I don't usually get into the fray when there's a controversy involving video games. And I'm still cautiously on the fringe of what I'm about to touch on, mainly because when it comes to people on either side of a video game related argument chances are good that either side has an attitude that would make a sailor cringe. Gamergate introduced me to some pretty disgusting people on either side of the debate.
Video games are like wine, even the terrible ones have a following. As technology evolved, certain aesthetics were discovered as being conducive to making people who play video games want to spend more money on them. Dare I, a very proud and staunch capitalist, suggest that there are moral limits to when a company should stop making as much money as they possibly can and by doing so afford concern toward addicts of their brand. Pretty much what I'm doing here is going against the grain of my fiscal ethics and rant about a particular genre of video game.
Freemium games. These things are horrible, and are also insanely lucrative.
Freemium games wouldn't exist if video games hadn't been built previously on a principal of ultimate achievement. You hack through an impossibly hard game like Ninja Gaiden and end up with an Engrish sounding "You are winner!" and thus have years of bragging rights among your peers at school. Imagine if one of those lowly friends of yours had a few bucks to spend while at that crucial moment in the final level and could invest that money into the game to not have to waste another week trying in vain to be as good as you. They'd probably go for it.
For people who play video games; video games make us feel good, and they make us feel great when we are known as the best at them. At times we'll pretend as though it's not such a big deal, because having reflexes as awesome as ours make it child's play that a particular challenge was bested while it keeps several million other players blocked from discovering more content. Trust me; for all gamers the ultimate prize is being known among your peers that they cannot beat you.
In video games, if someone says "you cheated, blah blah blah" after you defeated them, they just sound like a poor loser to other gamers or a complete loser to those who don't play video games and wonder why a source of pride could be derived from them. Freemium games with an option for players to play against each other prominently feature a ranking system, that provides a worldwide perspective on who is the best at the game. Notice that there is no such thing as a freemium game that has a worldwide system that differentiates those who paid real money for an advantage. By not stigmatizing those who essentially bought their status, these games tap-dance around the idea that you have to pay up to be the best.
I'm guilty of putting real money toward a freemium game for the sake of easing the challenge of that game slightly by having a more powerful avatar. I would say, at the most, I've invested $10 in a game similar to the old 1942 game that I honestly never even play anymore. I might take pride in the fact that I haven't spent a lot of my hard earned cash on these games, but then I think about how many more weak willed people might have had the same attitude and thus it rained virtually-endless amounts of $10 bills for that company.
I'm offended by the marketing practice, not because it's an unfair way to achieve status in a pretend world, but because it's literally an investment in nothing. These games are minimal in what they offer in terms of graphics and plot, and their updates are typically just a means of spending more money on them. The WWE currently has four freemium games that I know of. I've played them all, and they're all cheap garbage. If you paid five thousand dollars on any one of these games, you would find yourself only slightly closer to the status of an addicted whale who has collectively spent ten times that amount on their addiction. Spending money on these games gets you nowhere, and does nothing to encourage the developers to honor you in some way. If you want status, you have to spend more than everybody else.
Time is currency. I have a few friends who religiously play games like Clash of Clans or Game of War, and they are completely oblivious to the concept that their time is worth money. When you're bored and want to kill some time, a video game is a fun alternative to reading a book on carpentry. When you have responsibilities and thus have a mountain of tasks that need to be completed, a video game is an unhealthy means of procrastination. If you really want to spend your money on a freemium game, it's your money. I find it startling that so many people don't even consider their time to be worth anything. Most freemium games employ a concept of having a timer setup to prevent constant upgrading or limit an amount of attempts at a challenge. My friends will literally be checking the time every minute just so that they can pounce back onto their phone and play their game some more. If you're a wealthy businessman who needs a vice to replace a more unhealthy addiction and can afford blowing through $500 every time they play a game, that's fine. I ask that people consider the amount of time they spend tapping away at their game, and consider just how much actual progress was made within the game in the weeks that they spent playing.
The most egregious example of this concept is the concept of loot crates. I cannot play any game that employs or casually permits this marketing concept, thus I'm saying that I've quit all MMORPGs. Beyond loot crates, I'm as offended at the notion of entire markets being in place that trade real money for in game content. I even feel this way toward life simulators, where if you dig deep enough you'll realize that people only participate in them for sexual content. It's worse in these examples, because you're essentially paying a fee on top of a fee. Most of these games can't be played for free, you have to buy them or pay a monthly fee to experience them. These games can't technically be called "freemium" because they're not even free. When the experience isn't fulfilling enough, instead of quitting the stupid game and doing something more fun and less costly, there are people who will invest so much money into these games that they're stuck with a sunk costs fallacy if they ever think about deleting the game. That game is all they have to show for their efforts that earned that money.
I wish that this was a problem like Bitcoin or the housing crisis where eventually interest would wane and profits would plummet. Freemium games are a totally different beast. If a game loses popularity, a new one is made and some of those who found the strength to leave the old one are now tempted to begin an entirely new experience and potentially get a head start on anyone else who might get on board. I don't think that mankind will ever evolve to recognize that there should be a spending limit regarding our own petty indulgences.
We're going through a bit of a virtual revolution. It's not catching on with everyone, thankfully. We love to immerse ourselves in some kind of online persona, whether it be a Twitter handle with tens of thousands of followers who like every stupid thing that you post, or being an obscure curmudgeon named enviousdominous on the WrestleZone forums. For some, their choice in an online persona is that of the top player in Game of War. I personally think that it's horrible that people are charged money for what amounts to moving a little faster on a road to nowhere, and that games that employ that concept are shameless about advertising that their game is more addicting than the rest.
I won't tell someone what their definition of fun should be. For some people, spending money on anything is more fun than anything else. For some people, being lured into an unhealthy spending habit which offers literally nothing in return when they hardly have the financial means to support the habit is more fun than anything else. I consider someone's idea of fun to be a delusion when they're only playing the game to cope with what they've become, an addict.
I grew up on video games, prowrestling, and Pink Floyd. Video games for me should be something that you play for fun, maybe for bragging rights, but ultimately something where if you put it away and never played it again you wouldn't be out any more money than your original investment of $59.99.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. - Hamlet
Last edited by enviousdominous : 03-07-2018 at 02:49 PM.