January 2021

The ultimate bad game design choice: Money

As the Bible already stated it: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." This also seems to apply to the video game industry and to artists.

I already felt it pretty soon when writing those articles, that many of the bad game design choices have one big thing in common and it is the love of money or the intent to maximise monetary profit over everything else.

Most people probably think that the best product sells best and so makes the most money and the products that make the most money are also the best products, there is simply no way for the average sheeple to imagine that the reality could be anything else than that, but in fact reality is much different and much more complicated.
Let me try to explain it with a metaphor, if you want to catch fish, you need a good lure, the better your lure the more likely you are going to catch the fish, but on the other hand, you need a good hook and other equipment, to actually catch the fish, if you just feed the fish the lure you will not gain anything, but the fish will be very happy, that is why you need to integrate a hook that is as harmful as possible to actually catch the fish.

In the video game market this works similar and it applies mostly to pay2win games, cosmetics, loot boxes etc where the game itself is just the lure to get the customers in, but the lure is not the actual main feature, the main feature is game mechanics that are then intentionally designed to make the customer as miserable as possible and then offer him to pay money so he will be less miserable again, but not totally less miserable, just a bit, so he has to pay later again.
The average sheeple now probably cannot even imagine why anyone would buy and consume a product that actually is harmful to him and makes him more miserable, even though it is the most common theme in our world, where basically everyone is hooked to some kind of drug that is universally accepted to be harmful to the consumer and video games are now a part of this. It is part of the universal double think mental illness of humanity where everyone is doing bad things, knows that those things are bad, but at the same time does them and thinks they are good and does everything to justify it.

So let us switch to my perspective or the perspective of an artist in general. An artist has the desire to create something great and unique. He is happy if people enjoy and appreciate his work, that is all that he wants. Of course if he can make money that way then everything is perfect for him, because if his art makes him money, he does not have to work something else to make money. However making money is not the primary goal of an artist. Being an artist in itself is a bad way of making money, as the probability to succeed is very small, so people who's primary goal is to make money are very unlikely to become artists. Some sheeple now might think, that they know all those famous artists that make a lot of money, like pop stars, actors etc and therefore it is a good idea to go that route to make money, but the reality is, those people are in most cases not even artists, they are not creating anything, they are being the product, not the artist, the artists themselves are somewhere in the background that produce those pop stars, actors etc, they are doing the actual work and often they are not well known by the public. Yes those people probably make a lot of money, but the chance is very slim to become one of those people if you become an artist. Even all the famous artists who were real artists from the past, often only became famous after they were dead, so that sounds not like a good career option either.
The conclusion of this is, that an artist wants to make art, not money and that making art and making money are kind of polar opposites. Creating art is to create something new and unique. Then new and unique things have no place in the world at least not yet and therefore making money of them is really hard. On the other hand taking something that already exists and works well aka not creating art, is good for making money. So artists face the dilemma how much they want to follow their passion and be artistic and how much they want to compromise their work in order to be socially accepted which also helps making money. So the career path of an artist in general goes like, well at first you need to have some kind of talent, then you need work hard to train your skills doing actual art, then show of your actual talent and skills to get hired at some company, then when you finally have the job as an artist, you need to stop being an artist, stop creating what you want and from now on only do what your told, which is mostly not creating art, but reproducing something that already exists. Of course if you are "lucky" you will get a job where you are left with a certain room of artistic freedom, where you can chose yourself how you want to do your job, but there is almost always a compromise. Well life itself is almost always a compromise and I do not complain on people who do smaller compromises to live their life, but to me there is a line where the compromise is definitely too much, which basically applies to all of the bad game design choices I wrote about to some degree.

Sometimes it is hard to draw the line where the compromise becomes too much, or like how much corruption makes you corrupt by definition. Those bad game design choices article series is kind of a way for me to categorise what is too much and what not. To me on the other hand the choice is simple and it is to live my artistic side fully and not compromise at all, which I know mostly results in creating outsider art that is generally ignored by the mainstream, but who cares, at least I feel good with myself for not being corrupt, that is a good minimum to start or to live with in the worst case. For others in general I would draw the line with features like pay2win, where you need to intentionally make the game experience worse for the player or almost unplayable, if he does not spend real money, since that is like emotional blackmail. Other things where one could draw the line would be everything related to mafia methods such as blackmail, stealing, cheating, scamming or in general everything that is dishonest.
The tricky thing here is, there are also "positive" corruptions, that look like a good thing on the surface, but still are corruptions, those are things like dumbing your game down intentionally, so it will fit a broader audience to make more money, of course, yes you will make a bunch of stupid people happy, because they also can play your game now, but at the same time screwing over your real fanbase and made them unhappy, which is kind of a bad deal. If you don't think such "positive" compromises are bad, then think about why we don't have any good big RPG (Role Playing Games) anymore.
If you still do not understand let me try a metaphor, imagine a complicated unpopular sport like golf for example and the golf companies now decide, that their sport is too unpopular, too complicated to learn and too expensive and in order to get more customers and make more money, they bulldoze all their gold courses and turn it into soccer fields, because there are much more soccer fans. Of course this sounds totally absurd to do in the real world, however in the video game industry this is totally normal. Make all RPGs into something that looks like an RPG, but actually is not an RPG and more like an action adventure or so, which of course gets more people to play "RPGs", but at the same time leaves real RPG players with nothing to do, as they have been erased from history and people pretend they never existed and all that exists now is RPGs with no RPG elements and to make an RPG with actual RPG elements is impossible.
Well that example could or should have been its own article, but it is just a good example and it is kind of hard to stay on topic anyway and I also probably already covered the issues in my "Pseudo RPG" article.

This is just one example where the love of money ruins everything, another good and even bigger example, at least for me, is the almost total destruction of the modding community. For those who do not know, a long time in the past, around the year 2000 video games made a big jump technology wise and became really good and successful. However even though those games were good and played a lot, they kind of god more or less abandoned by the company, but the games were still kept alive and the community made use of the editor tools that came with the games, to create their own levels and later also complete game modifications, which then exploded in popularity, because the community created content appealed to the users much better, because it was made from the end user for the end user, whereas the commercial producers often had no clue what the end user wanted or what was fun. To make the long story short, the companies of course witnessed that their abandoned games were still going well, unabandoned them, commercialised them again and sold them again with the user created modifications and/or made the user made content the primary selling point. This was first seen from the community as a good thing, because they thought their wishes were finally be heard, but in fact the companies did not really care about them, they just assimilated the modding community aka destroying them and making everything commercial again and intentionally prevented the upcoming of a future modding community for their products or tried to endorse it, but to profit from it, which in most cases failed.
So another example where the love of money destroyed everything. Some end users even became so mentally ill, that they fled in nostalgia and kept sticking with the old games from that era and pretend that nothing new ever existed and that technology never progressed, this applies especially to the "open source game development" community, that still stick to quake 1-3 technology and pretend that nothing else ever existed before quake and nothing else will ever exist after quake. Of course such behavior does not help solving the issues at all, whereas the open source philosophy itself would be a very good and definitive solution for all those problems, but only if you strip away the mental illness of denialism, nostalgia etc from it and of course the desire to make money and become famous.

Right at this moment I'm thinking why I spend so much time thinking about video games, where video games are just a pastime and nothing serious, well that is true to some degree, but on the other hand it has become more of a problem than a pastime now, like other addictions and corruptions. The big problem with getting real money involved in video games is, that it removes the escapist aspect of video games a lot. Think about why people play video games, it is to escape reality, where everything costs money, everything fun is illegal and in general there is a lot of corruption as well. How can you escape reality, if video games become the same now? Of course money in some games is an essential gameplay element, but it should not become the main feature of a game to degrade to a work simulator in order to earn the money to have fun ingame, since then it would often be a better deal to do that in reality instead. For the escapist video games offered a way to start again, they could be the winner in a video game of their choice, if they just try hard enough, whereas in reality it would be close to impossible for them to become rich and famous. That is an area of application where video games would make sense, but with pay2win features and real money involves this all goes out of the window. You know anyone in real life that is richer and more successful than you? Well now he is also better than you in video games, because he can just pay to win against you, nowhere to hide from being a loser now, even if you find areas where you would be the winner, others can just pay so that you are not a winner.
That is why I wanted to finish with the money topic in this series, because money is the ultimate root cause of evil, not just in real life, but also in the new virtual world, where everything could have been better. I'm aware that video games are a way of fleeing from reality, but in moderation this is fine I think, the problem I now have is, that the ability to flee from reality with video games is being diminished by all this bullshit what I listed as bad game design choices. I mean we live in a bullshit world and now we are not even allowed to have a bullshit free virtual world anymore. To me as an artist this is kind of a big insult like even not being allowed to make up something better than boring bullshit reality in fantasy, no fantasy now has to be equally shit as reality, otherwise it could offend some people. Video games are not allowed to be about fun anymore, it is about working virtually for virtual status, money and fame, it is just about winning or losing.
Think about it, you cannot buy fun, but you can buy virtual status, virtual money and virtual fame with real money, that is why video games cannot be about fun anymore, they need to be intentionally bad, because happy customers do not spend much money, only a miserable customer will continuously spend money.

I hope I could make the issue clear here, it is hard to understand, because it requires a paradigm shift, a materialistic person will only see the amount of money, the amount of popularity and will only distinguish between winning and losing, while in reality a game is not about anything of those things, a game is about having fun, exploring new possibilities, expressing yourself and of course from an evolutionary biological standpoint to prepare and train for real life and real situations, if the game itself becomes the real situation it kind of defeats the purpose. From a metaphysical standpoint now one might argue that life itself is also just game, but I have not make a cut here now. To be continued maybe in another article.

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