If you’ve downloaded any kind of free-to-play game in the last few years, you have no doubt been tempted to pull your credit card out and snatch up some in-game loot. As it turns out, this isn’t just a fun game mechanic; this is a heavily researched and analytical tactic employed by game companies to suck you dry. A recent video highlights this , but at the end of the day, are we really the biggest problem? Here are five reasons why gamers may be their own worst enemy.
We Love to Be Surprised
Life can be kind of repetitive and boring. When something comes along to give you a nice little surprise, that can really brighten your day (even for only a moment). One of the reasons we play games sometimes is to escape, but if you couple that with the slot-machine style gameplay of microtransactions and loot boxes, it turns a simple multiplayer session into an adventure of not knowing what you’re going to get next! That can not only be a fun distraction, but can become pretty damn addictive.
We Love Free Stuff
I don’t care whether it’s saving a dollar at your local Walmart by clipping coupons or waiting until a flash sale hits Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network, we all love saving a buck. So you can imagine what the prospect of getting something absolutely free does to a gamer’s brain! Loot boxes and microtransactions give you that same rush and illusion, thinking that if you buy enough credit to spin a wheel or roll a perk, you’re actually getting something given to you for free. The problem is, we lose ourselves in that mindset, not realizing that by the time we’re done, we’ve paid for said item many times over. And that’s how they get ya! But by the time you realize it, it’s far too late.
We Love a Good Advantage
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the best player in the world. I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember and I absolutely love it… but sometimes I really suck at it. To me, that’s okay. I play games for fun. Other people take things a little more seriously.
So when the opportunity comes along where folks can buy an advantage over their competitors (instead of having to grind out or level up), it doesn’t take them long to grab their wallet and start punching their debit card number into an online form. If that’s not enough to make you insane with anger, more often than not it’s Mommy and Daddy’s money that’s giving them the extra competitive boost over everyone else in the lobby. Personally, I don’t mind paying to avoid SOME grinding, but if it gives me an unfair advantage, that’s where the line gets blurred and becomes somewhat morally ambiguous.
We Love Lookin’ Good
One of my favorite things to do in a video game is to spend hours on end customizing and tweaking the look of my character. If a game has a create a character mode, I will easily spend more time decking out my avatar with awesome gear and fun accessories than I will actually playing them in the game.
This also speaks to the social aspect of many games, where you’re interacting with other players, and what they see on screen is their only connection to you. That means a lot to some people, which is why when a new hat or a funky pair of shoes drops to an online marketplace, they’re pretty much willing to spend an ungodly amount of money for what basically amounts to a few colorful pixels on screen. I suppose in some ways, it speaks to our vanity as a society, but that doesn’t stop game companies from milking that particular character defect for all it’s worth.
So next time you drop $20 on a cool new outfit in a game, picture the CEO of the company lighting a cigar with it. Now, that’s probably not actually happening, but it’s probably NOT not actually happening either…
We Love NEVER Sayin’ No
If you don’t like the microtransaction model we’re forced to deal with in 2019, you have to look back to the mid-2000s when this really started. Microtransactions are an offshoot of the DLC epidemic that plagued many console players, starting with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Content that was initially supposed to be included on the disc was slowly sliced off in smaller and smaller chucks (then resold to us for $1-$2 each).
Instead of drawing a line in the sand and saying no more, we just ate it up. No matter how many bonus levels, side quest or half-assed missions they gave us after the fact, we never once said “Okay #$&holes, enough is enough.” Even when the “extra” content they sold us really started to suck, we never jumped off that teat. We should have stopped this in its tracks when we had the chance, but unfortunately, that genie is WAY out of the bottle. You can’t unring the bell, you can’t go home again, and a bunch of other metaphors that all amount to the same thing… we’re all broken and likely to stay that way for the near future. So next time you’re ordering off the dollar menu because that’s all you can afford, you’ll know why.