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I didn’t even want an iPod.
I had a 400-disc CD player that was a few discs shy of being full, and no portable player to speak of, not even a Discman. And that was enough.
The first generation iPods had been out for a bit and a few friends picked them up. I scoffed. I had no interest. It just wasn’t enough space.
After another generation or two I relented and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve gone through iPods, replaced a creaky Gateway laptop with a MacBook, and when the first iPhone came out, I didn’t hesitate. This time I was prepared to be on board from the start.
I remember wasting time in lines at Six Flags by playing snake a few years prior. Even for a serious gamer like myself, it was totally beyond the pale to think I’d ever play anything else even half as relevant on my phone.
And to be honest, I don’t really remember the games I played on the iPhone when I first picked it up. I think I was a bit too enamored that I could check any sports score instantly using an app called ScoreMobile while avoiding the absolutely horrendous AT&T digital network (or whatever it was called) on those Nokia candy bar phones. Between that and listening to the AOL Radio app every day on my lunch break from work, the iPhone had already changed how I lived.
But when the games started coming in, nothing would ever be the same. Upgrading later from my iPhone 1 to the iPhone 3GS felt like stepping into another dimension. I had never really enjoyed handheld gaming because it always seemed to strive to be like a poor recreation of console gaming.
iPhone app games were something else entirely. Sure, you could still play console-style ports on your iPhone. I’ve even enjoyed more than a few like the intense shooter N.O.V.A. or (hearkening back to my very first Mac experience ever at a friend’s house) Oregon Trail. But iPhone games were full of something light and airy. They had an almost absurd quality to them.
Take The Horrible Vikings, an otherwise simple chuck and destroy game ends up being a ridiculous bizarrely comedic ode to tough guys on the iPhone. Or even Pirate’s Treasure, an game where you clear levels of bad guys with little more than a musket and your wits. This sort of game would be laughed off a console now, but on your iPhone, waiting for a bus, it’s perfect.
Nintendo talks a lot about making games without concern for graphics because they’re more concerned with fun, but for a home console, that approach doesn’t always work. People want to be wowed when they spend $60 on a video game and turn on their expensive TV to play it.
But when I buy a $2 app game, my only expectation is fun. More often that not, the objective is met handily. And if it’s not, $2 is a lot easier to shrug off than $60. Steve Jobs’ iPhone achieved a goal Nintendo, a gaming company first, has been stumbling over for a few generations of consoles now.
Jobs will be remembered for a number of fantastic achievements, but when I think about what he’s accomplished, what I’ll remember most is how he reminded me how to have fun. That’s a lesson none of us should forget.