As if the mobile gaming marking was not already a bloated wretch of an industry that forces me to sift through piles of its festering shit to find a consumable that will not fill my gut with the hollow ache one feels when punched in the testicles, vapid celebrities seem to think adding their personal brand of funk to the situation is a great idea. What is worse, and simultaneously confounding, is that many consumers seem to be okay with this. After scraping together the same amount of morbid curiosity that causes people to seek a dead body or severed head when passing a car wreck, I began to wonder if I was missing something. Normally, I would wave away news of this sort as nothing more than a buzzing fly, come to vomit on my food, but I honestly could not help myself here. I began to have the same anxiety that comes with the discovery of a mole on my skin, and the spooling of thoughts that has me picturing myself wasting in a hospital bed because I did not respond with appropriate alarm. Perhaps I am overreacting, but as far as trends go, I really, really hope this one dies before it gains any more traction.
In some persistent attempt to stay relevant, Lindsay Lohan figured if Grand Theft Auto can make money off her likeness in a video game, she might as well board that train and see where it goes. Apparently it stops at Andy Ross’s house, guitarist for the band OK Go, and programmer for Space Inch. I could not tell you how this business meeting went down, but I am pretty sure nobody cared that the idea was a rehashed turd, which is in direct opposition to Walter Driver, CEO of Scopely, calling Space Inch “…one of the most innovative independent game developers in the U.S. with three very creative titles in a row…” Even if no other options were on the table, there are times in life when doing nothing is better than doing something.
Lindsay Lohan’s Price of Fame hit the mobile market recently, and gives players the privilege of experiencing the drama of celebrity life by pretending to be one while exposing us to a satirical take on how ridiculous being rich and famous is. Surely, there must be some new jokes about the madness and drama that comes with living life in a fishbowl, however, I honestly could not care less about hearing them. Remarkably, there are those that do wish to subject themselves to whatever you want to call this nonsense. According to the last time I checked the Play Store, which was literally before I started typing this sentence, the download count was north of ten thousand with a four star average rating – not that people understand rating systems and they become void of meaning when nobody can agree on how to use them. One such rater says “I don’t know what I expected from this game but it left me feeling empty,” then proceeded to award three out of five stars. I would love to know what it takes to get a one star rating from this person. Perhaps they require a game to cause the sudden onset of a terrifying psychosis, leaving them a human husk, feebly grasping at the fading memories of reality.
Lindsay’s contribution, pointless as it may be, will likely never see the bewildering numbers of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, but is in direct competition with it. To the credit of Hollywood, at least some of the in-app purchases were going to charity up to the beginning of this month. Again, we are presented with a game that attempts to simulate a celebrity’s rise to the top of the A-list, which leaves me wondering if there is a point in the game when I get to release a sex tape. Thankfully, Kim did not break the Internet, and I can Google that information should it ever come up in pub trivia.
In the interest of fairness, which might arguably be confused with demented judgement in this case, I did actually download Price of Fame. The game wastes no time explaining itself and just drops the player right into the action, which involves swiping up, and swiping up, and swiping up, ad nauseam. Each swipe nets a fan as he or she leaves a seemingly endless stack of fans and flies off the screen. This seemed oddly familiar, even though I have never knowingly performed this action in my entire life. Yes, I was making it rain. This actually makes perfect sense when I looked at Space Inch’s other offerings to find, of course, Make It Rain: Love of Money. I was playing a reskinned meme game. Now I know how Bup feels when he browses Steam Greenlight.
I do not know if the jokes are funny, because I would have needed to swipe four hundred times before I had a chance of finding out. There is not much to do until that goal is met, which presumably means the game is attempting to train me to play it in case I was not able to grasp the concept in three seconds. Look, I am not sure if this is clear to anyone else, but if the first few minutes of the game are boring, and the business model involves in-app purchases, then the game is going to be one of waiting or toiling toward disproportionately small rewards unless dollars are made to rain upon the heads of the developers. I did manage to make something else happen when I decided to pass out fliers in attempt to boost my popularity, but I was really disappointed the game did not let me use rapid fire swiping action to pass them out myself. Way to miss a golden opportunity, Space Inch.
Celebrities lending their likeness to mobile gaming is certainly not a new practice. Kate Upton is featured in a tv ad for Game of War. Bear Grylls, still high off those extreme situations, brazenly decided Temple Run needed him in it. Heck, Wesley Snipes did not let prison stop him from getting in on the action with Julius Styles: The International.
Do not mistake my concern here. If a celebrity wants to be involved in the industry, fine. They have as much right to do that as any of us. My worry lies in the fact that this level of branding will only make the market worse as these names and likeness are attached to garbage. More care needs to be taken in the quality of the content distributed as opposed to games designed to treat unknowing consumers like an automatic teller machine. Speaking of quality, far more discussion needs to be had examining that matter, and the criteria for gaming formats that benefit both the developer and player, but I would like to save that for another day.
Yet, as I spit venom over developers who just do not seem to care, I wonder how much I can really blame the creators, if at all, when the mobile market consumer base offers such ripe, tempting, and low hanging fruit. I hear so many people, myself included, curse the mobile market for bursting at the seams with games that ideally should not exist as they serve only to dilute innovation to a useless homeopathic tincture. Maybe the real reason we should be concerned is that it continues to allow for an environment of people buying into these games simply because they do not know any better, and that ultimately touches those of us that do, gamers and developers alike. Last I checked, we can still vote with our dollars and our downloads, but I fear as standards continue to drop, there will be nothing left worth voting for in the first place. That is a hard pill for someone like me to swallow.