Four Years of 148Apps, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love iOS Games
There's a good chance that, unless something crazy happens, this post is the last thing I'm writing for 148Apps. I feel odd writing a personal essay for a website with no real â€œcommunityâ€ to speak of, but if you invested four years of your life into something wouldn't you want to say a few words when it's all over? Besides, it's not like I haven't done it before. In fact, if you care at all about how working here has improved my career as a young games journalist, the thoughts I expressed in that post are pretty much the same thoughts I have now. So the rest of this piece will be other post-mortem musings. iOS games have been around since 2008, and I've been writing about them since 2009. It's been a really enlightening experience watching an entirely new kind of video game platform basically discover itself in real time. I went from dismissing iOS games as shallow, buttonless timewasters that could never compete with â€œreal games,â€ to dismissing them as exploitative freemium scams that were destroying â€œreal games.â€ But in the middle I learned to appreciate the App Store as a haven for raw, truly independent, weird, tiny, creative work with ideas other games would never be able to express. Sorry PC. Meanwhile, its â€œAAAâ€ games steadily improved as well. Looking back on my handful of editor's choices like Leoâ€™s Fortune, The Phantom PI, Nom Nation, Ambition of the Slimes, and Revolution 60 (which I liked before it was cool) revealed that these were just great games. They didn't need any kind of â€œ... for an iOS gameâ€ qualification.
I tried figuring out exactly how many of each kind of post I had written. But with nearly 500 articles to sort through, my math got a little fuzzy. The last time I counted it was around 350 reviews, 75 news posts, five strategy guides, and an assortment of previews, videos, and other features. I went through an iPod Touch, an iPhone, and two iPads, most of which were bought with money earned from app reviewing. That money also paid for my video capture gear, and doing 16 episodes of Who Wore it Best? proved to be a great way to teach myself the future of games coverage (video) while providing a legitimately useful service: comparing clones on the App Store.
Speaking of clones, reviewing so many games meant playing more Clash of Clans clones than any person should be subjected to; although seeing developers go from chasing Angry Birds to Flappy Bird to Clash of Clans was interesting from a historical perspective. But the sheer volume of games I was exposed to was an experience - and writing opportunity - like no other. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever play another game as weird as LINGsCARS; or as personal as A Life Worth Dying For; or as secretly morbid as World of Gibbets; or as conceptually crazy as a Mean Girls tower defense game. When reviewing Big Fish Bingo, I just decided to review the idea of bingo itself, which was a fantastic intellectual exercise. I canâ€™t tell you many how drafts I did of my Swing Copters review since the follow-up to Flappy Bird deserved only the best. And speaking of Flappy Bird, the saving grace of that game coming up so often was being able to link to The Ballad of Flappy Bird again and again.
One of my most â€œtraumaticâ€ episodes as a games journalist happened at the previous iOS gaming site I wrote for when I gave a bad review to Sword of Fargoal, a game I didnâ€™t know was so beloved at the time. It was no big deal, really. People like us (i.e. reviewers) frequently have to deal with angry readers disagreeing with our opinions. And I even ended up becoming friends with the developer. But I canâ€™t say it didnâ€™t shake my confidence a little. Fortunately, my time at 148Apps made my confidence in my own critical abilities stronger than ever. Sure I got a few disappointed emails from developers, and PR people, when I gave a game a poor score. Messages like those were wedged between nonstop desperate pitches. But I also got so many more responses from first-time creators just thanking me for taking the time to play and seriously evaluate their tiny independent projects. In an age where struggling, innocent developers are conditioned into thinking they must pay to have their apps reviewed on iOS websites, it was genuinely touching. I still remember the creator of Angry Henry and the Escape from the Helicopter Lords: Part 17: The Re-Reckoning thanking me on Twitter for being one the few writers to â€œgetâ€ his game. But come on, with a title like that, whatâ€™s not to get? And beyond that, other little perks like talking to people from Square Enix or seeing my work cited on the Death Rally Wikipedia page or the Hamster Chase App Store page never stopped entertaining. I got swag in the mail from publishers I still donâ€™t recall giving my address to. But most importantly, Iâ€™m so grateful for the opportunity to start dialogues with game makers, to learn about them as people and how that informs their art. I won an award for writing about this topic, and while â€œseriousâ€ journalism school certainly helped, that wouldnâ€™t have happened without the iOS gaming contacts I gathered while working for this website. Any success I have in my future endeavors as a games journalist Iâ€™ll owe in part to my time at 148Apps.
Because of how long Iâ€™ve spent living and breathing iOS games due to this site, I actually considered myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. If youâ€™re still reading this thing you shouldnâ€™t be surprised that modesty has gone out the window. So about a year ago I actually put together a proposal for a book based on an iOS game and pitched it to a publisher. It didnâ€™t happen, but it was a fantastic new writing challenge coming up with the concept, fleshing it out, and putting together sample chapters. Whether or not something ever comes of the project, 148Apps gave me the insight to at least get that far.
And whether or not you care about my writing, you should all also be grateful for the service 148Apps provides. Thereâ€™s a lot of talk about the future of games coverage, how useful traditional writers still are, and how PewDiePie will take over anything. But to be frank, what makes the App Store so different from, say, a console, is that itâ€™s stuffed with an unimaginable amount of garbage. Again, there are tons of magnificent games on the platform too, but thereâ€™s no denying the sheer amount of shovelware clogging the system that can turn away people genuinely interested in playing a good game on their phone or tablet. So you need places like 148Apps to sift through the garbage and tell you, as a friend, whatâ€™s worth playing on the App Store. Good criticism is valuable for all video games, but itâ€™s especially valuable for iOS games.
In that spirit, I want to thank all the awesome people Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of working with, the people that make 148Apps what it is. Thanks to past editors and writers like Jeff Scott, Rob LeFebvre, and Carter Dotson. Thanks to fellow Senior Writers Jennifer Allen and Nadia Oxford. Thanks to the fine Brits at Steel Media for stacks of cold, hard, American cash. And most importantly, thanks to one of the coolest editors Iâ€™ve ever had, Editor-in-Chief Rob Rich. Thanks for letting me complain about the Apple Watch like an old man. Thanks for letting me make increasingly weird jokes in review rating notes like references to Daft Punk and The Muppets (CRESCENDOLLS, WAKKA WAKKA), awful puns (LASS EFFECT, PEPSI CHALLENGING), and astonishingly inappropriate allusions to arcane racial laws (ONE DROP RULES).
This is already such a long, indulgent farewell post, and Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™m still forgetting something or someone. However, hereâ€™s one last observation I wanted to mention. When looking back at my very first posts from August 2011, I remembered that one of my initial news stories was about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO. Itâ€™s always weird to start something while something else much more significant is ending.
If you have ever read just one piece of my writing here you have my eternal gratitude. I just hope you enjoyed it. I have no plans to stop writing about games and tech and entertainment on the Internet. So if you want to check out whatever I do next, you can follow me on Twitter @JordanWMinor or read my blog or portfolio. And please, keep reading 148Apps, too.
But who am I kidding. Most of you are probably still reading Apple Watch news.