Phenomenon of Mobile Gaming

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 5
Words: 2798
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: PhD


Subway Surfer and Temple Run are classified as endless running games wherein there is no predetermined finish line that the character you play in either game can reach. The point of the game is to continue running along a preset track while collecting tokens, power ups and other objects along the way. The “goal”, so to speak, is to continue running until you reach a point that you make a mistake and the monster (in the case of Temple Run) or the Gatekeeper (in the case of Subway Surfer) reaches you (Peckham 1).

In fact, Peckham in a 2014 Time article stated that “Temple Run had one of the fastest growing user bases in the world with more than one billion downloads as of the writing of this article” (Peckham 1). The appeal of games like this is based on what Parket, Cox and Thomposon describes as a “manifestation of human obsessive behavior in game form wherein the desire to collect and gain higher states of performance is done in a manner that is easy for the average person” (Parker, Cox and Thompson 170).

For either Temple Run or Subway, the game ends when they are caught by whomever is chasing the character players use and there is no feasible way you can return to the point that you were defeated unless you utilize one of the limited revive options that you gain. While it may seem silly, the basis of the popularity of both Temple Run and Subway Surfer are the points that you accumulate which you can show to your friends or through the game leader board. People basically play the game in order to prove that they can reach a particular level or gain a certain number of points. This is in line with what Johanek states as the “predatory practices of app development companies that utilize socio-cultural understand in order to create a game environment that brings about the addictive aspects of an individual’s personality” (Johanek 8).

The “backstory” of Temple Run is that you are an adventurer who is exploring a massive temple when all of a sudden you are chased by a monster who apparently resides in the area. The background of the game is the temple grounds which are shown to be crumbling with fallen walls, columns and other obstacles in the path of your character. The game play mechanic involves you outrunning the monster while leaping, sliding and going around obstacles. Points are based on distance and accumulated tokens in the game. Your character also happens to gain special “powers” in the form of crystals or objects that they encounter which helps to increase your speed, ability to collect tokens, etc.

Subway Surfer on the other hand takes place along rail road tracks where the character you control has to outrun and evade the gatekeeper that is after them. While running away, you encounter an assortment of gold coins that contribute towards your overall score. Obstacles in the game come in the form of parked or moving trains that your character can either dodge or go over. There are also power ups available that enable your character to fly or collect gold tokens at a faster rate than normal.

3-5 criteria you’ll be judging: anything that you feel relevant to be making the determination on which is the better application.

In order to judge which game is better, the following criteria have been chosen as a means of evaluation:

  • Ease of Game play
  • Graphics
  • Ability to Sustain Interest
  • Progressive Difficulty

First-draft thesis statement: Temple Run seems to be a better game when compared to Subway Surfer due to more interesting levels, more realistic graphics and better implementation of progressive difficulty.

Body Paragraphs

First criteria: Ease of Game play

Both Temple Run and Subway Surfer follow the same basic principles when it comes to the progress of their character in the game world. The motion is continuous with the player having to make choices involving leaping, ducking, or turning left or right. The main difference between the two is how they choose to implement this type of mechanic (Parker et al. 168). The secret to the success of the game is summarized by Konrad when he stated that “its low threshold for entry due to the simplistic and easily understood nature of its controls as well as its leader board is one of the main reasons why the game is so popular” (Konrad 10).

Simply put, since the game is easy to play and incites a certain level of competitiveness among its user base, this causes people to play it multiple times and thus increases its overall level of popularity in various social circles. This in turn results in people being attracted towards playing it due to its high ranking on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store.

Supporting detail for App A

Temple Run focuses more on twists and turns when it comes to the use of movement. While the character does go on a single path, the path keeps on changing directions and doesn’t seem to go straight at all. This is in part due to the theme of the goal wherein you are supposed to be exploring the ruins while attempting to avoid the creature that is chasing you at the same time. The game play is relatively easy except the twists and turns that the character makes means that players need to be concentrating more on timing exactly when the character is supposed to turn, otherwise the monster that is chasing after them will catch up to them rather quickly.

Supporting detail for App B

Subway Surfer follows the same mechanic; however, instead of twists and turns the character goes along a straight track. This makes the game play far easier to follow since the choice of the player is more easily done between the three tracks on the road. On the other hand, the pace of the game seems to be faster than what can be seen in Temple Run but this is offset by the fact that the controls are more easy to use.

One aspect of Subway Surfer that is not as prevalent in Temple Run is the use of in-app purchases that help to make the game easier to play. Munson states that “while in-game purchases are not new, Subway Surfer does allow its players to have an easier time to gain in the leader board which both enhances and detracts from the experience” (Munson 20). Since Subway Surfer allows its players to make the game play easier through purchases, this does enhance their game playing experience but it does create some negative reactions from its player base due to the model becoming “play to win”.

This helps to explain why Temple Run is considered as the standard by which most mobile running games are compared since power ups and other advantages can be bought via points earned in the game and not necessarily through the use of a credit card.


Based on what has been presented so far, it can be seen that the ease of playing a game as well as how well it connects to the competitive nature of people is what can be deemed as the secret to the success of both Temple Run and Subway Surfer. Both games have roughly the same control scheme and are each easily mastered within a short amount of time. However, Temple Run does have somewhat of an advantage over Subway Surfer since the player only has to concern himself/herself with a single path to be followed most of the time while Subway Surfer has players going through 3 paths at the same time.

Konrad helps to support the argument that Temple Run has far easier controls when he stated that: “when it comes to basic intuitive design and running, Temple Run simply has little in the way of complicated player decisions. When obstacles appear a prompt to execute a particular action is given resulting in players never truly having to make overly complex decisions”(Konrad 10). These prompts make the game easier to play and makes it ideal for people that just want to take it up casually. This helps to explain its massive success even among none gamers.

Second criteria: Graphics

Both games have widely divergent graphics by virtue of the theme that they follow which results in a straightforward evaluation when it comes to determining which looks better from an aesthetic perspective.

supporting detail for App A

Temple Run follows a more realistic style of level depiction where the game developers attempted to really showcase “how a crumbling temple with deteriorating walls would look like” (Chehimi, Fadi and Edwards 21).

supporting detail for App B

Subway Surfer on the other hand is more cartoonish with brighter colors and a focus towards making the game look smoother and more “game like” as compared to the more realistic depiction show in Temple Run. Munson even states that “the appeal of Subway Surfer as a monetize mobile app game is its cartoonish appearance that appeals to younger demographics. While older people may not enjoy it, a large percentage of mobile game players are children which makes the cartoonish appeal of Subway Surfer a good design choice” (Munson 20).


Choosing between the two games will depend entirely on personal preference where a person would have to choose between something that is aesthetically pleasing but more cartoonish or something that is more realistic yet has a darker overall appearance. Peckham helps to explain why he believes that Temple Run is better than Subway Surfer by stating that “the atmosphere of Temple Run is one of the reasons why it has garnered so much success due to the fact that it resembles the movie series Indiana Jones. Elements such as temples, chases, monsters and obstacles are just some of the similarities between the two and helps to explain the game reaching 1 billion downloads. Subway Surfer on the other hand, while graphically impressive and colorful, does not have the same frame of reference when it comes to the general “mood” that the game is showing.

Third criteria: Ability to Sustain Interest

The ability of a game to sustain interest is connected to how interesting the progression of your character is as it gains more points (Konrad 10). This criteria is based on how the game “makes people want to play it beyond the original goal of gaining more points to get ahead of your friends and make it to the top of the leader board” (Johanek 8).

Supporting detail for App A

The game play in Temple Run focus on evasion, getting more tokens and acquiring powers in order to make the game easier. As you progress, you gain access to more unique levels in the temple that showcase a wide variety of different traps, paths and generally interesting mechanics that makes continuous play a unique experience.

Supporting detail for App B

Subway Surfer does have the same aspects related to evasion, tokens, etc. but the way the game works is you basically dodge or go over trains. While there is a power to fly over the train tracks, this is rarely seen and in most cases the character has to just keep on running. Over time, the game play mechanics and background tend to be repetitive with the goal of acquiring more golden tokens taking precedence over being amused with the new types of obstacles that are implemented.


Chehimi et al. explains that “the variability of the game play is what makes Temple Run so popular. People are quickly bored with the different types of games they encounter if there is nothing but constant repetition. That is why mobile game developers have increasingly added variability into their level designs” (Chehimi et al.25). Taking this into consideration, this shows why Temple Run is better than Subway Surfer since the former has more interesting levels for a gamer to go through as compared to the latter which is basically the same level over and over again.

Fourth criteria: Progressive Difficulty

The concept behind progressive difficulty in a game is based on how much more effort players have to put into avoiding the traps and obstacles that they encounter (Munson 20). Progressive difficulty thus acts as a means of ensuring that players are not bored with the game and feel sufficiently challenged the more they explore.

Supporting detail for App A

In the case of Temple Run, the more players progress, the harder the levels get with more challenges involving dodging and using powers properly in order to get around particular issues or to speed up the game play. Johanek explains that “getting people to like a game is entirely dependent on how well the game play develops. However, mobile app developers are limited in their ability to make a game sufficiently interactive and interesting due to the limited amount of space on many mobile platforms as well as the difficult in implementing more advanced control schemes” (Johanek 8). This is why progressive difficulty is important for any type of mobile game.

If you make it too easy then people lose interest far too quickly; however, if you make it too difficult then people would be unwilling to play the game in the first place. This is one of the reasons why Temple Run became so popular since it combines easy game play with progressive difficulty in order to continue to capture the interest of the people playing it.

Supporting detail for App B

The same can be said for the experience when playing Subway Surfer; however, the difficulty actually tapers off after a while and the game play just seems to be the same. While Temple Run also has this particular flaw, it makes up for it by inter-spacing the running mechanic with more elaborate sequences that require you to really pay attention. Subway Surfer seems to be less attention oriented and more focused on letting people enjoy a casual gaming experience. Munson supports this notion by stating that “in terms of long term game play, Subway Surfer is lacking in sufficient variability. The difficulty of the game tends to taper off after a few minutes make it repetitive and easily playable but boring in the long run” (Munson 20).

This shows why this paper states that it believes that Subway Surfer is inferior to Temple Run. Simply put, while it make have the graphics, it does not have the game play needed to continue capturing the attention of the people playing it. However, this is not to say that the game is not fun to play; far from it, the game is actually quite nice. The problem originates from the fact that it is unable to sustain interest in its game play resulting in people quickly getting bored with it after a while.


Based on what has been presented in this section, it can be stated that when it comes to sustaining interest, Temple Run is simply better at doing it than Subway Surfer. The former simply has more variability and better levels than the latter which results in better sustained interest. This helps to explain why Temple Run is more popular on Google Play and on the Apple App store than Subway Surfer.


Based on the analysis that has been conducted, this paper concludes that Temple Run seems to be a better game when compared to Subway Surfer.

  • supporting detail: This is due to more realistic graphics and better implementation of progressive difficulty.
  • supporting detail: While it may be true that Subway Surfer has better looking graphics, it seems to be far too cartoonish and seems to be more repetitive rather than original.
  • Supporting detail: Temple Run is better than Subway Surfer since the former has more interesting levels for a gamer to go through as compared to the latter which is basically the same level over and over again.

Conclusion II

What can be taken from the findings of this paper is that despite two games sharing the same game mechanic, it cannot be stated that they would elicit the same type of reaction from consumers. This also brings up the notion that the findings of this paper are subject to personal bias since other reviewers may prefer a game whose graphics are more cartoonish rather than one that is more realistic. Overall, this paper is more of a reflection of personal opinion based on the requirements of the topic rather than an objective analysis based on factual evidence that does not require personal opinions.

Works Cited

Chehimi, Fadi, Paul Coulton, and Reuben Edwards. “Evolution Of 3D Mobile Games Development.” Personal & Ubiquitous Computing 12.1 (2008): 19-25. Print.

Johanek, Marilou. “OPINION: Computer-savvy youths fall prey to app makers.” Blade, The (OH). 2014: 8. Print.

Konrad, Alex. “As Millions Play ‘Temple Run 2,’ Its Husband And Wife Team Prefers To Stay Small.” Forbes (2013): 10. Print.

Munson, Ben. “Monetizing Mobile Proves Serious Business.” Wireless Week 20.1 (2013): 20. Print.

Parker, Rachel, Stephen Cox, and Paul Thompson. “How Technological Change Affects Power Relations In Global Markets: Remote Developers In The Console And Mobile Games Industry.” Environment & Planning A 46.1 (2014): 168-185. Print

Peckham, Matt. “Temple Run Scampers Past One Billion Downloads.” Time (2014): 1. Print.