As keen mobile gamers, we’re always arguing over what’s the best mobile game ever created. Unfortunately, if you ask a hundred people, then the likelihood is that you’ll get a hundred different answers. Rather than waste more time debating, we decided to get a definitive answer from one of the world’s only professors of gaming. Yeah, you heard us right. Aki Järvinen, Lead Social Designer at Digital Chocolate, has a Ph.D. in the psychology and design of games. He’s also spent the last decade developing games for various platforms. If anyone can give us an answer, he can. So, without further ado, over to you, Aki.
“First of all, I’ve chosen games that have become popular on the mobile, which is why games like Tetris, even if very popular in its mobile versions, is not on the list.”
Probably one of the most played games around the globe, Snake is also one of the most accessible ones. The concept might originate from somewhere else, but the fact that Nokia included it in their phones really made a difference. What makes Snake great gameplay-wise, is the dynamic of the snake accelerating as it grows, and simultaneously occupying more of the space where it moves. This makes the game become progressively more difficult. I find it fascinating that the gameplay is essentially modeled on the iconic image of a snake eating its own tail.
This is an eclectic choice, but it is relevant in today’s context as location-based games and services are starting to break through. Botfighters was a game based on texting and GSM cell positioning (in the time before GPS). In the game, you built a virtual robot and tried to assassinate other players’ robots by sending an SMS when they were in range. I remember having an intense exchange of SMS hits and misses in Helsinki city centre without ever knowing who the other player was. Botfighters should be referenced when location-based gaming takes off big time.
Ingeniously simple and accessible one-button game that lives on in various incarnations, including Facebook. You might think that the intense fun of a physical board game like Yenga could never be translated into the digital realm, but Tower Bloxx reinterprets the fun of Yenga in a refreshing way.
This one basically makes up for the Tetris omission. Drop7 is the closest a contemporary mobile game has come to Tetris. It weaves geometrical and mathematical principles into beautifully harmonious yet addictive gameplay.
You can’t ignore Angry Birds. It is so overwhelmingly relevant at the moment. I’ve really chosen it because it exemplifies a certain game design principle: every mistake you make as a player is entirely down to an error in your judgment, and the game allows you to refine that effort instantly. This breeds that ‘one-more-go’ feeling that Angry Birds captures so well. You could argue that the game is not a ground-breaking, ‘top 5 ever’ idea, but its execution is spot on, as was its timing in entering the market.”
So what do you think? Do you agree with Professor Aki or are there some glaring omissions? If so, please let us know. And if you’d like to learn more about Aki’s fascinating work, why not follow his social game book project over at Facebook. We certainly are.