Intervention

"We need to talk."

I walk into the apartment slowly, assessing the scene. The tone of the voice is serious, wary. Expecting a struggle. For just a moment, I consider turning on my heel and making my escape. It's still happy hour.

The moment passes. "Okay."

Bag down, jacket off, but I keep my shoes on. It's easier to make a dramatic exit when you don't have to tie your laces. I take stock of the situation: The dishwasher is running, the kitchen is clean. One lamp on beside the couch, music playing in the bedroom. But we're alone. Or as alone as one can be with the Internet.

"Sit down." Gesturing to a spot on the couch. The faces flicker, scramble, a pale-faced male in a Mastodon shirt one moment, a brunette with streaks in her hair the next. Like A Scanner Darkly. Each flash seems familiar for a brief moment, like a friend or someone whose thread topic made you chuckle during a long work day, then melt into a personality of a stranger, in an unsettling display of anonymity. You think you know them, but you probably don't.

"What's wrong?" I ask. "Did I do something wrong? Did I double-post?"

The images continue to blur and change, but they all look disapproving and a bit sad. "We're concerned. All you ever talk about is your iPhone and its silly little games. We think you're becoming an elitist — a … a digirati." The Internet says.

Without thinking, I reply. "Well, yeah."

"This isn't funny," says The Internet. "This is serious. Ever since you got your iPhone, you've been kind of a jerk. All you talk about anymore is how great it is, how fun the games are. And it's not even that you're wrong — which you are — but that you're so smug about it."

"There's nothing wrong with the iPhone," I say, louder than I intended. Without thinking, I pull the device out of my pants pocket and flip it from horizontal to vertical and back. "Look, it flips the screen around. That's cool!"

The Internet, all at once, rolls its eyes. "Yes, yes. We know. That's like the fifth time you've shown us that. But we like games, Cory. We want to play a real game." A tanned, young face flickers across for a brief moment, eyes wide, accentuating the point.

My head tilts slightly, puzzled. "But there are real games. Didn't you hear me talking about Galcon a few months ago? That was on the PC first, and it's so much better on the iPhone." A couple taps on the screen and the theme music is playing. "Look, it's got multiplayer!"

The Internet sighs collectively — the sound of thousands of networked, anonymous users dismissing my enthusiasm — and rises from the couch. They walk across the hardwood floor to the kitchen and open the refrigerator, flashes of long, alluring legs and swaying hips. I watch, dumbfounded, and ponder for a second how The Internet always seems more attractive the further you are away from it. They turn, a beer in their hand, and consider me from afar.

"What happened with you and the DS? You used to love that thing, and those are full-fledged games." The faces change again, animated eyes and a shocking swoop of blue hair. "Remember Phoenix Wright? All the funny dialog? You spent hours with that series. You used to talk about it all the time, remember?"

"Well, yeah. But that was years ago." I glance at the shelf, at the rows of games and movies that I once cherished, but now serve only to fill heavy boxes when I move, or take up space in the increasingly tiny living quarters I can afford. "There's been a bunch of really great games. New Super Mario Bros., Elite Beat Agents, that game where you draw the lines and the cream puff dude runs across."

They go blank a second, no faces, no sounds. A formless, unreadable shadow. Searching. "Kirby: Canvas Curse." The faces return, in triumph.

"Uh, yeah." I hate it when they do that. "But they don't make those anymore. It's all Sudoku clones and educational junk. Shovelware. Brain Age 12: The Wrath Of Khan."

"That's just because there's a lot of titles available." Their voices get louder, their faces paler. I've made a point they don't like. "There are still more, better games on the DS. What about RPGs, huh?" Here it comes. "You can play those for HOURS. You got any of that on your FANCY APPLE PHONE?"

And there it is. Every argument with them ends this way, in upper-cased fury. I take a calming breath.

"Listen, if it really bothers you--"

A phone rings. "Hang on." They reach into their pocket and pull out a Motorola RAZR. "I've gotta take this."

"Wait a minute!" I jump to my feet, the realization hitting me like a wave across the bough. Now my voice is the one raising. "Is that what this is about? You're just pissed I've got a better phone than you!"

"Well, maybe if you didn't talk about it all the time!"

"Look, it's really not a big deal. I never said the DS sucks. I don't think the PSP is terrible. I’m not passing some sort of judgment on you. Obviously I find some sort of value out of the software I'm getting on this thing, but it's not like I'm right and you're wrong."

A bright flash. This must pass as relief for the anonymous masses.

"Why don't we do this: I'll take a much more serious look at the games I decide to rant about on the iPhone. I won't bother you about two-minute time wasters like Uno or iBowl or whatever. But when I find something I think holds some serious value, I'm going to tell you about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Because if it's really good, you'll want to know."

The images cycle, the boy who never logs out of WoW, the mother who plays Peggle while her newborn naps, the guy in the cubicle who wants to close the spreadsheet so he can play Call of Duty with his friends at home. They all consider my words and, I think, realize that I'm trying to be genuine. They don't all agree, but they don't fight back.

"Okay."

A silence falls over the apartment. The tension in the air dissipates. Something has been decided, something changed. Between us — the Internet and me — we try to get back to our decided levels of normalcy.

"Hey," the Internet asks, "wanna see this great cat video I found?"

Comments

That was brilliant. I want me some of whatever you had. As long as it's not habit forming. Too much, at least.

MoonDragon wrote:
That was brilliant. I want me some of whatever you had. As long as it's not habit forming. Too much, at least.

The iPhone? It's terribly habit-forming.

I'm that voice within the internet waiting for the Pre, hoping it will finally give me a leg up on you.

Think of the RPGs... can't we all just think of the RPGs!?

I can't bring myself to care about the iphone. Don't worry though, when you finally get over it and want to rejoin us we'll pretend none of this ever happened (except for those times you need to be put in your place of course).

The biggest problem I have with the iPhone is the big VA-shaped hole in AT&T's coverage map.

*unplugs his iPod Touch and puts on headphones*

Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

Great little interlude. I have to say I was not a big fan of the iPhone, but have come to love my touch and really wish it had call capability. I know it is somewhat redundant to have the touch and not be an iPhone fan, but I got the touch from someone when it was essentially brand new and unused for $80. It was to be a replacement to my dead ipod. But the wifi connection showed me how great it was and now I wish I had an iPhone

Vargen wrote:
The biggest problem I have with the iPhone is the big VA-shaped hole in AT&T's coverage map.

*unplugs his iPod Touch and puts on headphones*

You mean the (admittedly not so big) VT-shaped hole?

Yeah, Vermont lacks the big pig as well.

I don't mind so much, I can't afford the bucks to own one anyway.

I don't understand how so many people have so much disposable income.

It's like a new William Gibson novel... "War of the Fanboys".

Seriously creepy-fun imagery there.

Bravo Cory, Bravo.

Dysplastic wrote:
Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

Gaming isn't the primary or even secondary function of the iPhone, it's a sideline justification for owning it at best. That's the big difference. If Apple had a handheld gaming device that was marketed heavily as a handheld gaming device that cost $400 then they'd probably get similar flak.

Disclaimer: I use a feature phone on a carrier that probably won't offer an iPhone at anything but ridiculously expensive data plan rates.

Oh, and I really like the story. Only thing that might be missing is a description of how all the voices echo and phase in and out of different identities as it talks.

Well done sir. As with many of the authors on this site, your self-awareness manages to lend perspective to issues that most people don't even realize lack it. I say this to all of you: it's a pleasure to read your work.

Infinity wrote:
Gaming isn't the primary or even secondary function of the iPhone, it's a sideline justification for owning it at best. That's the big difference. If Apple had a handheld gaming device that was marketed heavily as a handheld gaming device that cost $400 then they'd probably get similar flak.

True, and apple did sell 13.7 million iPhones in 2008, so they do have a sizeable enough install base. I guess I just wonder sometimes if the attention that's being paid to the iPhone among gaming media is warranted when compared the amount of people listening who actually game on one - but then again, by that logic, we should only be hearing about Wii, DS, and PS2 games.
Really, all I want is for the frigging price of monthly plans to go down so I can get one myself.

Awesome article, Cory! (Presumably) Like Cory, my iPod Touch has led me to almost completely abandon my DS.

Folks who don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch have a hard time understanding. Sadly, there are also many who own the device, but don't embrace them as a gaming platform. Detractors should come to terms with the fact that it's not going anywhere. The games get better and more fully-fleshed out on almost a weekly basis. UniWar is the best strategy gaming I've played on a handheld, partly because it's just a good game and partly because of the great way they've implemented multiplayer. It was $.99, still is....that help makes it damn good as well. PuzzleQuest for less than $10?...yes please! SimCity in my pocket?...ok! RocoLoco (re:Rolando) made even better with free content updates?...done.

There are myriad factors which make my Touch a better handheld (for me) than my DS. Tons of functionality, great games at great prices and (not to be dismissed) compact design. I've only recently started to make real use of the internet capabilities (Twitter, email, Pandora, etc), which just makes me crave the rumored new iPhone this summer so I'm not tethered to wifi hotspots.

In short, iDevices are pretty awesome.

My RAZR is crap.

"This isn't funny," says The Internet. "This is serious."

IMAGE(http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3099/3151202315_c8fe743322_o_d.jpg)

Gennataos wrote:
There are myriad factors which make my Touch a better handheld (for me) than my DS. Tons of functionality, great games at great prices and (not to be dismissed) compact design. I've only recently started to make real use of the internet capabilities (Twitter, email, Pandora, etc), which just makes me crave the rumored new iPhone this summer so I'm not tethered to wifi hotspots.

In short, iDevices are pretty awesome.

I think you're right. If rate plans aren't reasonable by the time my iPod kicks the bucket, I think I'll get a touch instead.

Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

This is in part also a preface to the discussion we will have on tomorrow's podcast ... because of your e-mail. You'll find we're somewhat split on the topic. Thanks a lot, Yoko.

I'll never understand the appeal of the iPhone for gaming. I have problems with physical pain from playing games on my DS. The iPhone would just be torture. I don't think I'm willing to fork over hundreds of dollars to gimp myself.

Like the DS and Wii, the selling point for the iphone is the control scheme. Just admit it guys, you wouldn't give a rats arse if it wasn't touch and tilt sensitive.

I don't own an iPhone, but I want one. You can get a refurb for $100 if you are worried about the hardware cost. The monthly cost is still expensive, though the monthly benefits are potentially great. It's like a laptop in your pocket with internet capabilities at all times. And GPS. And iPod. And single screen DS. And non-suck user interface.

Elysium wrote:
Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

This is in part also a preface to the discussion we will have on tomorrow's podcast ... because of your e-mail. You'll find we're somewhat split on the topic. Thanks a lot, Yoko. ;)

Man. What have I done? Think before you e-mail. Think!

I am the internet.

I feel like the biggest reason that iPhone users are so enthusiastic about the games available is the "stealth factor" of the device. Sure, we've had cell phone games for a long time but except for a couple of exceptions, they've all sucked. Now we have a nifty futuristic phone that, in addition to all the other stuff it does, can actually play some pretty terrific games...and you have it with you all the time because it's your phone. That right there almost negates all the advantages of either the DS or the PSP.

But anyway, fantastic article. The only problem was that the Internet was way too comprehensible to be realistic...but then again, how could you represent a conversation interrupted by LOLcat pictures, image macros and AOL speak? Plus every response has to begin with some moron yelling out "FIRST POST!"

Dysplastic wrote:
Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

Because it's a multi-use phone first, and a gaming platform second, or third, fourth, or even less, based on personal preference. But it seems people all over the world let out a collective screech of joy every time a new company comes along and demands more money so they can be sold the privelage of signing a contract for a monthly fee to make phone calls and pay more to text message and even more to surf the internet and even more still to download games. Nevermind the fact that all of that stuff can be done better elsewhere, but just not at any given place you happen to find yourself.

What I don't get is how does all this line up with the 'we have the internet so we demand everything we see be free' mentality that supposedly has our culture ensnared?

Full disclaimer: I don't think I should be paying for a phone that has an expected life span of 2 years and can only be used in conjunction with someone else's fee based services. I get cheap phones, hopefully free after discounts, so I can make phone calls.

All that said, I'm sure I'd enjoy the games if I played them.

Multiple things at work here:

1: It's not just a phone, it's the iPod Touch, which you can find for $100 every 20 minutes on eBay.

2: The quality of the games is frankly outstanding. They are not half-assed implementations. Whether it's something mainstream like all the EA titles or smaller titles, the quality and depth of the best iphone games is easily on par with my PSP or DS.

3: DEMOS and DELIVERY. How much use do you get out of your 360 because you have a constant stream of new games to try out, even without spending any money. We've often handed out advice that the 360 with a gold membership is one of the cheapest ways to just get game value because of this. The fact that you can be in the environment where you want your portable gaming device (coffee shop, bus, car, train, backyard) and get 10 new games to try in 10 minutes shouldn't be discounted.

4: Game price. Even if I granted you that the iPhone was the single most expensive "console," the reality is that the games are universally the cheapest. With $10 as the effective outside-price, and a constant stream of weekend sales, you get an assload of variety for very little money.

5: I could actually care less about it as a phone. My average monthly voice minutes is under 100, and virtually all of that is to the same 4-5 people. To me, the device is effectively my portable browser/email system, and my default portable gaming system.

I get that this sounds like fanboi zealotry. But I feel like it's dismissed out of hand "because it's a phone" all the time, and I seem to be the designated defender (grin).

The cheapest iPod Touch is currently $229. It's $60 more than the current DSi, maybe $70 more than a PSP. It's also $170 less than the cheapest PS3.

I think it's a platform worth talking about, and I think it's a platform worth owning.

I have to say that, while I can't afford an iPhone with a plan, I would love a Touch. My DS-fat is on the verge of death, and I'm seriously considering going the Touch route when it dies. I've been buying Gameboys since the monochrome-days and can't believe that I'm even typing this.

Dysplastic wrote:
Elysium wrote:
Why do I feel this is in response to an e-mail I sent? I agree the iPhone is great - it's just bloody expensive as hell to own one!
The point of my mail was basically to ask, why does Sony get trashed constantly for the high price-point of the PS3, but the high cost of iPhone ownership never gets mentioned when discussing it's viability as a gaming platform?

This is in part also a preface to the discussion we will have on tomorrow's podcast ... because of your e-mail. You'll find we're somewhat split on the topic. Thanks a lot, Yoko. ;)

Man. What have I done? Think before you e-mail. Think!

I am the internet.

Sigged (sorry Koning Floris)!

Dr. Corby wrote:
I don't understand how so many people have so much disposable income.

Families are expensive. Sell them on eBay.

wordsmythe wrote:

Families are expensive. Sell them on eBay.

I have a 19 year old, a 14 year old and a 12 year old...what am I offered?

:^)