28 February, 2019
Video Game Manipulations
Using real time to drive your progress is a manipulative practice. The hilariously ironic thing about idle games is that the best way to play them is to actually NOT play them at all. If you go away and focus on other things and then come back after not playing for awhile, you’ll have a much larger amount of resources to spend than if you sat there and watched it the entire time. Now I’m not talking from an optimal strategy perspective, but simply from a perceived enjoyment point of view. When you wake up and come back to your game that’s been collecting money all night, you can spend it on bigger upgrades than if you kept buying smaller things as they became available. And if you stop playing entirely for let’s say years at a time, you can come back to an inconceivable amount of cash to blow, but what you’ll find is that when you take away the real time limitations by doing this, the entire game design philosophy falls apart. When I was in high school, my dad and I used to play Mafia Wars on Facebook, back when games were the main reason people made an account at all. And we were having a fun time with it until one day my dad got a weird glitch and when he opened the game it had given him an obscene amount of money, way more than he could ever make normally. But instead of being excited about this, what he found was that the enjoyment of the game had totally gone away. Without the slow progression and building up of his assets, the game had lost all of its allure in one fell swoop. This is where games that actually get this stuff right really shine through. When I first booted up Stardew Valley, I realized it did everything Farmville tried to do but infinitely better because it had taken out any element of real-time waiting.
If you wanted to keep playing, grow more crops, or gain more resources you just could right away. There was no asking your friends to help water your garden, or waiting 24 hours for green beans to sprout, it was balanced around playing at your own pace – you know, like what a game should really be about in the first place? It’s your time and enjoyment after all, not Zynga’s. Plus, when you start dealing with real world minutes and hours, it only invites other predatory practices to join in, like microtransactions to speed up the process or buying a leg up to reach the next plateau even faster, which not only feels slimy just to talk about, but in the case of clickers defeats the actual purpose of playing the game in the first place! Edmund McMillen even made an incremental title himself called AVGM. The goal of this game was to click the lightswitch over and over until more items appeared in your room. It took more and more clicks in between each item as time went on, eventually reaching upwards of 10,000 clicks to beat the game. And what do you receive for finishing the gauntlet of doing nothing but clicking a lightswitch for over 30 minutes?
The revelation of what the title actually stands for – Abusive Video Game Manipulation. At the end of the day, that’s really what it is. Do you have to play them? Of course not, and I’m not saying you’re a bad person for playing them, I’m guilty of this as well, but when you sit back and look at the big picture they highlight how many different games can take advantage of our subconscious desires to steal our money at the worst, but our time at the very least. And to me, in no way can it be considered good game design. They’ve sort of dropped off in popularity in recent years, but I’ve noticed the techniques that they employed are still cropping up all over the place, especially in the mobile game space. It’s no secret that microtransactions seem to be the mainstream way to get people to pay for your free to download title these days, but I want to encourage you to support creators who are making actual quality experiences without predatory practices, and be sure to look out for the next big game that might try to swindle you behind your back. We’ve come a long way from horse armor DLC, and have accepted shady business strategies today that would have been unanimously condemned 10 or 15 years ago. I guess I’m just trying to say to be diligent, and make sure you know what you’re getting into before you click on that next big shiny cookie.
Thanks for watching another episode of Bad Game Design, I’ll see you guys next time. Stay frosty my friends! Huge thanks to Squarespace for making it possible to launch my website snomangaming.com! I wanted to make sure you knew I’ve posted a new editing tutorial on animation that you can check out RIGHT NOW in the description below. Not only was it super easy to use the tools Squarespace provides for sitebuilding, but it helped me to create something I’m really proud of. There’s so many templates and options to choose from and I had no issue purchasing the domain through them as well. Due to being extremely helpful through customer support and full of resources to learn from, I had the confidence to try and create beyond what I thought I was capable of. So if you’re in the market for a website of your own, you can go to squarespace.com/snoman and use the offer code snoman for 10% off your first purchase. Buh-bye!