By this point, even the more casual gamer (ESPECIALLY the more casual gamer) should be aware of so-called ‘tap’ games – the overtly simplistic, drop-in drop-out scourge of social media and the App Store. It’s a prolific disease, to say the least. Popular titles include The Simpsons Tapped Out!, Jurassic Park Builder, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth and the big bad granddaddy of ’em all, the insufferable abyss that is Farmville (and its host of irascible clones). C’mon, admit it – you’ve tried one of these, at the very least. Odds are you’ve spent hours and hours engaged in the virtual equivalent of building a sandcastle. Thing is, sooner or later the tide’s going to come in, leaving you to wonder… what’s it all about then?
Fans of this despicable, time-devouring genre are content to spend hours and hours ‘developing’ (read: clicking incessantly) on a generic plot of virtual real estate. There are no real objectives, no way to ‘win’. Interactivity with other human beings is generally restricted to visiting other players’ farms / Springfields / Hobbit holes, or, in rare cases, launching feeble dice-based sorties on near-identical ‘armies’. In essence, these ‘games’ ape more ambitious projects like SimCity and Command and Conquer, while removing all tactical and cerebral elements and reducing these tried-and-true concepts to their bare-boned cores. The results ain’t pretty. Not at all.
Yes, ‘tap’ games suck harder than a toothless hobo. These games are objectively terrible, and if you subscribe to their simple, mind-dulling ‘pleasures’, then you are an inherently bad person, and should feel bad.
The gaming industry was once defined by innovation and relentless forward momentum. This didn’t always work out for the best, granted – Nintendo’s original ‘epic fail’, the Power Glove, comes to mind – but for the most part, gamers expected bigger and better things, which generally came to pass. After all, this is the industry that beat the entertainment colossus that is Hollywood at its own game. It gave us 3D graphics and analog control in Super Mario 64, the genre-busting DOOM and GTA series, the digital Goliath that is Steam, network multiplayer and the small miracle of ragdoll physics, courtesy of the Euphoria and Rage engines. This is the industry that spawned ultra-challenging, classic titles like the original Ninja Gaiden, Contra, Castlevania and the Mega Man series… But now some of the more successful properties in gaming revolve around the most cynical and simplistic mechanics possible.
Essentially, ‘tap’ games teach gamers that skill and dedication are no longer as important as a warped sense of patience and, of course, the almighty dollar. Perhaps that’s the most insidious element of all. Dubious microtransactions are rife. Why wait on a real-time timer when you can pay good money for the privilege of ‘expanding’ your pitiful, stock-standard empire?
Make no mistake, if you subscribe to this flawed philosophy of gaming you ARE part of the problem. I mean, why should developers bother trying something new (and potentially engaging) when you can simply slap a new coat of paint on a tired old engine, safe in the knowledge your creation will be warmly embraced by the mouthbreathing public at large?
‘Tap’ games are like the cast of Jersey Shore. If we keep paying attention to them, and willingly handing over our time and money, they ain’t going nowhere. I’m guessing we can expect to see ‘tap’ titles based on all manner of properties in the coming years. After all, who wouldn’t want to help Don Draper build up a virtual Sterling, Cooper, Draper and Pryce, and all from the comfort of their living room? Who wouldn’t want to tap their own little Hamsterdam into existence, mentored the whole way by a cute, quasi-anime looking Stringer Bell? Who of us wouldn’t immediately jump at the chance to construct one’s very own Westeros, replete with a Castle Black that takes forty-eight real-time hours to ‘construct’, and hordes of dragons that serve no purpose other than being (allegedly) aesthetically pleasing?
The plague is here, people, and resistance, I suspect, is futile. I’d like to write more – perhaps sketch out a rough plan to help defeat this onslaught of mediocrity, once and for all – but I fear my time on this Earth is sadly limited. Everywhere I roam, they are there… Glassy eyed and vacant, minds of mush and hearts of stone. They clutch their devices close to their chests, talons tapping mindlessly at garish, poorly-pixellated screens. How long before they tire of their virtual pursuits, and bring their incessant tapping to the world of men? How long before they begin to tap and chisel away at our hearts, our minds, our very souls?
My greatest fear? Long after they’ve consumed me, they will remain a plague on our race, ever ravenous. Tap, tap, tapping us over the edge, and into the abyss…