OK, So here’s the rundown guys, I’m here for one reason and one reason only, and that it to explain to you all why freemium games are worse for you than cigarettes are. “But Nick, I don’t even know what a freemium game is”. Shut up in the back I’ll get to that in just a second. A freemium game is a game that you get to play for free, but that you can spend actual money on in order to get the “better” stuff sooner (told you I’d get to it, literally all you had to do was read the next sentence). There are tons of these games out there, but honestly the biggest offenders are Farmville and half the other games on Facebook.
1. It Gets You Addicted.
It gets you addicted to the game itself, but in a subtle way, like a ninja creeping into your house at night and stealing a pencil… You know… Stealthy like Now you might be thinking, “Well cigarettes will get you addicted too, so I don’t really see your point here.” But the issue here isn’t about whether or not it get you addicted but that it gets you addicted without your knowledge. Since you were 5 every adult you have ever known has probably told you that smoking will cause all kinds of health issues and that there is no reason to ever smoke and they you’ll become addicted to it and it will cause all kinds of health problems, blah blah blah, you get the picture. And some of you may even had parents who restricted your video game time when you were younger because they wanted you to go outside and get some fresh air and play with kids your ages, and that’s a good thing. But no one ever told you not to play Farmville, or StudioTown, or LemonadeCity3. In fact all your friends probably TOLD you to play that game. They encouraged it and before you knew it you were playing the game when you didn’t even really feel like it. You were playing the game just to play it.
This is a strategy that game developers have developed after looking at the RPG (Role-Playing-Game) genre and it is know as “bar filling” basically you have a game where every-time you do “x” number of tasks (i.e. collect corn, sell lemonade, whatever) you get some kind of reward. These rewards come fast and furious at the beginning and then begin to taper off as it takes longer to fill the bar. This establishes in you a very very fast sense of positive reinforcement, essentially it turns you into a Pavlov’s Dogs type of creature. Basically despite the fact that the system is rewarding you less and less it gets a bigger response from you because each bar took longer to fill up and BAM they have you hooked. But you don’t realize it because you are “having fun” but really you’ve been hooked and they know it. Which takes us to my second point.
2. It (Maliciously) Uses Your addiction Against You
When I say that it uses your addiction against you, I mean that quite literally. It has trained you into wanting to play the game and this is where the Freemium comes in. Sure you could be satisfied just playing with your standard play set of Farmville toys, but wouldn’t you like this awesome special item for only $2. And boy what a bargain that seems at two dollars. So you spend your money on it, but now you only have one of the special items and your friend Susy has batches and batches of these things and you want to be better than Susy, don’t you? Of Fricken’ course you do so you spend another two dollars and another and soon you don’t have the money to go out to the movies. Because, what you didnt know was that Susy has a disposable income and you as an impressionable college student don’t.
But then again we see cigarettes kind of do the same thing don’t we? Yes and no. Both Freemium games and cigarettes do get you addicted in order that you spend money. The trick here is that Freemium games get you to do so without realizing that you’re actually spending A LOT of money in one place at one time. We all know that cigarettes are expensive, and a lot of people I know that smoke budget for their addiction. Freemium games, don’t always allow for that luxury and I’ve known a few people who have had to get bailed out of trouble by their parents after dumping food money somewhere they weren’t supposed to.
Another way that companies use Freemium games against you is by actually making games that require you to pay to play after a certain point. This is a dirty trick in any game that requires you to have “energy” or some such bullshit. Basically every day you get some limit on how many actions you can perform or how many items you can acquire, etc. etc. Here’s the problem with that, as I’ve already said, you’re addicted, but not in a I can quit any time I want kind of way. It was sneaky and you may not exactly feel like you are but you know you have a desire to play, and 100 energy isn’t cutting it anymore, so the company offers you a way out.Another 5 dollars and you can have another 200 energy! Well shiver me timbers now I can raid even more towns in PirateSim and sleep with twice as many pirate hookers. But really you just PAID TO PLAY A FREE GAME, why , because they baited the hook and set you up with classical conditioning to make you NEED IT.
So, you’ve managed to finally get out of the house with some money that you didn’t spend to sleep with pirate hookers or to buy more potato seeds for your farm so you can reverse the great potato famine of Farmville like its you’re destiny or something. You decide to go to a movie with some of your friends and because it’s a new movie you get there an hour early. Sitting in between your two friends you whip out you iPhone and start right back up playing and ignore your friends who are sitting next to you. And likewise they do the same thing despite the fact that you all went to the movies to BS about your lives and catch up on things that you haven’t told each other because you were too busy playing your Freemium games. But now you’re all playing just, kinda, together. And not even in a fun and interactive way with a lot of cursing, i.e. Mario Kart. (No not the the new ones. Those are crap, I’m talking about the one on N64). SO now it’s taking a toll on your social life, a general problem that smokers don’t have because usually smokers hang out with other smokers, mostly to bum “cigs” off each other in some kind of smoker circle jerk.
“But Nick,” you protest, “Smoking actually kills people”. This is in fact true, but so can excessive gaming. Don’t believe me? And that’s just ONE example for ONE game. If you Google “gamer dies” you’ll return at least 100,00 results about people dieing from video game addiction. This stuff does happen. Sure it’s death toll isn’t in the billions yet but who’s to say its not on the way. With the amount of technology dependent living we do on a daily basis who’s to say that we’re not headed in that direction right now.
Next time you’re about to play a Freemium game, think for a second and maybe go out and star gaze instead, or go for a jog. I’m not saying that Freemium games are the Devil, there are some out there that do their job beautifully. What I am saying is that you need to understand everything is about moderation. Life in moderation: Exercise, junk food, video games, everything. Sure a night of binge drinking/binge gaming wont leave you dead on the spot 100% of the time, but it is dangerous. Don’t take things to the extremes and enjoy the little things.