Tuesday, 30 October 2012


When I was young, everyone had a Tamagotchi -- except me. While my friends fed their virtual pocket pets obsessively, I watched them enviously and told myself that I'd buy one for myself when I grew up. In a turn of events I didn't see coming, now that I'm old as heck all grown up, I get bored too quickly of something as unchallenging as a Tamagotchi. Case in point: the Tamagotchi-inspired app, Hatchi, went on free download yesterday on the Apple App Store and I got bored with it already. It's just like the time when I was 10 years old and wanted to play with my Barbie dolls, and my mother told me I had to study... and I loudly swore that one day I would be 32 years old and nobody could stop me from playing with Barbie dolls all day long.

Yeah... nobody, except my attention span.

What I realised though, is while I've always loved games (who doesn't?!), the type of games we like as we grow older change. We were probably perfectly happy with Super Mario or Putt Putt Goes To The Zoo as a kid, but now I find the only games I like to play are dynamic games in multi-player environments -- with the same collector-element in all games. Collect treasures, cards, gears, gems, gold -- it's a hoarder's world in virtual games. Virtual worlds alone aren't enough: I tried Second Life for a research assignment I did for college once, but got bored of it within a couple of days -- there were just no goals in the game, it was kind of like living a "second life" that required all the work of my "first life"... and I didn't need a whole other life!

I reckon the hoarder's world is most aptly depicted in Pokemon. Yesterday, I watched Pokemon for the first time -- I know, I know, which rock have I been living under? And unsurprisingly, I loved the show -- Pikachu is so darn cute, and the idea of collecting Pokemon was cool.

A big part of the Pokemon franchise, as I learnt, is its TCG -- Trading Card Game. I never played any TCG as a kid, and never understood what the other kids were doing with their decks of cards that weren't spades and aces and Kings and Queens. This year, though, some of my friends and I started playing a TCG called Rage of Bahamut. It's a free-to-play app on iPhones, iPods, iPads, Androids, and other smart-devices. RoB got really popular in Japan and they made this American version, which is immensely popular worldwide. And when I think about how the game is made, and reflect on why it is so popular, my observations fascinate me to the point that someday I'd wanna write research papers about games.

For one thing, it's a classic TCG -- collect cards, treasures, battle other players. Second, it's free to play -- but every gamer knows F2Ps usually rake in more real-world money than subscription-based games or buy-once games, because of the cash shop built in-store. If you get addicted to a F2P game, or you really enjoy it and have the extra cash to spend a little in it, a lot of people probably would. And RoB has all the elements for success (which explains why it's so successful): PVE and PVP in a multi-player environment. Active players join an Order, and of course, the better your Order, the better you'll do in events and Holy Wars.

In any game, I think, people "join for the game" and "stay for the friends". And you also loop your real-life friends into this kinda game, because you get rewards for "referring" friends into it (my referral code is ldm35019). Besides, I've always played my iPhone games with An (incidentally my best friend in real life) and this is one of those games we can play together. :D A lot of my friends used to play GodFinger and Party In My Dorm, but we've moved on.

Another reason why smartdevice games like RoB are so popular: they're not time-consuming and they can be put down! While a typical MMORPG on your PC would suck up hours of your life, you can only play RoB sparsely - your stamina in the game runs out, you only have 5 bazaar tickets for trade a day, and players in good Orders use other chat systems to notify their friends when they're needed in the game. And because it's a mobile game, a lot of people play it at work, or while travelling for work, or while on the road. You could never play an MMO dungeon on the subway, lol! Games that can be put down are the best kinda games for busy people -- mothers, working people, nerds writing long dissertations (like myself -.-), so I especially love how I can just close the app and continue later.

Also... the cards are so pretty. :P There are players who actually make real money from RoB too, by selling cards on eBay and stuff, but you can get banned from the game if you're caught.

Each player has an Attack deck and a Defense deck. Well, you can have more than one of each deck, but that's a lot more work and probably more suited for hardcore players. I wanna post my upcoming ATK and DEF decks on here, but they're not done yet, so I will another time! :D This was my deck a couple of weeks ago, but I've changed a lot of the cards now: