Mobile gaming is becoming ever more prevalent in our modern lives. Whether sitting zombie-eyed on your morning commute, nursing a devastating hangover or simply procrastinating; mobile games are an irresistible, if occasionally maddening, distraction.

What makes a great mobile game?
Image by gamerant.com

Mobile games are now big business. Hollywood legend Arnold Schwarzenegger is happily schilling the Mobile Strike game on various TV commercials and it seems like only yesterday that everyone on earth was playing Candy Crush. Mobile games don’t attract the column inches of their big screen counterparts, but they are more than showing that they have blockbuster earning power.

The greatest mobile games marry two seemingly disparate elements; they must be both simple and complex. The simplicity must lie in the physical gameplay itself. There is only so much versatility available with a clear touch screen. Prods and swipes are the only avenues of interaction. But the actual content of the game itself should have some complexity. There should be hidden subtleties behind the rudimentary swiping and poking. Sure all you had to do was move the candy around in Candy Crush, but to succeed the user had to plan their moves carefully. There’s a reason chess has been around for 1500 years!

Games like Plants vs. Zombies illustrate this perfectly. The user is simply swiping and prodding, constantly, for hours, until their eyes are melting out of their heads; but within the game they are weaving complex plans, arranging troops, planting tactical sunflowers. When a developer nails this combination, a hit is all but guaranteed.

That said, sometimes simplicity alone can be enough to entrance the smart phone wielding masses. Games like Flappy Bird, Crossy Road and the Blackjack on the Casino.com app for iPhone and iPad, are simply prod and swipe, but they remain massively addictive nonetheless.

The final ingredient and possibly the most important is addictiveness. The user should be compelled to play for a few minutes every time they are at a loose end. Whether you are addicted to a Chess app, an online quiz, or online roulette, a successful mobile game will have the user seeing the game’s images whenever they close their eyes. That level of compulsive gameplay has fuelled mobile gaming’s meteoric rise, and it shows no sign of slowing down.