Press "Enter" to skip to content

Video games have lost their love

Video games may not be completely heartless, but the lack of love is enough to make us feel like our childhood friends have grown up and forgotten about us. Once so innocent, videogames are now a mature industry who see the world in terms of profits, using creative and immersive experiences as a means to an end. The world has hardened their imaginations and turned them into stubborn, money-grabbing tools. When video games were newer, they cared above all about fun and imagination. Now the top priority is squeezing out money.

This week’s EA fiasco made that point apparent.

On the internet forum and link-sharing website Reddit, one user posted a scathing review of game developer EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II, blasting the money-hungry mechanics implemented into the game. Egregious, the user said, was the fact that Darth Vader, one of the central characters in the series, requires 35 hours of in-game time to unlock. Or you can pay to unlock him instantly, through in-game currency.

EA’s PR team responded. (Seriously, I want to know who these corporate managers have working for them, because they do a great job of choosing PR teams equally as out-of-touch as their in-game transactions.) It takes a day and a half of straight, no-breaks playing to unlock these characters so that players, as EA put it, feel a sense of “pride and accomplishment.”

Thanks for the opportunity, EA. Can’t wait to feel the accomplishment of 60 unspent dollars sitting comfortably in my wallet. Reddit users were quick to show their disapproval, quickly sending EA’s response into the most-ever-downvoted-comment ever.

For many of us in the gaming community, disrespectful monetization has been a subtle development, but one that stings all the same. Every game feels like it is pushing the boundaries just a little bit more, slowly edging in these new payment mechanics so that they feel normal. Certainly since I was a kid, in-game transactions and expensive downloadable content have become a norm of the industry — I remember a time when simply preordering a game was considered a risky bet.

EA’s Reddit response encapsulates a theme: that developers don’t even bother to hide techniques that they profess are designed to create a more enjoyable experience, but that really are calculated to solicit extra profits.

Now I have no problem with the concept of business; of course video game developers need to make a profit. What I do have a problem with is the shadiness with which these profits are forced onto and used to manipulate gamers.

These days, games aren’t released in their entirety. For many you have to pay to unlock characters, parts of the story or maps, as with Star Wars Battlefront II. Just five years ago unlockables were extras, things not necessary to the enjoyment of the game, like new player skins. But the developers saw that this model worked. They pushed the envelope with each successful release, slowly putting larger and larger chunks of the game behind paywalls.

The backlash EA received was a good signal of things to come. But until developers actually start feeling monetary repercussions, they will continue to implement money-grabbing mechanics into their games. Even if a fraction of gamers continue to buy in to cheap in-game transactions they will still be profitable.

I don’t see the new Star Wars game failing EA financially despite the outrage. But if it does we could see a shift away from the microtransaction video game model. Something big needs to happen, like a AAA title failing, for the industry to remember its early days, when profits and player-oriented development harmoniously coexisted.

Get the Maine Campus' weekly highlights right to your inbox!
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Secure and Spam free...