I was reading some twitter tweets to Swallowtail, the famed Ikebukuro butler cafe. It struck me that these are the kind of things well-executed theme restaurants do. And then it also struck me that this is why I play IM@S Million Live, because it is a well-executed game in a similar manner.
It may or may not be fair to say that theme restaurants are gimmicky. Well, they are just normal eateries with a focus. Andrew Zimmern went to one that’s a prison-themed place. I went to an IDOLM@STER themed cafe (I suppose a cafe or a restaurant is an equally important distinction). I don’t know what is different between the two other than the focus and the type of food each places serve.
If we consider social games or mobile games in that sense, they are gameplay-as-a-secondary-offering games with various themes. And it’s about how these themes execute that makes them or break them, at least for some people. If you want to dine in prison, as a theme restaurant patron, what does it mean? What should go into it? Perhaps it still should be comfortable, but in a way that reminds you that you are in a prison. Perhaps the food should reflect thematically. The atmosphere of the place might be prison-like. It goes on.
And by “secondary offering” I merely mean it is not the central point, as much as it is at best just as important to the purpose of these games or restaurant, which is about some kind of entertaining user experience. Anyway, I don’t want to belittle somehow these things as games or not. Just like I wouldn’t belittle a delicious meal served by cosplayers or by just about anyone else.
Things are a little more vague when we talk about details. To put it in context, when we dine and review the experience, it is usually things like service, quality of food, the value of the meal, if the taste meets the expectation, atmosphere, wait time, and other things like that. In video games, it’s about similar things, except we would translate it to how fun it is, the complexity, the learning curve, how the gameplay integrate with the game’s narrative, how polished the code is, what have you. Like your average yelp or whatever review.
It’s entirely possible to rate a game based on the number of idols available in it.
Ever read reviews like these? And think it’s retarded? I guess that’s kind of like rating how good a buffet restaurant with how many dishes…wait. I guess it just goes to show how video game reviews seem to be a little oddish when put into that “casual” point of view.
But details nonetheless. Like the cylume color of Shiho’s card for Liar Rouge is white and not red? Or blue? Or brown? Because fans called it out on them? Or the selection of images that may make up a collage which tells a narrative behind an ongoing event? Or how the CD releases coordinates with in-game events? Or how in-game cards nods at in-fandom jokes?
Well, that’s par for the course for these character-collecting social games. It’s the extra mile a game like ML goes that impresses me over the other ones I’ve played. But I think this case can be made across the genre, especially when they’re mixed-media franchises with room to collaborate between all of these things.
But for those of us who are easier to please, or who might be open to these kinds of experiences, what values is the execution, the exquisiteness, the finer details of life. It doesn’t matter if you are tapping against rings shooting out of a moving beat or trying to figure out how much money you need to spend to win, it’s more about what it brings to you; what it buys. For those of us that time and money can actually buy things that make us happy in this context–it might be an after-meal espresso or a pile of “energy drinks” that replenishes your in-game stamina–is it worthwhile?
Yeah, it is closer to gambling (the casino style) as a lifestyle and entertainment than, say, buying a book so you can read it on your own terms, even if it exists somewhere in between. But I don’t think the world would want only one or the other and never both, to exist as options for anyone and everyone. At the same time, if you’ve ever been to places like Atlantic City or Las Vegas, these are pretty crass institutions. When a dirt-cheap looking mobile game can deliver (I still feel like Cinderella Girls is just a glorified pachinko interface, at least the Japanese one) the same experience on your budget smart-whatever device, maybe it’s time to rethink all this.
It also explains why there’s still all this resistance from what typifies as “gamers” to accept mobile gaming. I don’t think of it either way, other than as long as people are comfortable with this sort of things coexisting.
Which is also to say there are not much in terms of maid cafes and that type of theme restaurants in the US for much the same reasons. It’s a pity.