Mobile Games Beginners Guide: Gaming 101

Mobile Games Beginners Guide: Gaming 101

Alexander Graham Bell was a visionary, but it’s not likely that, even in his wildest dreams, he ever foresaw the telephone evolving into a multi-use tool. Our phones aren’t simply for communication anymore: we also use them for research, video recordings, and for getting us out of the woods when we’ve had too much to drink and wandered a bit too far into the wilderness.

We also use our phones to play games, and said games have gone far beyond the likes of Solitaire and Snake. If you have a smartphone, but you’re new to the exciting world of cell phone and app gaming, here are a few points that will help you get started.

You need a smartphone before you can play smartphone games — Well, yeah. The question is, which smartphone suits you? Apple’s iOS series (including iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) is far and away the most popular option for smartphone gaming: Apple’s App Store is brimming with well-priced gaming options from almost every conceivable genre. If you’re buying a smartphone for a game-happy kid, or if you just love playing games on the go yourself, the iPhone is probably the way to go.

But you do have options. Phones running the Android operating system have access to the Android Market, which has a large selection of free games and apps. In fact the Android Market has over double the free apps of the App Store: 67% free content versus 37%.

Another option is the Windows Phone 7. Microsoft’s smartphone is compatible with some features from the Xbox Marketplace. Users can view their Xbox Live profile with their phone, message Xbox Live friends, and look at their gamerscore and leaderboards. Future games for the Windows Phone 7 will reportedly make full use of Xbox Live, and should have real-time multiplayer functions.

Like the Android Market, many of the games and apps on the Windows Phone Marketplace are available for free.

You’ll need an Internet connection, preferably broadband and wireless — You’ll need to access the Internet in order to visit your smartphone’s online marketplace and download its games. It’s most convenient to simply access the store through a Wi-Fi connection, and typically all you have to do is tap the relevant icon on your phone’s desktop to go directly to the market. Games and apps that aren’t too big can be downloaded via a 3G connection. You can also visit online stores and purchase apps by plugging your phone into your desktop computer’s USB port.

You’ll need a credit card and/or a pre-paid card — Some smartphone games are free. Others, not so much. You’ll need a valid credit card if you want to purchase games, or, in the case of iTunes and the App Store, you can buy a pre-paid iTunes card at most game retailers and drug stores.

But what do these games cost? — Again, it depends. Some games are free to download, but others must be paid for. However, the App Store is famous for distributing games that are generally 99 cents each, so you can definitely expect to pay less than you would for a game bought at retail, or even a game bought on a console-based marketplace, like Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, or the Wii Shop channel.

That said, there is still some higher-priced fare on the App Store, with titles that reach $9.99 or more. As a general rule, console games that are ported to the iPhone and the iPad tend to be on the pricier side, though they’re still not as expensive as their console counterparts.

Finally, smartphones boast a huge selection of “free-to-play” games. Said games are free to download and play, but may offer more content via in-game purchases.

A word of warning about free-to-play games — Though free-to-play games are, as their name implies, free to download and play, they typically offer extra content via microtransactions–small, easy-to-conduct transactions that are done via an in-game store. Microtransactions are designed to be quick and simple, and can seriously add up if a kid who doesn’t know any better gets his or her hands on the game’s online store. If you’re a parent who has kids who play games on your smartphone, make it clear them that they’re not to conduct microtransactions without your permission.

A word of warning about mobile game ratings — The Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB), which marks console games and many PC games for potentially offensive content, doesn’t evaluate mobile games. Even so, most mobile games are still rated according to age appropriateness. If you’re a parent or guardian, make note of a game’s rating before downloading it. Keep in mind that, unlike retail, there is no buffer (like a cashier) between the buyer and the game.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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