Tuesday, June 11, 2013

App-Based Gaming - My 2 Cents

First of all, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade or try to bash the obvious direction that App-Based Gaming is taking... or rather taking over.  I often get folks asking me at laser tag games "Why don't you use the App for your Lazer Tag blaster?" or "Have you heard about Tek Recon?" or "The Rebelle line is getting Apps, isn't that cool?"  I do admire the ingenuity and the features that these new App-centered systems are bringing to gaming... but there's several reasons that I don't really get all that excited about them.  They're more personal preferences than anything, but I thought I'd at least share why I tend to stray away from this new angle the toy blaster industry has been taking.  Here's my 2 Cents.

We live in an age that revolves around technology that is often outdated before it reaches shelves nowadays. Once you get the most kick-ass Phone on the market, a few weeks later you realize that you're hopelessly outdated already and just have to upgrade again to the next super device.  Think about how many times folks get new cell phones, new mp3 players, new silicone-based cases for their fancy devices.  Now think about all the equipment that revolves around those devices.  Battery chargers, Apps, Car Audio, Home Entertainment, the list goes on.  The more these devices keep getting upgraded and outdated, the more the stuff that revolves around them ALSO needs to be upgraded.  It's all a simple forward-thinking marketing plan that we've been suckered into.  But now that list is expanding into toys like the Lazer Tag Augmented Reality system.  Take a look at what already happened to that blaster.

The Lazer Tag Augmented Reality System (LTAR) was released in August of 2012.  One month later, Apple announced the iPhone 5.  With a larger phone design, the iPhone 5 won't fit in the iOS cradle for the LTAR (which was designed for the iPhone 3 and iPhone 4).  Already the "Next Generation of Lazer Tag" has been outdated because of this constant consumer need in the market to upgrade.  Granted, I prefer the LTAR without the iOS Cradle on there anyways (it's basic form is fantastic on it's own), but when the marketing on that blaster is iOS heavy... no-one knows that.  But I'll finish up that rant that I started in Part 1 later on.

Think of it another way.  Do you want to buy an App-Based system only for the device it relies on to utilize all of it's cool features to be replaced in under a year?  Think of the application of using blasters that rely on cell phones if you wanted to have a bigger game?  Everyone would have to have the right equipment to join in... and the odds of that happening are slim to none, so you're already limited in who can join in just by what phone they own or what blaster they're using.  With Nerf, for example, anyone who's got a blaster that shoots foam darts can join in... you could invite the whole neighborhood to a big fun game!  The very second you bring one of these App-based Systems into the mix you instantly exclude folks just with equipment alone.  Suddenly the beauty of being able to mix foam-dart blaster brands gets axed and you are forced into specific blasters with certain features requiring an App for certain phones to be downloaded.  It's too many things to get right, and this exclusionary tactic is just marketing, forcing folks that WANT to still have big games with lots of friends to upgrade all their toys just like they already do with their mobile devices.

Marketing.  I've mentioned it a bunch in this rant and that's really all it is.  Simply put, it's getting more folks to buy more things.  It's a sales strategy that can work... but at the same time, I don't find much value in products that are only designed to be around for a year or two.  Look at what I do.  For the past 8 summers, I've been planning laser tag games outdoors with friends.  Do you think I'd be able to afford to equip 20 players with gear if the equipment was getting outdated every year?  Nope. I find value in things that I can use for a long time and rely on the people I'm PLAYING the GAME with to make it fun, not an App that's trying to make it like a Video Game.

Capture the Flag, anyone?
Video Games: that's exactly the big underlying problem here.  I grew up during what many consider to be the Golden Age of Video Games when Nintendo was introducing Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong to the world and I managed to miss out on all of it.  I didn't have a video game console growing up, but my childhood does not regret it.  I spent my time playing "World War III" with my friends outdoors.  Screw pretending to be a Marine in Modern Warfare, I WAS the soldier, and I still am.  I find more value in going outside, getting some exercise, meeting with friends, and having a great time playing these games, so it's no wonder this emphasis on "Video Games in the Real World" marketing doesn't effect me.  I've met so many people and made a lot of great friends by opening the door and getting outside... but folks in this new generation are so glued to their Flatscreen TVs that they need this gimmick of Video Games in the Real World to get them to get out there.

As you can tell, there's a lot of strikeouts for App-Based Gaming in my books.  I could go on and on about my personal philosophy of WHY I do what I do and why these Apps don't concern me.  There's probably room for pie charts and statistical vomit that I could throw out there, but in the end it's really about what works for you.  If you need your smart phone to run your life, these games will be great for you in the short year that they'll hold their value before they're replaced by the next best thing.  As for me, I'm gonna keep playing in the real world with real people and cut the screen out from between us.


  1. I agree whole-heartedly. My friends and I DO use an app on out phones during games to track each other's locations, but in no way is that a requirement for a nerf-out. We use it for additional utility, and it doesn't exclude anyone.

    I might go ahead and weigh in on this on my own blog, since I've been running short of creative juices lately.

    1. Using devices like that are fine in my books. It's when the device BECOMES the game and the blaster is more like an accessory to the smart phone when things start to bother me.

      I've seen cool "motion trackers" a la Colonial Marines from the movie Aliens or even the Heartbeat Monitor in Modern Warfare utilized on apps from smart phones and other devices that can be pretty cool that add to the game itself. I'm a fan of stuff like that.

    2. And here is the travesty of an article my melty brain smeared out. Link goes live at Noon CDT


  2. I'm lucky to have still retained my Laser Challenge set to the present day, but there's something to be said for it's limitations. Cost and fragility aside, it never stayed on with me because even I as an eight year old recognized how much the sun screwed with its sensors. It made it difficult to play the game.

    I fell into video games and stayed with them up to high school. It was then that I started to realize that I needed to get outside more (sometimes forced into it), and I got into Parkour. Fun and heavily cooperative, but it was hard to justify continuing as my friends and I got older and our lives started to get busy.

    But it's what made me realize that the things that video games allowed me to do aren't all that hard. Once Nerf and Lazer Tag made their comeback I was absolutely blown away by what I could do now, and without restriction of age or capability. I'm now old enough, mature enough, and trained enough to play with these things responsibly (think about it, how many people had water wars or Nerf wars as kids that simply ended in a fists-up brawl? I can't be the only one...)

    I haven't given up video games entirely, but my focus on them has narrowed considerably. I play simulators now; cars, planes--transportation mostly, and often less than a hour a week. I can't play the first person shooter simply [i]because[/i] I know I can have a great time out there with friends using as diverse and grand a battlefield as I please.

    But I feel like I'm getting pushed into playing video games more and more because the outdoor activities I like are pushing them on me more and more. My ultimate goal was for my video games to let me do things I can't do in real life. Since when did it become that there was some belief in the exact opposite: "Make real life more into a video game!" I admit that I've made attempts in terms of some video game shooter mechanics (spread all the Nerf guns around the yard and house a la Goldeneye), but it tends to be more using universally intuitive rulesets, not some form of augmented reality. I don't care to make life like a video game. Lazer Tag, Nerf, Super Soaker; all these are simply better because your options become virtually unlimited. Is it that people can't handle that kind of freedom of expression? Can they not think specially without some form of virtual radar? Or is it just that they don't have friends to play it with?

    Zook, your rants have been right on from the start. I'm collecting the crap out of the LTAR because I'm concerned this will be the end of Lazer Tag and I don't want to make the same mistake I made with the LTX and decide to get it literally a week after they're off shelves. I just wish I didn't have to think this way; I wish other people could understand just how [i]awesome[/i] Lazer Tag can actually be!

    (And I apologize for the long post; you triggered a spark it would seem.)