This is why I don’t play video games on mobile

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing Genshin Impact. A lot. It’s really awesome. I’ll probably talk about it in more detail sometime, however Bhagpuss’s first impressions and his fondness of the game’s fantastic exploration aspects mirror mine to a T, so I feel like I don’t have much to add at this point.

What I do want to talk about is my experience playing it on mobile, which is what the majority of players seems to be doing (I don’t know this for a fact, but I highly doubt that the PC and console versions combined come even remotely close to mobile’s 23+ million downloads).

In a word: Thanks, but no thanks!

Ok, that’s actually four words, but you get the idea.

Of course I was pretty stoked about the possibilities at first. Being able to play my current favourite game on PC when I’m at home and on my phone whenever I’m not? Hell yeah!

During my first two weeks in GI I made it a habit to fit 10-15 minute play sessions into my lunch breaks to burn some resin, the obvious benefit being that I didn’t run into the resin cap before getting home. Also, well, playing a great game during lunch break for a bit – what’s not to like?

Here’s the thing though: it isn’t nearly as much fun to play on the phone. At least to me it isn’t.

Genshin Impact might have been developed with mobile platforms in mind first and foremost, yet as far as I’m concerned it is a ‘real’, a ‘proper’ video game. What I mean by that is that it sports a fair amount of complexity, not only in terms of progression systems and such, but also when it comes to the actual gameplay and control schemes needed to execute said gameplay. Play itself this game does not.

Maybe I’m just too old for that kind of stuff, but playing the game on my phone instead of the PC kinda feels like playing with one hand tied behind my back. Hitting the right buttons for normal attack, special attack, ultimate and dodge, swapping characters in and out as needed, all while making sure to actually face the enemy I want to hit and being in range…it’s too fiddly and, frankly, too much for my thumbs to handle. I have only two, after all.

It isn’t just the combat either. Exploring the game’s gorgeous open world, collecting countless doodads and solving puzzles is tons of fun – actually more fun than the combat in my opinion – if the controls play ball. Which, on mobile, they do not.

On PC I have no problems whatsoever climbing walls and statues, doing balancing acts across narrow ledges or performing pinpoint-accurate landings with my glider. On the phone though? Oh boy. I couldn’t walk in a straight line with those controls if my driver’s licence was at stake. When one quest asked me to scale the largest statue in Mondstadt, stand on its hands and spread some dandelion seeds to the winds I was this close to throw the damn thing out the window.

So, yeah, it’s not fun and I’ve stopped doing it.

Gameplay issues aside, my phone doesn’t like the game much either.

I use an iPhone SE2, which sports the same CPU as the iPhone 11, so processing power shouldn’t be lacking. The game runs smooth enough for sure, but the device gets freaking hot within minutes. I’m not talking Need-to-wear-oven-mitts-hot, but it comes really close to that.

Also, the game sucks battery life like crazy. I usually charge the thing every three days or so; while I played those mere 10-15 minutes per day I had to plug it in every evening. Longer sessions would only be possible while charging at the same time – provided the phone doesn’t melt when doing that – which kind of defeats the purpose of playing on a mobile device, no?

In conclusion, playing Genshin Impact on my phone has, in my mind, confirmed what I’d assumed all along: there are mobile games and there are high-quality video games, and a game can be one or the other, but not both.

When I think of mobile games I mean those that are quick and easy to play, can be interrupted at any time and don’t strain hardware or player too much. Back when I had to commute I played stuff like Bejeweled or SEGA Heroes (which is Bejeweled, essentially) every now and then just to kill some time. It’s a good thing that games like those exist, don’t get me wrong. Even so, going by my definition this kind of game has as much in common with high-quality video gaming as Big Brother has with high-quality TV entertainment.

So yeah, please keep your promises of Our mobile game will be just as great as its predecessor on PC/console to yourself, dear developers – *cough*Blizzard*cough* – because it fricking won’t be.

Screen real estate, hardware specifications, power supply and, above all, controls – these are important things that set phones and tablets apart from ‘real’ gaming hardware, which is why even the highest-quality mobile game in existence – which, most likely, is Genshin Impact right now – can’t be nearly as enjoyable as its stationary counterpart, if it has one.

Hence, however great your game might be, if it can only be played on mobile I’ll never touch it, period.

Crossplay rocks!

A working colleague who became a good friend of mine is also a gamer, so you can imagine that our water cooler conversations revolve around our mutual favourite topic more often than not.

He’s a dedicated console user though, firmly rooted in ‘Camp Xbox’, whereas I’m a PC-gamer through and through, and what little console gaming I do happens on the Playstation.

So despite kwowing each other for about 17 years and even having occasionally played the exact same games at the same point in time we had never actually played anything together (except for Guitar Hero in the same room at his place once or twice).

Until last Wednesday evening, that is.

I initially wasn’t sure whether I’d buy Star Wars Squadrons at all, but once I saw that it supports crossplay I realized that The Day might have finally come.

Setting everything up wasn’t quite as easy as I would have liked though. We didn’t want to use the ingame voice-chat, so I had to figure out how to join an Xbox party first. I installed the Xbox App, thinking that I’d need that, but then discovered that Windows 10 comes with a thing called Xbox Game Bar pre-installed. Using that is more fiddly than it needs to be I feel, but once I got used to it hooking up with my buddy on his Xbox became quick and painless.

And lo and behold, we were voice-chatting for the first time. A wonder of technology, only two decades late.

As for the game itself, I honestly can’t remember how we managed to add each other to our ‘EA friends’ lists, but once that was sorted too we were able to form a squadron and queue up for a co-op match. The excitement!

Alas, the game isn’t great. It’s fun for a couple rounds, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t see me (or us) play it for weeks or even months. There’s just too few game modes, and the one where it’s at – because it has the big star destroyers and stuff – gets quite tedious rather quickly. Also, since we didn’t want to get our asses handed to us by more experienced players we only fought against bots – and got our asses handed to us regardless. By bots. On easy difficulty. Either we are just bad, or the game’s balancing is really weird.

Still, dusting off my old joystick paid off nicely, as I assume with mouse/keyboard or controller things would have looked even more grim.

I bought this for Battlefield 3 years back; still working great

Anyway, this particular game being not as good as hoped doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of finally being able to play together. I can’t stress enough how big of a deal this is for us.

I really hope crossplay will become more and more prevalent as time goes on. Most games are released for all big platforms anyway – and have been for years now – so tear down these walls, I say!

Speaking of which, a new game that also sports crossplay basically came out of nowhere a few weeks ago and has become all the rage in this corner of the blogoshpere – Genshin Impact seems to be a real gem, and Lakisa and I are definitely going to try it out. All that’s missing is an Xbox-port, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be in the works either, but one can hope.