4 iPhone Games That Clearly Hate the Player (Tested)
In-app mobile game purchases are now making more money from tapping things than King Midas, and they result in more people sitting around doing nothing but making someone else richer. The Cracked Research Team decided to investigate these software Skinner boxes, because the Cracked Research Team is what I call myself to feel better about playing iPad in my underpants all day. Note: "iPad in my underpants" is not a euphemism.
The uncropped version of this picture is NSFW in every possible way.
I spent a day trapped inside the top-grossing games like a smartphone Houdini, and as a service to Cracked readers, I worked out some better replacements.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
One of the most famous free-to-play games now is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (which sucked $500 out of a Jezebel writer), because when we think of things that definitely aren't being done only for money, we think Kardashian. The game started as it meant to go on: by giving me pointless chores. The first thing you're told to do is fold some shirts -- it's like the game is taunting you for playing it instead of doing anything useful -- and at no point does it ever get better. Because the game knows that if the player tolerates this pointless bullshit, they have nothing better to do.
Even the game looks disappointed in me for playing it.
Within moments, you meet Kim, and it really gets insulting. You're given multiple dialogue options, and I played through multiple times to confirm that they don't do a damn thing. No matter what you choose, the game says "Well done!" pats you on the head, gives you a shower of golden popularity and money, and moves on to the next stage. Even scientists sticking rats in mazes react when the rat does something different, but this software doesn't have the same level of care for its subjects. Baby activity centers have more interactivity, and an opposite effect on your mental age.
Fashion shows, dates, publicity shots ... every event is "click on the next button," and then "click on the same button seven times in a row, because honestly even the game's designers could not be bothered with it." The trick is that the events give you an hour to press as many buttons as possible, but not enough energy to press all the buttons, and then charges you real actual cash to make up the difference.
A virtual woman is claiming she's too tired to do anything unless I pay more. This is the most depressing fantasy I've ever played.
You can buy lightning bolts for K-stars, which cost real money, and I really wish that was drug slang, because then this experiment would be way more fun. And I wouldn't now know that people volunteer for the most pointless chores in the world and then pay to skip them. But I do*, which is why my next article will be about building and setting off EMPs.
I used a touchpen to access this screen, because if this touchscreen isn't recording
the fingerprints of people who pay for later "processing," it really should be.
*This game has grossed $200 million.
A Better Solution:
Get The Great Gatsby on e-book and zoom in until a single sentence fills the screen. You'll get a better tale of celebrity and wasted time, the same amount of screen tapping, and exactly the same level of gameplay.
Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans looks better than Kardashian because it's an actual game. Unfortunately they turned a decent base-building game into a stop-motion animation by inserting delay counters behind every button press. You can skip these delays with gems, which I did, because Clash of Clans starts you with a stash of these and explicitly teaches you to use them in the tutorial.
"Now let's practice saying numbers -- quick, get your parents' credit card!"
It's actually a lot of fun, until you run out of gems and everything crashes to a halt. The game said I could find more gems in the store, so I took a quick look, and I'm now more convinced of capitalism's failure than the spirit of Marx haunting Donald Trump's golden toilets.
$100 purchases? In terms of cost-benefit, I'd be better off using 70 pounds (I'm in the U.K.) to waft air across my crotch, even if I couldn't use the bills later.
About to perform vital Cracked research, hoping the local shopkeepers don't read this article.
The developers saw those evil fictional drug dealers from '80s PSAs saying "The first one's free" and thought, "That's a brilliant idea!" My cash-cooled crotch gave me the strength to carry on through their evil, where I discovered the second stage of their plan. Playing without money means every order takes five or 10 minutes to complete, so I had to keep coming back to the iPad to send the next order, interrupting anything else I was doing. This game doesn't just destroy the value of the money you have; it destroys your ability to ever make more. Technology couldn't ruin the concept of money more completely without printing dollar bills on antimatter.
A Better Solution:
Install SETI@Home, Asteroids@Home, and DNA@Home, and then try to play the original Command & Conquer. You'll get a much better game and just as many staggering delays between clicking on something and it actually happening, but now your life will be adding to human progress instead of actively reversing it.
Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush sets the land speed record for free-to-play lying. The Kardashians at least waited three minutes before giving me a chance to pay them, which sounds about right, and Clash of Clans took the time to train me to give them money, but Candy Crush waited zero seconds before starting the sales pitch. It advertised the benefits of giving them money before I'd even played the game. It's difficult to put my reaction into words.
Gestures and images, however, work just fine.
They want me to pay a dollar for more lives. A hundred coins should only get you another life if you're Mario, and at least he does all the work of collecting them. The worst thing about this is that I had great fun with Candy Crush. Of course I did! That's what Candy Crush is! It hot wires your reward center with numbers and bright colors. This game is how you hack someone's brain before neural interfaces are invented. Every level ends with random fireworks made of exploding numbers, and random extra digits could only make you feel better if they were somehow input into your erogenous zones. And at least then it would make sense to have to wait for half an hour before trying again.
And I don't like the way it's suggesting I have this problem while in bed with me.
When I ran out of lives -- four hours later, because if the Matrix had stuck everyone in a match-three game instead of New York, they'd never have had any problems -- the game offered me the chance to buy some power-ups to complete the level. That's the most tragic attempt to get money not currently posted under a Facebook picture of a blind kitten. Paying to finish the last couple of moves on a puzzle is how you pay your own game to call you a loser.
A Better Solution:
Bejeweled is still free!
Still free! Still online!
I can't believe we've created a world where telling people to go play Bejeweled means less wasted time and money.
I've been bracing myself against this all day. The worst of all tapathons are the farming games. These are the FarmVille clones that don't even pretend to be anything other than "tap this button, then wait until you're allowed to tap it again." They're the evil opposite of the snooze button.
Except you're doing something more useful when you're unconscious.
The game gives you a pointless chore, then makes you wait until it allows you to do it. So if you were worried about the machines enslaving humanity, don't worry, it's already happened. You see people clicking around the screen to kill time until they're allowed to click other bits of the screen. That's exactly what I'd build to keep minions in line after Health & Safety vetoed the explosive collars.
Most games don't contain their own metaphors.
And it was still so much worse than I could imagine. I was soon fondly remembering those golden hours I spent with Kim Kardashian pretending to listen to me while she tried to get my money.
"Come back, Kim, we can work it out."
Aldous Huxley and George Orwell thought future-people could be controlled with timed sessions of sex and hatred, because Aldous Huxley and George Orwell were surprisingly optimistic. Smartphone games reveal that the timer's all we needed. Give us a big button, tell us when we're allowed to press it, and if it makes a number get bigger, then we'll be happy forever. It makes the Matrix look ludicrously overdesigned.
"Wait, you mean we could have just simulated them in elevators?"
Being left waiting by your own video game is more insulting than being left waiting at the altar. At least then the other person might have their own reasons for doing it. The game has no purpose other than entertaining me, and it's decided to hold me hostage instead. To defend my brain from self-protective shutdown while waiting, I worked out how much each of these games thinks I'm worth.
These click-farming games think I'm worth nine cents an hour. Of course I can get better value if I buy in bulk, because you can get all sorts of nonsensical mathematical results when you multiply by zero, because the value of Hay Day diamonds is zero. Developers call big spenders "whales." You tell me if that sounds like a compliment.
"I'm insulted. I'd head-butt a Japanese harpoon before I'd be that stupid. Just before I'd be that stupid."
The more diamonds you buy, the less each is worth. And since those gems are tied to your time, buying in bulk reduces the value of your life even further.
Money is meant to destroy the human soul in fun ways.
Notice that once you pass 1,500 diamonds, there are no further savings. They know they've already got you. Once you're prepared to spend $100 on a dipping bird simulator, there's just no point in saving you any more time, or money, or anything, and that's the game you're paying talking.
A Better Solution:
Open a calculator app, type 1+1, then keep hitting the equal sign.
Then show your friends what a big number you made. THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT THESE GAMES DO.
These companies are converting games we had decades ago, but instead of upgrading the graphics and touch controls for a few dollars, they're breaking the games in the hope of tricking children into spending hundreds of dollars. We're paying for nothing but the ability to pay for things. They've taken the things we could already do and made them much slower, more painful, and more expensive to keep going. And we keep checking to see how our friends are doing or if they're gone. That's not a game, that's a simulation of dying of old age.
For more gruesome, self-inflicted experiments, see Kristi inflict Pinterest's least-helpful beauty tips on herself and the time we tried the five most disgusting new fast food breakfast items.