I am addicted to video games again. Addicted like I haven’t been in years. Addicted to the point where my left thumb and right forefinger are borderline arthritic from playing them as soon as I open my eyes in the morning and last thing before I close them at night.
This is ridiculous behaviour in a man approaching his mid-50s. I should be waking up and performing pilates. My eyelids should droop while perusing Reader’s Digest at bedtime. I should be getting arthritis in my hands from planting peonies or unwrapping Werther’s Originals. But no. It’s games wot done it, and not even hardcore ones involving gods or war or elden rings. I am obsessed with what I once might have scornfully labelled casual gaming. I’m talking about Apple Arcade, which I am now convinced is the best value games delivery system on the planet in 2023. It has turned my phone into the most fun gaming console I’ve had since my Neo Geo in the 90s.
I can’t think of anything in the last 20 years that has given me so many games of such quality, variety, imagination and downright weirdness. I have helped trees grow by lopping off branches to guide them to sunlight in Prune. I have solved serious family problems by fixing folk’s gadgets in Assemble With Care. I have completed complex puzzles by dragging water through paint in Tint, built towns in Outlanders, souped up my word power with Word Laces and done … whatever the hell it was I did in Lifelike. (I think I was adapting alien life forms by melding their particles with others in deep space, but I just felt I was like being warmly submersed in a Pink Floyd album.)
Gibbon: Beyond the Trees – a casual game with a nice eco-message. Photograph: Broken Rules
I have attempted wacky urban planning with Mini Motorways, swung primates through rain forests in Gibbon, farted around getting frustrated with Lego in Builder’s Journey and pioneered my personage across America in The Oregon Trail. All of this for less than a fiver a month.
The irony is I had Apple Arcade for ages without using it – one of those classic modern subscriptions you buy because it sounds good but never have time to actually take advantage of. I finally started using it a few months ago because I was about to cancel it. Now it has me looking at Xbox Game Pass, wondering if that’s the one I should be defunding.
My iPhone introduced me to my favourite game of 2022, Marvel Snap (which isn’t part of the Apple Arcade subscription). I never considered playing a deckbuilding game before, but it was featured on the app store, so I tried it. Now I’d go so far as to say it is a perfect game. Gameplay, graphics, sound, sheen? …….