Dec 13

Free to Play Or Not? Why Best Steam Games Doesn’t Like Free-to-Play Games

You will rarely see a promotion for a free-to-play game here on this website. Why? Why don’t like ‘em. Plain and simple.

Let’s define some terms:

Free-to-Play Game: A game which does not cost anything to purchase, but which makes money through in-game purchases.

Traditional Game: A normal video game with none of that nonsense. Produced by a studio or even a lone developer. It costs money to purchase. Games that include free-standing DLC (downloadable content) are also considered traditional.

Free Game: A game that doesn’t cost any money. Made for the love of making video games most of the time. Browserquest is an excellent example produced by the very respectable folks at Mozilla.

Why Free to Play Games Just Suck

The reason is that they are sucky by design.

Traditional video games, making their money as soon as the player purchases the game, have to focus on being very entertaining.

In fact, since so much of the market for traditional video games is driven by an ecosystem of reviews that are generally very hard-hitting, video games must focus on being truly excellent. 

However, free to play games have two focuses – your entertainment, and your monetization. This is a very critical point, in my opinion.

“Don’t make people pay for entertainment. Entertain them so that they will pay,” said Jamie Cheng, founder of Klei Entertainment. This is a great point.

Do you know who else entertains you so you will pay? Salespeople. Those guys are annoying.

Street musicians, clowns and other buffoons typically fall into this category.

What are some things you have to pay before you get to enjoy?

  • The Opera
  • Harvard University
  • iPhone
  • Airplane

This is funny.

Let’s see your local airline had the same scheme as a free to play game.

“Welcome aboard your free flight folks. Food is coming around, you can get some for 500 Credits. Purchase some credits on your onscreen dashboard.”

Your dashboard buzzes and beeps. “Buy credits! Buy credits!” It shouts. A man rolls a cart by with some tempting looking food.

Well, it couldn’t hurt. So you buy some credits. Your flight is no longer free.

“Buy more credits! Get bonus credits!” The box exclaims. “Watch a movie for just 100 credits!”

That sounds good. So you watch your movie. Then after 15 minutes a screen pops up, interrupting your movie – “Continue this movie for 150 more credits!”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the hostess says. “We are overloaded. It looks like we’re going down. Parachutes start at 100,000 credits.”

My Point

Advertising within video games is strictly forbidden.

A video game is an escape from reality. Money is something that is inextricably tied to reality and the real world. Even the possibility of using real money to purchase an in-game buff taints the entire game with the foul stench of RL.

Traditional games may or may not choose to use this additional cashgrab strategy, but free-to-play games have to. It’s in their very nature.

Credits and crystals, orbs and coins, runes, tokens and points are all just fungible currency. If you can buy them with money, then they are basically money. So a banner that says “GET 500 CRYSTALS!” is really just saying “GIVE ME YOUR MONEY.”

The effect of all these adverts is ultimately a big ol’ hammer-smash to the IQ box. It makes you dumber, makes you slower, more irritable. It lowers your reading level and promotes greed and vanity. You should avoid them, please. Buy real games.

Nov 09

10 Ways to Improve Your Video Game Experience

As the author of the Zen Art of Playing Video Games, it has always been my dream to retire early and spend long afternoons away playing exciting new games.

So I’ve come up with many tips to help you better, how shall we say, invest this time that you spend playing video games?

1. Vary Conditions in the Room

If you’re going to play a video games for 10-16 hours, and I don’t blame you, vary conditions in the room. Open a window when appropriate, open the blinds or close them relative to what time of day it is (don’t leave them closed all the time!) Have a heat lamp or a fan and cycle them, don’t keep them on all the time.

2. Eat Well, Avoid Instant Ramen

Ramen Noodles, delicious as they are, contain no nutrition whatsoever and have been known to cause death when combined when 72 straight hours of Starcraft II and a deathwish. If you want to keep playing while you eat, invest in a high quality microwave meal, or order in. It’s more expensive, but if you have no money, you should focus on earning some first, and then sit back and play video games all you like!

3. Play With A Friend

Everything is more fun with a friend. Laugh together and beat hard challenges. If you don’t have any friends who like video games, make some in the game community and play with them. Remember to be safe when it comes to personal information.

4. Stop to Reflect

After playing a game or even after a session, sit back for 30 seconds and think, “What did I learn? How could I have enjoyed that better? Were there other things (personal, physical, social) that were effecting my game experience?

5. Chill Out

It’s just a game, bro! It’s natural to get frustrated, but if you find it reaching high levels, stop playing. Just stop. Turn off the system. Do something else. Come back in a day or two and you may find the challenge quickly vanquished. If not, you may want to start again, or pick a new game.

6. Play Better Quality Games

Free games, Facebook games, and Newgrounds, fun as they are, deliver free games. Many also cost nothing to produce.

Compare this to Grand Theft Auto V, whose budget exceeded $300M and whose first week earnings alone more than doubled that.

It only costs around $40 for GTAV. I think $40 for $300M in improved production values sounds fair.

Even if you have unlimited spare time, you couldn’t play every video game that came out even if you spent 100% of your time playing and didn’t sleep. You need to find a niche you like and a level of quality you prefer. Some people even like Super Premium games like Warcraft III or Final Fantasy: Realm Reborn, where you pay and then pay again every month, all for a superior game experience.

7. Keep A Balanced Life

Video games can entertain you, but they can’t make you happy. Only a balanced life consisting of work, relationships, physical fitness, spirituality and recreation can fulfill you, even partly. Video games make up an excellent way to fill the recreation quadrant, but the others are important too.

8. Play New Genres

You may love strategy games, and that’s fine, but it never hurts to try a new genre. Top games in every genre tend to have gentle learning curves and are designed even for casual players (Dark Souls is a big exception.) You may be surprised to recognize elements of your beloved games in your new favorites.