I May Not Know Art… but I know how to write intros.

Question: How do you know if your friend has an iPhone?


Answer: Because they tell you.

Friends, I have recently become the owner of an iPhone. I tell you this not because I want you to think that I’m a smug prick eager to show off his latest lifestyle accessory (although you may come to that conclusion in time) but because I want you to know that once, I was like you. Someone who didn’t care about iPhones – and more relevantly to this website, someone who didn’t care about iPhone gaming.

See, for a long time, I was convinced that the iPhone wasn’t a viable platform for gaming. I mocked attempts by phone companies to combine mobile handsets and consoles. The N-Gage. The N-Gage QD. The Gizmondo. And, indeed, the iPhone.

In retrospect, I was probably allowing those earlier failures to cloud my judgement. As a gamer, I wasn’t against the idea of portable gaming at all. I loved my Nintendo DS. I played on it almost every day. From Tetris DS,  to Mario Kart, to all of the Pokemon and Professor Layton games, I poured more hours into the system’s rubbish-looking, often gimmicky games than any other console I’ve owned.

And why? Primarily, because unlike any other console, I could play it on my own terms. The games were pick-up-and-play, meaning I didn’t have to set aside an evening for a several-hour RPG session just to make it worth even switching the stupid console on. In fact, I didn’t even have to be in my own house, which is useful, because when I’m in my own house I’ve normally got more important or interesting things to do. If I wanted to pause a game, I didn’t need to find a save point or navigate through a series of menus – I could just close the lid, and when I opened it later, the game would still be there, just as I had left it.

It wasn’t long after I got my iPhone that I realised all of these things applied to it. The games let you dip in and out. The device itself is even more portable than the DS. And if I want to stop, I can lock the phone in one button press and return to it later with no need to save. On top of all that, the iPhone is more powerful than the DS, and the games aren’t just substantially cheaper, they’re far, far easier to get hold of. And at an average price well shy of two quid, I’m far, far more inclined to take a chance on a game I’ve never played.

This suits me. My interest is tilted towards the artier end of the game spectrum. I don’t just mean games that place an artistic experience over an entertaining one (and I certainly wouldn’t claim that the two are mutually exclusive) but also games that feel like the work of a small team, with a specific creative goal alongside the commercial ones. Games that don’t emerge from a marketing pedigree of tried-and-tested mechanics, popular branding, and a team of 50 developers.

As a platform, the iPhone appeals to me in a way that only the PC indie scene has ever managed. My experiences with Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE indie games have been disappointing, and aside from certain major projects, the Wii and DS Homebrew scenes have produced little in the way of quality offerings – but the iPhone has managed to combine the old ethos of the bedroom programmer with a modern platform and delivery system. For all Apple’s flaws, they have at least managed to give small developers access to a huge audience – and better yet, one that’s willing to commercially support them.

And that, readers who have made it this far, is my excuse for starting an irregular (but ongoing) series of columns intended to look at iPhone games – both to highlight those games to others, and to convince any skeptics lurking around that actually, the iPhone is capable of more than just Angry Birds and Peggle. Some of them will be brilliant successes. Others might be ambitious failures. But hopefully, they’ll all be interesting to gamers who would otherwise dismiss the iPhone. Perhaps I’ll succeed, perhaps not – all I’ve got to guide me is my own opinion. And although I may not know art… well, you know the rest.

PS. I just bought an iPad too, but I’m not going to go back and rewrite this entire first column just to accommodate that fact. Professional!