Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mobile Games

I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of computer games. There are a few that I enjoy, but on the whole, I don't play them. Usually, it's because (as I've described previously), I enjoy games that allow me to engage in social interaction in a manner that is less stressful than normal.

You Don't Know Jack is an exception. Whereas most computer games are either single player, involve taking turns so that you have to switch places with the other player, or are played over a network so that you're not actually in the same room as the other players, YDKJ has all the players with their hands on the keyboard simultaneously. This makes the game more social in nature.

Hypothetically, games on smartphones would be similar, right? To an extent, they are. However, there are a couple of games that serve to foster interactions, rather than replace it. I just discovered one last week.

It's called Spaceteam (that link is for Android devices. The following is for Apple products). Two to eight people, each with a mobile device connected to the same wifi network, run the game on their device. Each player sees a screen with three sections. At the top, an image of your ship flying through space. Below that is a small line where instructions will appear. The bottom half of the screen is an assortment of buttons, dials, slider controls, and switches. Each one is labelled with a humorous technobabble name, like 'flux gravitometric input' or 'Eigendryer.' Sometimes, they will be funny non-technical names, like the the button labelled 'Lose' on the control panel named 'Complete Control.'

As the game begins, instructions will appear in the middle area. They might say 'Set flux gravitometric input to 3' or 'Engage Eigendryer.' But normally, the instructions that appear on your screen are not for the controls on your screen; they're for controls on someone else's screen! Thus, you have a group of people all shouting at each other, 'Activate thrust differential! Who's got the thrust differential? Activate it, you idiot!' And it's even more hilarious when you get the non-technical names like 'Lose complete control.' And funniest still, when someone says, 'Turn on dangling shunter! Someone turn on the dangling shunter! Who's got the dangling—oh wait, I've got it. Never mind.'

This sort of game leads to hilarious interactions, especially since there's a countdown timer for each instruction. If the instruction is carried out correctly before the timer runs out, the ship in the top portion of the screen moves forward a little bit. If the timer runs out without the correct control being operated, the ship moves backwards. And behind the ship, there's a constantly growing explosion getting closer to the ship. If your ship reaches the right side of the screen, you move on to the next level. If the explosion reaches your ship, then it explodes and the game is over.

Another game that facilitates, rather than negates, interaction is 'Heads Up Charades.' This game is a word guessing game similar to Taboo, in which one player gives clues to the other, but is not allowed to say the word itself, nor any part or form of that word. The app makes clever use of the phone's accelerometer to keep score. What happens is this: one player holds the phone against his forehead, so that the other player can see the screen but he himself cannot. The screen then displays a word or phrase in the chosen category (for example, 'Batman' in the 'superheroes' category). The partner must give clues that the player holding the phone must guess. When a word is correctly guessed, the player tilts the phone down. This lets the app know that the word was guessed, so it awards a point and brings up a new word. If, however, the players choose to pass, the phone gets tilted up. The app then brings up a new word without increasing the score.

Once the timer runs out, the app displays the words given in the round, and indicates which were correctly guessed and which were passed. It shows the score for that round.

I like these kind of apps. As mentioned, they are designed to facilitate interaction between multiple players. If you know of any others that do the same, please leave a comment to let me know! Until next week,

Game on!

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