I got my first phone after I wrote a letter to my mam, a scrawled wall of overly large text on an A4 sheet of ripped white paper. I was given this old red flip phone preloaded with Cascada and Scooter songs, the former of which became my ringtone – a decision that eventually led to an embarrassing moment in science class when Everytime We Touch started blaring while the teacher discussed a monotonous slew of mumbo jumbo that could put a caffeine-addled toddler to sleep. Jump ahead over a decade and here I am with my brand new Galaxy, playing Doom Eternal. It’s mind-boggling.
Moving out of my parents’ house and into a flat, I realized that having no credit score doesn’t look great. I wanted to sort that out by getting a phone plan and finally experiencing some semblance of adulthood. I opted to go all out and get myself the sparkly new S21 Ultra. There I was with a brand new phone, taking pics of my pets, playing Wordscapes, barely utilizing its full potential – it felt like a bit of a waste. I mean, it has a 1440p screen and 120hz with Dolby Atmos because I guess, at a certain point, why not? Anyway, I splashed out a bit more and got myself a Switch-like controller, some games, and downloaded Xbox Game Pass for its cloud titles.
What I expected was a similar experience to PS Now. I don’t mean to dredge up the rigmarole of console war discourse, by the way, because, frankly, I can’t be bothered with it. They’re all great for their own reasons, but PlayStation’s subscription service is dire. The games lag even with fibre optic and a wired connection, so I can’t imagine what that’d be like on data or Wi-Fi. XCloud was buttery smooth on my phone though, a real treat to gorge on. I gave Celeste a whirl given that it’s a platformer where timing is crucial, so it felt like the perfect title to test if the quality was good enough for gaming. Lo and behold, it absolutely is.
So, I jumped into something new – Carrion. You play as a red blob monster with tendrils that look a bit like thread. Imagine Unraveled but not as wholesome, and you eat people. You have to navigate a grimy facility while avoiding gunfire, taking down key sections of the premises, sort of like you’re the villain of a ‘90s FPS. I played it for three hours with no lag, no disconnects, no stuttering, all on mobile data. It was incredible – I’ve finally reached the point where technology is starting to completely dumbfound me. The idea of playing video games on my phone that aren’t specifically designed for mobile feels oddly futuristic. That was highlighted tenfold when I tried out Dishonored 2, Doom Eternal, Halo, and Fable 2.
Fable 2 – an Xbox 360 game: I’m still scratching my head, trying to comprehend that. As a kid, my trajectory with consoles was a bit back and forth. I had a hand-me-down Dell PC from my dad while running a PS2, then an Xbox 360, a DS, Wii, PS4, Xbox One, and, most recently, a PS5. I have wonderfully fond memories of the 360 era, particularly regarding Crackdown, Saints Row, and the aforementioned Fable 2. I remember getting home from school and logging into my dad’s account where he had an angelic, morally good character, only for me to ruin it by luring his wife to a sacrificial altar along with half the townsfolk in a nefarious attempt to turn his hero demonic. Now, here I am, aged 20, playing it on a phone in bed while I listen to Andy Black and Waterparks, doing awfully similar things.
Xbox has made gaming feel fresh again. I’m giddy with all the new possibilities in a way that even next-gen consoles couldn’t pull off. Getting my hands on a PS5 was exciting, sure, but ultimately, it’s a continuation of the same trend that started way back with the SNES. Xbox letting me play these high-end, demanding titles – including some exclusives – on a god-damn mobile phone is ludicrous and I adore it. Microsoft is making gaming approachable in the best of ways, which is an exciting prospect. The floodgates are opening to the point where everybody can trial out classics, new hits, and little indie gems tucked away in the seams. Throw in Minecraft, Dead Cells, Genshin Impact, GTA: Chinatown Wars, and all the others on the app stores to boot, and my phone is now a bona fide gaming platform. That’s amazing.