I was 17 years old when I bought my first mobile phone. It was 1998 and the internet and mobile phones were still in relative infancy. The mobile phone I had was a Motorola something-or-other. It was really long and heavy and when it was in my pocket it looked like I was carrying a banana in my pocket. It wasn't a great deal of fun.
Whenever I received a text message, it only displayed the number. I had to check my contacts list to match up who was texting me. Time consuming and just plain dumb on behalf of the people who created the phone. Within a year or so I had upgraded to a Nokia 3310, which I had from 2000-2009. I loved that phone. I went from one of those to an iPhone 3 and it was like going from an NES to a Wii. But it felt revolutionary at the time, and I still miss it a little bit.
Oh, and it had Snake and Space Impact on it. Bonus points.
It seems funny to talk about these now ancient mobile games in the age of Angry Birds and the incredibly popular Candy Crush saga, but back at the turn of the millennium, Snake and Space Impact were huge. The graphics were virtually non-existent and the games were as simple as can be (don't forget that even in 2000, the Nintendo GameBoy Advance was on the horizon and the Game Gear and original GameBoy were still popular), yet they were unbelievably addictive, and as mobile gaming has evolved significantly over the years, these games set a precedent for future mobile games: Simple is best, and social lives must be destroyed forever.
Over the past decade, as technology has improved, developments such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have enabled mobile gamers to achieve the Holy Grail: Multi-player gaming. For mobile phone users, an Infrared, Bluetooth, GPRS, 3G, Wi-Fi, AI, MMS, or Wireless LAN connection meant being able to play anything from Tetris to F1 together. Back in the late 90's, the idea of being able to send a text message and then play a game of Snake straight afterwards was the coolest thing in the world. When I see guys playing Guitar Hero on their mobile phone, it blows my mind.
It's hard to believe that Snake was once on 350 million mobile phones worldwide, and variations of the game still exist on lower budget mobile phones today. My girlfriend's Dad is 58 and he has a copy of Snake II on his bog-standard old phone. He started to get carpal tunnel in his thumbs and wrist as a result, so have things really changed that much? Not really.
Angry Birds is simply the Super Mario Bros. of the new millennium. With the vast merchandise and crossover potential (Star Wars Edition), it reminds me of being a kid and seeing Mario jumping through the air as a four year old in 1985. Back then we had Donkey Kong game-watches and the only mobile phone I can remember from that era was Michael Douglas making a call on a beach in 1987's Wall Street. Rumour has it he needed three stuntmen to hold the phone between takes it was that heavy. I made that bit up.
The ability to download games has taken the evolution of mobile gaming even further. Angry Birds has now been downloaded well over a billion times since 2009, and with the likes of Modern Combat 4 hitting the Windows Phone, there doesn't seem to be any signs of slowing down. Expect bigger and better games to hit phones as the technology improves enough to handle it. Just don't expect to have too many friends or relationships. They'll either get sick of you or be too busy playing Angry Birds to answer your texts.