Tiny Tower: A tale of an addictive game

Tiny Tower

I’ve never been interested in games like FarmVille or Mafia Wars. In fact, I frequently scoffed at people on my Facebook wall for posting updates about their farms or taking over an area of town (that’s something you do on Mafia Wars, right?). Some of my friends would post updates every day about their progress in a game, and all I could think was, “what are they doing with their day?”

However, last weekend I was browsing the App Store on my iPhone looking for apps of interest and I came across Tiny Tower. I had read a few reviews saying it was a fun game, and the App Store rating was very high, so I decided to download it—after all, it’s free. For those of you who have not played played this game, Tiny Tower is a management sim game in which you’re in charge of a building that starts out with 2 floors, and your goal is to keep building floors until you create a (tiny) tower. On each floor, you can choose to build a store or housing (for store employees). In order to build more floors you have to earn money, which is done by selling products in a store, transporting people to a floor in the elevator and collecting rent.

What’s interesting about this game is that it continues to play itself, even when you’re not. Say I need to restock sneakers in the shoe store, well that’s going to take 20 minutes to do (not 20 minutes game time, but in real time). So, unless I want to speed up the process but spending more credits, I have to wait 20 minutes for the restocking to be completed. This is a game built to be played for a long, long time; however, some people, such as myself, want to build and build and build as fast as possible. Fortunately, in-app purchasing allows me to accomplish this task.

Tiny Tower Game Screen

So many choices!

Having spent less than a day playing the game, and only 4 floors to show for it, I got antsy and decided to spend $1 to receive more in-game credits; well, those didn’t last very long. I used the extra credits to stock items and get them stocked quickly so I didn’t have to wait, but those credits wasted away in less than an hour. So, the following day I decided to make an investment and pay $4.99 for large amount of credits. My rationale at the time was that I didn’t have to pay anything for the game, and with the credits I could get a lot more done. And I was right, I was able to build 2 more floors immediately; I also purchased a faster elevator to make trips to the top floors faster. But, similar to my previous purchase, the credits didn’t go as far as I’d hoped.

On my third day of playing the game, something suddenly dawned on me; I was addicted. I was checking my phone every five minutes to see if I needed to restock products or if I finally had enough money to build a new floor. Add to the fact that I wasted $6 for additional credits that ultimately didn’t get me anywhere. It was at this point that I realized that the game wasn’t ever going to be any different. If I kept progressing, my tasks would remain the same, I’d just have more floors in which to perform them. So, I stopped playing.

So, what does this all mean? Nothing really. It’s just a cautionary tale to those who love trying out new games. For those of you who are already addicted to sim management games, it’s not too late. Games can be very fun, but at the same time, can have more power over you than you realize.

About Jesse Virgil

I'm a late 20's guy who enjoys tech, music, design, movies, video games and bunch of other interesting things.

Posted on July 10, 2011, in Mobile Games. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’ve seen some talk on the ethics of games like Tiny Tower. I don’t see anything wrong with the ethics of the game. If someone’s a sucker, someone’s a sucker, right? Caveat Emptor, etc, etc.

    That being said, I’d never actually play a game that does this sort of thing. I love sim games, but shameless cash grabs just rub me the wrong way. I might, like Jesse, try it out… but ultimately, I’d feel like a sucker for paying for stuff like that.

    Caveat Emptor, indeed.

  2. Personally I can’t wait until this system is adapted by AAA console titles. Imagine being able to bribe your way through tedious investigations with your credit card in LA Noire. Unparalleled immersion!

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