Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.
So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something PocketGamer.biz will be doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.
The creator of successful mobile game franchises such as JellyCar, Where's My Water? - which has been downloaded over 275 million times, and the just-released Stack Rabbit (a US top 10 top downloaded game) - Tim FitzRandolph is the vice president of creative at Disney's Mobile Games Studio in Glendale, CA.
Pocket Gamer: What were your favourite games as a kid?
Tim FitzRandolph: My earliest gaming memories were from the Atari 2600, mostly Frogger and River Raid. After that comes my NES, which was basically Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and Super Mario Bros. 3.
My family also played lots of early PC games, and I have particularly fond memories of playing through many Sierra adventure games with my parents and siblings (we played Kings Quest, Police Quest, and my favorite series, Space Quest).
When did you realize you wanted to make games as a career?
Thinking back I've actually been making games since high school, when I programmed some simple games for my TI-85 graphic calculator in BASIC (and later Z-80 assembly!).
But I never even considered games as a potential career until after university. In school I studied film making, because I wanted a career in a creative field that also had technical aspects. It turns out that games are the perfect combination of creative expression and technical engineering - exactly what I was looking for! It just took me a long time to realize it.
What was your first role in the industry?
My first job was as a lead tester here at Disney, working on a Nintendo DS game called Spectrobes. The game was being developed in Japan and Disney needed a lead tester who could also speak the language and translate bugs. My passion for games plus my Japanese language skill got my foot in the door, and I've been at Disney ever since (eight years now)!
What do you consider your first significant success?
My first major success was creating a game from start to finish by myself. Finishing a project is a lot harder than it seems like at first, and I still feel proud of any project that I finish.
When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?
I actually participated in a Nintendo gaming competition in my teens, and won a Game Boy and Tetris for making it to the finals. So I've been a fan of handheld/mobile gaming systems for a long time.
As for smartphone/tablet gaming, the original version of JellyCar was also a notable 'first' for me, since developing it opened my eyes to the potential for these devices to be a gaming platform that I could personally get really excited about.
What do you think has been the most significant event in mobile gaming?
Definitely the day the App Store launched. I still remember avidly downloading and trying out all of the launch games (Trism!), and feeling the excitement of new potential.
What are you most proud of?
My decision to travel abroad during university. That decision shaped my life in so many ways: I met my future wife; learned a skill that provided the starting point for my career; and of course gave me the invaluable experience of living in another culture.
Which mobile games have you enjoyed recently?
Looking at my folder on my phone labeled 'best games', I see a lot of familiar names: Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Plants vs. Zombies, and a personal favorite QWOP.
More recently I've been enjoying Star Thief, Super Hexagon, Paint It Back, and the steady stream of cool prototypes we're creating at work.
What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?
I'm not sure what form it'll take, but I'd really like to see more ways to simply and naturally connect players socially. Mobile phones and tablets are devices we are always carrying around with us, and they allow for all kinds of communication that's currently difficult to implement in just a single game.
For example, if someone could find a way to make my phone behave like the Nintendo 3DS StreetPass and exchange data between people who are playing the same games that I'm playing, that would be amazing, since the amount of people that encounter each day that are carrying these devices is huge!
If you have a suggestion for someone you think should enter our Hall of Fame, please email jonathan [dot] morris [at] steelmedia [dot] co.uk