When I go on a trip or I’m waiting at the mechanic for my car to get fixed, I usually look for games on my phone. I have an Android phone and before that used an iPhone for a long time. I tried many games that looked interesting, but to a long-time gamer the mobile scene is mostly a lifeless wasteland of shallow games.

I know that companies churn out meaningless games with clickbait ads that offer videos that have little to do with the game. I know that titles and thumbnails look cool but that most games have little to offer but repetitive grinding with no interesting goals. These games offer little nor no more value the 80s ATARI 2600 & 7800 games, and to some extent low-end NES games, which had little to offer in the way of content and instead made levels repeat with harder difficulties and sometimes different color palettes. Those developers had the excuse of having little space or processing power on the console. Limitations to that extent generally don’t exist today, even on low-end mobile devices. One way I’ve avoided that issue in my games is by making sets of levels divided into stages where each new stage has new graphics or at least new weapons or abilities.

There are some games here and there that are ok. Oceanhorn is of course great (I completed the demo). Minetest is a wealth of value due to downloading mods automatically from each server you choose, and MultiCraft adds a better mobile interface and ads that are long but only appear when they don’t disrupt gameplay. It also promotes mobile-optimized servers.

Many people resort to classic games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and you can’t go wrong there except for the fact that you may not want to stare at a screen long enough to make significant progress. One additional issue is that the game may be cut down. I opted out of the time investment since the mobile versions of these games for that reason. In the case of Dragon Quest VIII, the voice acting which made the North American version better that previous titles is totally gone. In other aspects, the Dragon Quest series hangs onto NES-style sound effects and menus. Without the voice acting, the game generally doesn’t meet expectations other than for die-hard fans who expect the stubbornly retro style. In Final Fantasy VI, the art style is totally ruined to make it look like an indie copycat 2D game (See the video below).

There of course thousands of mediocre games. My least favorite type is what I call “1D” (one-dimensional) games. When there were rumors that Nintendo would start making mobile games, I was excited. Many months later when I tried Super Mario Jump I felt sick to my stomach. The company that had given me years of enjoyment had made a copycat “runner” game, which is essentially a “1D” game in terms of gameplay: The character just keeps running. You have no control other than what to do when, so there is only interactivity on one dimension (time). There are already many useless games like this on Google Play and I was not pleased.

On a vacation I had some fun with Punch Quest, but the difficulty teases you in that when you seem to be getting somewhere interesting the difficulty skyrockets. It strings you along with parts that seem to be unique but only keep repeating and becoming more difficult. On YouTube, I saw players getting much further than I could, but all they got in return is a higher score and more palette-swapped repeat minibosses. That is a typical example of the “1D” genre, but most are even worse. 3D “Runner” games (Temple Run clones, with essentially still 1D gameplay) make another set of games in this genre.

There are of course many 2D and 3D games that seem good from the misleading ad, thumbnail, or description. They offer only about 15 seconds of original gameplay or gameplay cloned from other titles, then the same gameplay repeats no matter how long you play. Examples include Brawls, ReMake Pixel Dungeon, and Smashy City. I don’t delete those games from my phone, but put them in a special “Non-Fun Games” folder. I never want to forget what they are. I never want to accidentally download them and waste my time again.

The technological and financial systems that allow this unstoppable hoard of Frankenstein creations to lurch along is equally horrifying. One aspect of it is Unity’s ad system. Unity’s ad system allows anyone with the ability to export a game to create a game with ads. No matter how low the quality of the game, you can make “passive income” if you are good enough at fooling kids into playing the game through crafty and misleading advertising, or stringing them along like how I described Punch Quest does. Many YouTube gurus are happy to smile at the camera, show you their Hummer, and tell you how to make this “passive income” while making both the app stores for gamers and real life for the developers a stressful nightmare that teases but never delivers.

Who makes these games? That’s the problem. Anyone can program these games. You, too, can keep people in poverty so you can make tens of dollars in passive income. In other words, it isn’t worth it unless you slave away making dozens of meaningless games or actually work expertly and creatively to make good original games. Recently, I took a look at the app development scene on Fiverr. Hundreds of people are willing to make your full game with ads, many for $5-$250 (The $5-$15 range on these ads is usually to “fix a bug” in an existing game or app, but the other price tiers don’t offer a reasonable wage for a week living in the United States):

This is a good sampling of the “Game Development” category on Fiver, and is representative of the longer multi-category exploration I did recently. The advertised tiers described when you click that may take a week, a day, or even half a day will not sustain a human being in decent conditions.

The same problem exists for other apps. You can see that “building mobile app” is the featured suggested search on Fiverr today:

A landscaping company usually needs to hire employees at all levels for low wages work them 12 hour a day to be competitive due to other companies doing the same. Fiverr adds the same economic principles to skilled work, such as software developers (such as those who can “build mobile app” which is the suggested search phrase in this screenshot). Software developers with or without tens of thousands of dollars in college debt must make a living in the United States, but are forced to compete with people living in dangerous conditions oversees or living in crowded apartments which is illegal in the United States. In many countries, the safety of quality of housing does not have the enforcement or legal recourse that the U.S. does.

So I tried searching for “building mobile app” as suggested:

This is a good sampling of a “build mobile app” or “mobile app” search on Fiver, and is representative of the longer multi-category app development gig exploration I did recently. Though you have to click to see what you actually get for each price tier from that person, you can see that you could generally not make a living wage or a safe future living for yourself and your family in the United States unless payers consistently avoided the tempting low-priced offers.

After seeing this horror, I decided I’d be better off making my own games rather than making them for other people. It is clear that the people making such wages promote and sustain an international system of danger-level poverty. I define a bearable life as either living in the wild, or if in a house or apartment, with raised beds and bathroom(s) with soap, both of which must be reliable and maintained enough to prevent mold, disease, and parasitic insects. In most regions, that necessarily includes reliable year-round temperature control of some kind, including both air conditioning and heating in temperate regions.

Also, people must make enough money to save enough for when they have age-related conditions, are unable to care for themselves for any other reasons, or have medical issues. Otherwise they must have a culture or family that will care for them in those cases. Even then, the family and country must make enough money to do so, so the problem isn’t gone. You’ve just made it someone else’s problem and assumed you’ve fixed it.

In “The Age of Turbulence,” Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve) suggests that outsourcing is good because it makes businesses more money. Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank feels the same way (or considering the wording, feels for workers in the U.S. but behaves the opposite to “take care” of the “business” as in the last sentence in the conversation). On the contrary, the people paying those people basically promote slavery, since it is probably only enough money to eat a minimal amount of food and live in dangerous conditions. These jobs are not careers. They only string people along and promote an unbearable life, like when you feed stray cats. If we ceased to promote these lifestyles with naive giving, no one (not to mention cat) would be there to begin with. They would either be self-sustaining, not have and place offspring in the same predicament, or they would be cared for some better way.

To make the world better, don’t play or buy such apps, and if you are starting or running a company, don’t hire people for slave wages on Fiverr or other places. Even playing these games or using these apps provides such companies with your personal information and ad time, both of which they sell. Ads and relevant privacy-respecting metrics and clone games aren’t always bad, but you would be giving the money to the wrong people in these cases. Instead, use ethical apps and support your local businesses and employees.

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