I'm no gamer. I don't have the skill set or the patience.
The idea of spending all night in front of a long campaign of World Of Warcraft is not one that fills me with glee. And the concept of multiplayer is deeply abhorrent to an avowed introvert. X&HTowers is a refuge. I don't answer the phone to people I don't know. Why would I spend time being “fragged” and “teabagged” by pre-teen sociopaths from the Midwest?
However, since I levelled up to an iPad late last year, I've mellowed to the concept of casual gaming. Although I'm thoroughly aware that it eats into time that I could spend writing, I'll quite happily noodle away the odd hour or two on a game like Temple Run or my new favourite, Supermagical.
However, the more I play these games the more I start to get narked by the way the free model isn't so free. Oh, sure, at the start it's great fun and I can get a chunk of the way through the game with a bit of effort. But there are constant reminders that life could be so much easier if I'd drop some cash on a bucket of spells or a sexy new running avatar. And eventually, you realise that, unless you want to spend all your time painfully grinding through old levels to accrue enough stars or tokens to get to the next world, you'll have to buy something.
Now, I'm not saying that games of this quality should be made purely for the love of it. Of course not. But the constant dripdrip nagging reminders to drop some cash are starting to get on my wick. Furthermore, the curve of difficulty in the games is very definitely skewed. Events noodle along quite nicely and simply for a bit and then all of a sudden you hit a level that you simply can't beat. I mean, not even to the point where you can get through the first few seconds of play. Is it just me and my fucknuckled inability to pop the cap in the zombie, or are the mechanics of the game skewed towards a little gentle freeplay before cranking up the difficulty or making it impossible to carry on without that essential item in the inventory? Son, you ain't getting past Scatman Sam without the Fragmaster 6000. That's 50,000 doubloons or £1.49. Get double for £2.
Look, I get it, I do. It's a business. But if I wanted to pay £1.49 for a game, I would. And I have. And even here the in-game purchase opportunities run thick and fast. It's annoying and un-necessary. Why not tweak the gameplay for out-of-practice dweebs (an extra-easy setting, say, or a more limited free game with an option to upgrade to bigger and better if you like it), and give us a chance to finish the game without paying over the odds for armour and magic spiky twigs? I'm not great at games and I hate the feeling that the only way I'll ever finish one is to spend. In fact, the very opposite is likely to happen. Put me in a position where I'm forced to make a choice between continuing and paying an unexpected fee and… well, sorry, game over. A game like Infinity Blade II gets it right, giving the opportunity to grow and progress without the financial fast track. Angry Birds and Cut The Rope start you off for free and sell expansion packs when you feel the need.
I know this all makes me come across as some curmudgeonly tightwad. Why bitch about pocket change? The thing is, what I'm moaning about is game design that deliberately yanks you out of the spell that's been cast to hustle you for money. I'm happy to spend it, but I'd like to be in control of when and how I make that choice.