Feb 1, 2012

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5 Reasons Why Tiny Tower is Addicting, Yet Terrible

I’m sure every gamer has experienced a situation where someone has said to you “why do you play video games, what’s the point?” There’s a few ways to answer this. You can say “I play cause I like the satisfaction of completing an objective,” or “I like being able to pretend I’m this awesome character for a few hours a day,” or you can say “it’s just a lot of fun.” There are definitely enough games out there to back up your arguments, not that you have to, but there are always a few games that go against this argument. Tiny Tower happens to be one of those games.

I’ve come up with five reasons why Tiny Tower is such an addicting title, but how these same addicting mechanics also make it a terrible game. Tiny Tower isn’t a terrible game in the traditional sense; it works well, plays well, and is good at what it does. The problem is what it does makes it, well, not a fun video game.

Note: This opinion is based on the Android version of Tiny Tower. I played till I got to 14 floors, with 25 residents. The editorial is solely my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Vivid Gamer.

1) No Progression

Tiny Tower is all about building the highest tower you can, and there’s seemingly no end to it. That’s part of what makes it addicting, but this is also what makes it a boring game. There are a lot of games that don’t have an end point, many of them are web based or on mobile devices, but they at least have a point where it gets too difficult or it progresses to a point where you can’t get past, and that’s where the game ends. Tiny Tower isn’t like that; there isn’t a progression system that makes it harder to accumulate funds or get Tower Bucks. The only thing that changes is the amount of time needed for restocking or building a new floor.

2) It’s a Tamagotchi

Remember these things? That little egg-shaped digital pet that you had to constantly tend to or else it would die? Tiny Tower is just like that, without the death part, of course. The game’s mechanics are designed to basically have you playing the game on its schedule. This is what makes it so addicting. A few stores will have a restocking rate of four minutes, which isn’t long at all. But then as you expand, certain stores may take up to 30 minutes, an hour, or even more, to restock. This is what gets you to constantly check on your tower. It’s clearly designed to get impatient people to pay to get instant results, which is part of the problem. If the time between restocking was always the same, let’s say every 5-10mins or every two hours, you wouldn’t have to check it as often. But since it’s broken up, some only a few minutes, and others that take longer, you’ll find that you’ll be reminding yourself to check Tiny Tower all day. Basically you don’t play Tiny Tower, Tiny Tower plays you.

3) No Objectives

There are many games that basically have no ending, but they at least have objectives. In Tiny Tower, there are no objectives, only in-game achievements. So there’s nothing to work towards. The only thing to do is to restock certain stores and then wait till you get enough money to build another floor, that’s it. I’ve played many hours of this game already and have yet to come across an objective. Even if the objectives were as simple as “build two floors in an hour and get 10 tower bucks,” than at least there would be something to work towards. Instead, there’s nothing to motivate you to continue playing. Titles like The Sims, which don’t really have an ending, at least have small tasks to perform throughout, giving you something to strive for. Tiny Tower essentially becomes a job where you go nowhere and gain nothing from it. The worst part is I happily did that job for hours and I have no idea why.

4) No Skill Involved

I’m not saying that every game needs to involve high skill levels, but there should be some skill involved.  Time management games aren’t necessarily that complicated, but it takes some degree of strategy and skill; the same can be said for simple titles like Angry Birds. There are tons of games that take little skill to play, but at least they have some strategic element to it. Tiny Tower really doesn’t require any skill or strategy. That’s because it’s designed so that you can’t fail. There are some workers in the game who have a higher rating in certain jobs, so you match them up with the right job and that’s it. Apparently doing so will grant you stocking bonuses, but this isn’t clear, and besides, that’s as far as my strategizing went with Tiny Tower. Really, there is zero skill involved. Maybe I needed to invest more time into the game, but if I have to play 10 hours before I have to start using my brain, then it’s not worth it.

5) It’s Horribly Addicting

“Addicting” might be too strong of a word, but after starting Tiny Tower I can safely say I found it hard to stop playing. The game is so well designed when it comes to addictiveness and making you want to keep coming back to play. Some mornings checking Tiny Tower was one of the first things I did. I had a friend who checked Tiny Tower in the middle of a movie. It was probably a horrible movie, but still. The game mechanics are brilliantly designed to get you to come back and want to keep checking in on the game, but that’s also what makes the game so terrible. At some point you just have to realize that you can’t play the game if you decide to leave it for a few days, then come back to it. You can’t earn tower bux unless you are actively playing, but when you are playing, it can get boring really fast. You have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to keep playing, or do you just not have the time to invest in this game that never ends. It gets to a point where the game is no longer fun because I don’t even understand why I keep playing it.

In our generation where freemium games have become a part of the industry, it’s so easy to get addicted to these games because that’s what they are designed to do. Maybe I’m too old, or maybe it’s because I can’t stand the idea of micro-transactions in order for me to progress the game at a normal rate, but I play games because they are fun. Whether it’s running a raid in WOW or playing a sports game where there’s seemingly no end to the game, those games are at least fun and/or challenging. But that’s what games should be, fun, not work, and if there’s no objective to the game than its just work, so there’s no reason to play. Tiny Tower is incredibly addicting, but without goals or an ending, and no skills involved, it’s simply a terrible game.

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About Eric Galaviz

Currently learning how to play League of Legends and recovering from E3. You can follow me on twitter @theherp80 that's also my Xbox Live and PSN Name if you want to hit me up on there feel free.