town 2, Rail Maze, Doodle Cam, Crazy Cow, Jersey Booth, Zombie Restaurant, Cupcake+, GlassTower, Face Fighter, Hanging with Friends, Crazy Duck Hunter, Smurf’s Village, High Noon, Office Jerk, and Slime vs. Mushroom, to name a few.
There is a game for almost every person of every persuasion, age, and stage of life. In my opinion there are three main reasons why smartphone owners risk “addiction” to the downloadable games.
Ease. I think one of the reasons these games are so easy to get “addicted” to is due to how easy it is to play. Most are self-explanatory and those that are not require only a short tutorial. Also, your phone cannot judge you and is therefore a much safer alternative to talking to another human. According to my observation, most people would rather scroll through their contact list on their mobile phone than initiate conversation with a stranger waiting for the elevator.
Convenience. Another reason is that, unlike a PSP or XBOX, smartphone owners tend to carry them everywhere. Whether I’m at home, at school, or in transit, my phone spends more time in my hand then in my pocket. Whenever I’m bored I whip open a game. It requires less concentration than a book and is more amusing than doing nothing standing in line at Panera or waiting for class to let out.
Gratification. The instant gratification of leveling up to the 2.5 million club in Temple Run is easier than summoning the guts to make friends with a fellow student in line at the Commons. But is taking the easy route always better? Maybe being fantastic at Bejeweled won’t actually benefit anyone in the long run. Perhaps something could be gained from shoving the iPhone in one’s back pocket, making eye contact with either friend or stranger, and just saying hello.
Note: In this article I am not addressing clinical gaming addiction but rather a habit discussed by the NYTimes article noted above. For more information on video game addiction, visit http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/video-game-addiction-no-fun.