Look around you—someone is playing a phone game. They’re addictive, often free, and do anything they can to keep you coming back. Companies pour tons of money into marketing them, everything from infiltrating your dating apps to throwing boobs at your face. They are apps disguised as games disguised as apps to get you to be more productive. It’s sexy and getting us weird looks in public, or it’s Hearthstone and it’s going to get Al fired from her dayjob. Every Facebook user in the world seems to still be addicted to Candy Crush, and cat ladies everywhere are crying tears of joy over Neko Atsume.
But there’s a right time and a wrong time for gaming. There are methods for gaming responsibly, and we’re here to help you out:
What kinds of phone games do you play?
Megan Purdy: I play puzzle games and city building building games on my phone. I’ve tried other kinds but these seem to best fit for how and when I play games on my phone – usually on transit.
Cathryn Sinjin-Starr: I play a few puzzle games and simulators, but mostly otome (dating sim) games.
Insha Fitzpatrick: I like to play RPGs, action, or Cartoon Network’s games. I like to try a little bit of everything.
Ginnis Tonik: Like Megan, I also play puzzle games or city building type games. My BF says it’s to appeal my inner fascist. And time management games…which seems also to be in with this pattern.
Wendy Browne: I’ve tried a little bit of everything, from base-building strategy games, to battle games, RPGs, and otome, but mainly I enjoy the puzzle games.
Do you pay for phone games? How much are you willing to pay?
Megan: I do pay sometimes, though not often. Anything over $5, I’ll need to see some compelling reviews to convince me to purchase. One advantage of paying for a game is that you usually aren’t subjected to the temptations of in-app purchases, which, I must admit, I’ve caved on a few times.
Cathryn: If the game has enough substance to it, then I will. But I don’t spend more than £5 or so. Anything more than that is pushing it, and if it has enough content to warrant it, it’s got more in it than I’d be able to invest time-wise for a phone game.
Insha: Anything under 3 bucks is my absolute limit. I recently purchased Attack The Light and Five Nights At Freddy for a total of 5 dollars, which thankfully isn’t that bad. It has to be something that I’ll want on my phone forever and that I can always go back to.
Ginnis: Oh gosh, I am terrible about this, and by that, I mean I am the target that app and game developers count on. I get impatient…I purchase…I feel shame…but rarely enough to stop me from purchasing again.
Wendy: I’ve paid for a few educational games for my kids, and I’ve paid for the Mass Effect game because I’m obsessed, but otherwise, I avoid that commitment.
How about in-app purchases?
Megan Purdy: I refuse to make in-app purchases on puzzle games. I’d rather fail than pay! But when it comes to building or strategy games, I find myself much more open to the idea. Maybe it’s a sense that I can see the money I’ve spent, right there in the game—there’s the castle I bought, or the stadium. In a puzzle game, the results of in-app purchases are more fleeting. It feels like putting money into a slot machine.
Cathryn: No, no in-game purchases. I just haven’t found anything I’d be willing to succumb to micro-transactions for. Plus, they’re a slippery slope that I don’t want to get started on.
Insha: They feel like such a trap! In some games, sometimes it’s necessary to buy in-app purchases. However, in order to burst more bubbles, you don’t need to buy more! You can wait the hour for restock then continue to dominate.
Ginnis: (sighs) yeah…
Wendy: I… look, I just needed one more move, okay?
Does it bother you when people have the volume audible while they’re playing phone games in public? Why or why not?
Megan Purdy: It depends on how audible and what game. If it’s subtle and not too jangly, I don’t mind. If it’s loud and upbeat and there’s lots of sound effects, well, I might throw your phone off the bus. It’s distracting. It’s stressful in an already noisy, crowded environment. It’s inconsiderate.
Cathryn: Audio from my own games bothers me, so yeah—I don’t like when anyone, including myself, plays phone games with audio on.
Insha Fitzpatrick: I have to agree with Cathryn. The audio from my games bothers me and kinda having other people around playing something like Candy Crush with the volume all the way up really distracts. Although, I do find it cute when kids get excited about the sounds in their games, especially when traveling.
Ginnis: I live in a smaller, Texas town so the kind of crowding you have to deal with in bigger cities just isn’t a thing here…but that of course makes getting on phones even more obvious. When I commuted to work, it did bug me to hear phone games, usually because I was reading.
Wendy: Phone games should be considered like everything else when in public: respectful volume. Most of the sounds are annoying to me as the gamer anyway so I usually just turn it off completely. I appreciate that the games have considered that and made the option available.
Should people play graphic (violent or sexual) phone games in public? have you?
Megan: I don’t play violent or sexual phone games at all, never mind in public, but I don’t see why people shouldn’t. It’s rare that I catch a glimpse of what others are playing, so chances are I’d never notice—why worry about it?
Cathryn: I suppose it’s a double-edged sword on this one. People should be able to play them (without sound!) because their phone is a personal screen that other people shouldn’t be looking at. But, people will do that anyway because we’re nosey and curious by nature, so it’s probably safest not to partake in Boobie Blackjack on the subway.
Insha: I love it. Your phone is a very private thing so you should be able play whatever you want. I’ve played horror games on the subway so it’s a lot of gore and violence sometimes. Some people have actually looked over at me and asked me what I’m playing so they can download it later.
Ginnis: I don’t have a problem with this. That kind of stuff can be very cathartic. And if the argument is about “the children,” ugh.
Wendy: The nature of the device generally makes it difficult for anyone to see what you’re playing unless they are really damn nosy. Assuming you’re doing the respectful volume thing, then they should never know and it’s none of their damn business anyway.
Is it ever ok to game on your phone while on a date? Has this happened to you?
Megan: Are we gaming together? Playing Words With Friends? No? Put your phone away, oly hell. To me, this is no different from texting or sending emails while on a date. It sends the message that I don’t matter to you; that your interest in me is purely to pass time between more important things, like beating the next level of Candy Crush.
Cathryn: No. That shit is rude. Don’t check your Facebook either. Or your “work” emails. A date is a date is a date is a WOO ME, DAMN YOU.
Insha: Absolutely not! Why would you even bother asking me out if you’re going to be on your phone all night?! That’s honestly a waste of your time and mine. If you need to check your phone for time, text messages or anything like that please do! But if you’re going to honestly sit with me and play Batman, either I get to play too or we should just go home.
Ginnis: That depends, do you want a second date?
Wendy: Clearly this is not a date if you’re attention is elsewhere.
What about when hanging out with friends?
Megan: It depends on the context. A date is a block of time set aside to get to know a potential romantic partner. Ignoring your date in favour of a game defeats the purpose of even being there. On the other hand, when you’ve known someone a long time, you might set time aside to be around each other while also ignoring them—it’s nice to just be together, sometimes, without expectation. If you’re gaming while out to dinner with friends, you’re a jerk. If you’re gaming in your friend’s living room while she watches TV and your other friend texts her girlfriend, that’s a different story.
Cathryn: I’m with Megan on this one. If you’re “hanging out” in the sense that you’re meant to be doing things with friends, that’s rude. But if you’re just sitting around together, then maybe read the mood?
Insha: I’ve actually had friends do this before. They would be on their laptop and I would sit there and look at my hands, asking myself what do I do. I’ve played games around friends when they’ve completely ignored what we were doing, but I wish we could just be together. It’s always sad when you see friends ignoring you and focused more on their games instead. I mean….we haven’t seen each other for a very long time. Let’s focus on each other instead of our phones and games.
Ginnis: I am with Insha on this, it’s like can’t it wait, we have such busy lives, can’t we stop just for this moment?
Wendy: Yeah, this falls in the same line as a date. If the idea of spending the time with your friend is to actually spend time with your friend, then put down the phone and do just that (unless you’re playing a game together, which, unlike a date, is probably more likely to happen). Don’t take your friends for granted.
How do you hear about new phone games?
Megan: Word of mouth, both in person and on social media, and the tops chart in the app store.
Cathryn: I don’t check the marketplace often, so mine is mostly word of mouth from friends or people I follow on Twitter and YouTube.
Insha: I just look through the App Store whenever I get the chance. If my friends have suggestions, I always check them out and if anyone has suggestions on Twitter or Tumblr as well.
Ginnis: A range of things, ads from other games, cruising the app store for things that interest me.
Wendy: Via Kate Upton’s breasts. But seriously, I have learned about some new ones thanks to the ads that have become mainstream, spamming my television and social media. I’ll usually only try out the ones that are recommended by trusted friends though. That’s how I ended up obsessed with Candy Crush, and most recently, I’ve been playing Alphabears, thanks to Jamie Kingston’s review.