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What I’m Playing — Legends: Heroes of Skyrim (iOS/PC)

This is a virtual trading card game, of which the most famous is Magic the Gathering. This one is considerably simpler, and thus easier to learn and cheaper to continue to play. This is a game with In-App Purchases done acceptably. Look, I sorta hate IAP too, but it’s here to stay. In many ways, it’s the only way to make sure that a company continues to support and innovate in a game. Otherwise, a year or so after launch, a company sees declining profits or no profits at all and pulls the plug on a game, or at least pulls all the most talented staff from it. They do have keep paying people to keep many of these games going. (Yeah, you can point out maybe a handful or a dozen counter-examples, but CD Project Red/Witcher 3 is an outlier, not a business model.) So, my judgment of any game with IAP comes down to “How Greedy Are These People?” Legends of Skyrim has good single player campaigns that you pay for. You get lots of cards, lots of scenarios. You get to try all sorts of things, which to me is more fun than trying just one thing where you can win all the time. It MOSTLY avoids Pay-to-Win in its online multiplayer component. I really enjoy it. If I only have 15 minutes to play a game in a day (a sadly common occurrence), I’ll play this one.

What I’m Playing: Ant Smasher (iOS)

People buy crap for their kids. I mean that both ways. Ant Smasher is a stupid game pointed squarely at children. No, scratch that. It is an app with game-like features aimed directly at impatient parents’ wallets.

Ants cross the screen at varying speeds and you tap them to squash them. Bees are scattered in, and your game ends if you squash those. That’s fine. That even sounds like a game.

But the programmers apparently heard that lots of gamers call EA the least ethical company in gaming and decided that was a challenge.

In a game for children, they made the menus deliberately confusing, and the only reason I could guess is that it must be in order to coerce parents to pay for kid modes. To start the app there are six buttons. Okay, fine, you gotta have a menu. You can teach your kid to press the Big Red “Play Button”. They do. An ad plays. (If they touch the ad, it opens a download of some other game.) Ugh. Okay, fine. You gotta generate revenue somehow. Daddy can tap through the ad for you.

But do you now play? No. Now, you’re confronted with more buttons. “Baby”? Locked. “Kids”? Locked.  “Fun”? I thought this was all supposed to be fun? Okay, that’s locked too. Uh… maybe I went to the wrong screen. I should back out to the menu again… Press menu? An ad plays. Again. No, your child needs to press the blue button in order to play.

Oh, they died because they missed two whole ants? (C’mon, dad, you didn’t buy Baby mode?) Okay, well, they can just play again. Kids don’t really mind dying in video games. Now they need to press yet a differently colored button (out of six choices). This time they’re looking for the light green button.

Those other game modes I’m complaining about? I should drop a buck or two to support game development, right? Yeah. Each one is $10. Ten dollars.

But there was “SPECIAL PROMOTION! $1 TO DISABLE ADS!” I finally knuckled under (it was a bad parenting day), and I decided to do this. Button pops up: “Approve $4.99?” Huh?

Oh, dammit, I already decided to do this to gain five minutes of sanity so I can finish a conversation with my wife, fine!

And… the ads still play. Or… maybe I get 10 second ads instead of 30 second ads. Or maybe that’s only because they’ve shown me so many ads today, they’ve run out. I can’t tell. I can tell that the ads are NOT disabled.

But hey, for just another $10, I MIGHT be able to get some peace. Or not. This app is like a box of poop chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get:  Deer poop, parakeet poop, lemur poop… It’s a mystery!

Go juggle landmines, guys. I hope your piles of money bring you persistent venereal diseases and the leisure to never defile the App Store again.