Mike and Gus discuss the year of the loot box!
Mike and Gus discuss the year of the loot box!
Happy Halloween everyone! It’s one of my favorite holidays (I’m a sucker for Christmas, too), and I thought I’d celebrate the occasion by discussing two of the hottest horror games out there: Friday the 13th The Game, and Dead By Daylight! More specifically, I’m going to tell you which is more worth your time.
Dead by Daylight came first, and it’s a fairly simple game. One person gets to be the villain stalking their prey, while four survivors must escape the semi-large arena they’re placed in. In order to do so, they must go around the map and repair five generators which power the escape gate. The villain, of course, has to stop them.
One major thing this game gets right is the intensity of the chase. A villain’s proximity can be determined by musical cues, so when they’re close, it’s time to run, and once you’re being chased, you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat. Villains. Are. FAST. They have that ‘power walk’ thing going for them, but they can catch up to you if you’re not careful. As a survivor, your job is to outmaneuver them by hopping over short walls or windows, and to slow the villain down by knocking pallets over. Of course, these pallets are destroyed in a couple of short seconds and the chase is on again. You’ll feel hopeless, but there’s plenty of chances to escape. You can temporarily blind the villain with a flashlight. Your teammates can help create a distraction, or maybe the villain wants to go make sure nobody’s about to start a generator. Even if the villain grabs you and (painfully) tosses you on a hook, your teammates can save the day… as long as they’re not too busy running for their lives.
Another plus is that this game allows horror fans to live out their fantasies. Want to be Leatherface, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger? You can! Fancy Laurie Strode on the survivor side? Well you can do that too!
The downside to this game is that the ‘repair the generators’ bit is the only means for escape, leaving the game with a distinct lack of variety, at least on the survivor’s side. It takes a long time for the repair process, too. It probably takes over a minute without any complications, such as the villain showing up. You can also have setbacks during repair as well… that is, if your reflexes aren’t fast enough. Having to run around and do this time and time again is a chore, and once all the generators are started, guess what? The gate needs to be powered on… which is another ‘hold a button for over a minute and hope the villain doesn’t show up’ game. And, of course, because that’s the only way out, they tend to camp that part of the map. Not the most brilliant design. This game has been out for quite some time now, and they still haven’t added any escape-based variety.
Also, if you want to be a villain, you’ll rarely jump right into a match. You’ll have to wait for people to join your lobby, whereas with survivors, you can jump from game, to game, to game, without having to wait.
Still, the thrill of the chase is what makes this game so addicting and fun. Being able to play as your favorite horror villains helps, too.
It’s worth noting that the base game is fairly cheap… $20. If you want to play as these other villains, you’re going to have to pony up some money for DLC. The good news is that players are never segregated according to what DLC they own or not. You can play with anyone on any map, and play against any villain or survivor… you just can’t play as the DLC characters themselves. If you want everything this game has to offer, it’s best to pick it all up during a sale (like right now).
Friday the 13th The Game is similar to Dead by Daylight, in the respect that one person gets to be Jason, and everyone else – 8 people, to be exact – play as counselors who need to either survive for 20 minutes or escape. There’s a small handful of maps to play in, but everything is generated at random. Cabins and other key areas or items will always change up match to match, so neither Jason nor the counselors can cheese by memorizing where everything is.
I’ve never seen anyone last a full 20 minutes against Jason. He is, without question, overpowered. I mean, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s Jason! So, escape is what you’ll want to focus on. Try running cabin to cabin, looking for useful items. You’ll want a map to find other key points on the map, some first aid spray, something to arm yourself with, as well as things which will aid in your escape.
Maps will have a car or cars to repair and possibly a boat. Cars require gas, a battery, and keys. Boats require gas and a propeller. You can also find a fuse to fix an electrical box which allows access to a phone to call the police. Five minutes later they’ll arrive at one of the major roadways… but can you hold out that long? Even entering a car or boat doesn’t entirely guarantee your safety, as Jason can get right in front of you, effectively totaling the vehicles.
As Jason, you have certain powers at your disposal. You can teleport to any point on the map, see counselors outlined in red, or speed to them sort like the evil entity in the Evil Dead films. The counselors CAN kill you, but they’d all have to work together and be extremely lucky. Counselors can outrun you, at least for a little while. Eventually their stamina runs out, and if you chop them up with a weapon along the way, they’ll accrue damage and slow down. Another thing you’ll want to make sure doesn’t happen, is someone finding a stationary radio to call for help. If they do this, Tommy Jarvis will come equipped with a gun and loads of stamina. His job is to make sure everyone else gets out alive.
While Dead By Daylight is quite a bit of fun, I’m a much bigger fan of Friday the 13th. The developers really nailed the look and feel of the films, and you couldn’t really ask for more than what they’re providing with this multiplayer experience. What sets it above its competition is the variety of ways in which you can plot your escape, because Dead By Daylight is lacking sorely in that regard.
Friday the 13th is also on sale currently for 50% off, but I can’t recommend a purchase to everyone. You have to be a fan of the franchise in order to really appreciate this, otherwise you might feel the game is too simplistic, or may not be able to wave off Jason being overpowered. But if you are a fan, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this game!
More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.
No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”
Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.
At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:
“Dear Nintendo fans,
On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.
If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.
Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”
This presents a multitude of problems.
Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!
The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.
So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?
Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.
We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”
But we don’t know that for certain, do we?
With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.
So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?
“Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”
Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.
Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?
For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.
This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!
Mike, Gus, and Gabe discuss the sexual assault allegations against Neogaf’s owner Evilore, why some people continue to buy controversial sellers due to micros and lootboxes, and the ‘all digital’ future.
This story began with a sexual assault allegation being made against top Neogaf brass. The claim was ambiguous at first, but the finger has since been pointed squarely at Evilore, the site’s owner.
Tyler ‘Evilore’ Malka has been the center of controversy many times, and of those controversies, some were sexual in nature.
Outside of the claims made against him, other members of Neogaf’s staff have been in trouble as recent as July 2017, as one of the moderators made the news for being in possession of child pornography. The owner and his staff had a number of ways in which they could have handled this, but instead opted to play dumb. They acted like they didn’t know the offender in person, even though Mr. Malka himself donated $1,000 to the guy at one point. Anyone who dared to discuss this issue on the forums were immediately banned.
In regards to Malka himself, he had once bragged about grabbing a girl’s rear end. When pressed about this, Malka’s response had pretty much been, “You have to consider the context of the situation, it was a big party,” etc.
Evilore had an AMA hosted by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier in 2015, and it seems a number of questions asked about the alleged assault were left in ‘pending approval’ status. And yet, despite these allegations against him, he did respond to a question about his thoughts on the Gamergate controversy:
“Basement-dwelling virgin subculture needed some way to empower itself, and I guess that way was sending terrorist threats to women for talking about video games. It would be good for a laugh if not for the lives it’s ruined.”
According to Jason Schreier, it was Evilore, and not Kotaku, who was in control of which questions/comments were approved or not:
Anyway, now Malka’s being implicated in another sexual assault by indie filmmaker Ima Leupp:
“Guess I should chime in since I’m being named.
In a private group convo, one of my fellow participants brought up the fact that EL got #MeToo’d on FB. I saw someone on my feed telling a story an hour prior that could’ve fit but I didn’t read it too closely, was skeptical and posted a shot in our convo.. I was then directed toward the comments and lo and behold, there was the name. Was a holy shit moment for me, and something of a letdown too, having met both the accuser and the accused IRL. Posted that shot in our convo as well. Came to the realization that this should only really go public if the accuser wants it to because it’s her story to tell, and the rest of the participants in the convo reached the same consensus, or so it seemed. I deleted the shots from our group chat. Turned out one of the people in there saved the shots, and gave them to another person who then posted it on Voat, and did a godawful job at concealing the identity of the accuser and myself before doing so. She doesn’t deserve to get doxxed and harassed by the internet mob if she’s not ready for it, and it’s solely for that reason that I didn’t want this getting out there, which is why I regret sharing that shot in that group convo.
But yes, it’s real.”
People wanted to discuss this on the site, but the thread was closed up pretty fast… here is The Archived Neogaf Thread
Evilore’s response to an unrelated issue earlier this month was… well, see for yourself.
“No evidence at all? No corroborating testimony? No behavioral red flags? So far this is nothing like other recent industry scandals.”
Funny how that works out… being complacent with a recent scandal, and then being called out for this. In this case there are behavioral red flags. He’s wrong about that. Neogaf is known for its lack of transparency. There’s no conversation, no discourse… just… ‘banned’. He’s also been accused of sexual assault before, and it’s clear he hasn’t really understood what really constitutes as ‘consent’.
Since this story has broken, the staff have been leaving in droves. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to access the site’s staff listing, Evilore (Malka) is now the only admin left.
We’ve also received some exclusive information from a source(s) which seem pretty darn reputable, that Evilore tried to convince the mods that the incident he’s being blamed for wasn’t actually assault, but something revolving around a love triangle ‘cult’ thing. The staff didn’t buy the explanation, and that’s when they began to leave the site.
Update: Here’s confirmation of the love triangle/cult explanation as posted to mods:
Evilore finally made a statement late in the day on October 23rd:
An allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against me by an ex. It’s not true, the individual making the accusation isn’t credible, the story doesn’t reconcile logically with the facts, and there’s plenty of evidence and witnesses to corroborate that. It’ll be a process.
All allegations of this nature are serious, of course. I first got word of it on Wednesday when a screenshot of a Facebook post was handed to Voat. I immediately talked with my mod team about the contents of the screenshot and clarified that it was baseless and explained some of the details concerning my former associations with her, and tried to ensure any concerns from the team were addressed fully and transparently to everyone’s satisfaction. On Thursday I heard that she had deleted the accusation from Facebook, and wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed from there or how this would all play out in the public space at that point. Then, Friday morning, the screenshot made its way to NeoGAF and chaos ensued.
I was in the process of writing a statement that entire day to address formally address the allegation, but the community had erupted in a flash that morning. While the moderation team was trying to restore the peace, accusations and threats concerning the screenshot started shifting to them as well by association with me, and I was asked by my team to do something to fix things and get the heat off of all of them at least. I was beyond exhausted by that point, though, stretched too thin in the time since the post had first appeared and seeing unprecedented events unfold on NeoGAF. I was slow and weak. I failed to handle it quickly enough and let the team down. Before I could finish a statement and get it out there, understandably some mods hit their emotional limit, expressed concerns about the community coming after them, and decided to leave. A few people resigned, and many more quickly followed for similar reasons, citing stress and harassment. The site started breaking under load spikes leading up to the first resignations, too, and then flatlined altogether, so issuing a statement at that time on NeoGAF itself became impossible for the time being, and my attention shifted toward the moderation team’s future.
Since that whole mess, lasting from Friday morning through Saturday, before we formally went offline for maintenance and repair and restructure, we’ve just been trying to figure out the best course of action for NeoGAF going forward. And as stories began being published by various outlets, I issued some comments to the press, since everything coming out was proving to be sensationalized, opportunist, and unprofessional.
We’ve all become increasingly stressed and weary this year in ways even I’m not accustomed to by now, and discussions on heated news, political issues, and social issues on the off-topic side of the site have become areas no one has wanted to moderate in the open for fear of backlash or just general exposure to the inevitable toxicity. I’ve gone in there myself to take the heat, since it’s very much my responsibility to do so before anyone else’s, but there’s been little headway, mostly just more anger and resentment and a lot of bans. I don’t think this necessarily reflects on our community; more so the tone of the entire internet this year with regards to heated issues.
That’s all going to inform the way forward for NeoGAF as we refocus on what the main goals are supposed to be for the site. The mod team will talk about more specifics on what that will entail below.
One last thing. The NeoGAF mod team is here for this community; all of you. You have no obligations to respect me or believe anything I say about my personal life one way or another, but if you’re going to be here and participate on NeoGAF, respect the mod team by following the rules and behaving. The team is diminished at the moment and the folks who stuck around care very much about this community and its future. Be considerate of them. That’s non-negotiable.
I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. It’s usually a lengthy debate that spins its tires on the same worn treads, but it basically goes like this:
Friend: You bought that game?
Friend: Why would you give them your money after they (insert random shitty business tactic here)?
Me: Because I wanted to have fun playing a game I thought I’d enjoy?
Friend: That’s fine, but you should also forfeit any and all complaining about (insert random shitty business tactic here).
Any time this comes up, I can’t help but give a defeatist sigh.
It’s worth talking about though, because I feel it represents a lot of the dominant conversations about ‘speaking with your wallet’ online. I mean, hell, I’ve got a website dedicated to sharing the seedy underbelly of AAA game development. That means I stand atop Mount Sinai, telling the masses that these companies – Bungie, Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, etc. – are taking advantage of them, and that they should use the knowledge I impart to make educated decisions the next time they want to buy a game. And yet, I’ve bought games like Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and so many others.
This hobby turned into a passion. When I wasn’t playing games, I was talking about them, reading about them (oh hai, Gamepro!), or watching TV shows inspired by them. Over the years, I’ve developed a great wealth of knowledge, even about the stuff I didn’t own or didn’t particularly care for. Once the internet came to be, I finally had an outlet where I could discuss games and the industry they hail from with likeminded people.
Point 1 – The Community
Growing up, I was clearly spoiled. But more importantly, gaming, for me, has evolved into more than just sitting down and playing the games.
I like to be part of the conversation.
Game launches are a special time. It’s when months, if not years of analytical hype – for better or for worse – comes crashing down. In this respect, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad a game is, because people are going to break it all down with their praise, criticisms, and everything in between. It’s during this release window fervor that the gaming community feels most alive, and I genuinely love being a part of it.
Of course, upon entering these discussions, I realize the pools I’m wading through are far from pure. For example, certain fans have a tendency to praise most anything their beloved studio churns out, or people bash games they’ve never played because the hate train’s pulled into the station. It’s hard to stay away from these reactionary responses, but I also appreciate these opportunities to educate people.
Point 2 – Challenging Widely Accepted Perception
While I use reviews as a rough indicator, I never take them at face value. So, if a game receives universal praise or is shunned entirely, I’m compelled to check it out for myself. We all know that hype and hate trains exist, right? If I had listened to everyone back in 2014, I would have believed Shadow of Mordor was an amazing game… but it wasn’t (not bad, but average). Not for me. On the flip side of the coin, everyone berated The Order: 1886 for being short and too cinematic for its own good, and while it was flawed, it didn’t deserve the hatred that had been dredged from the bowels of the internet (at least, not in my opinion). So yes, I’m always curious to get hands-on with a divisive title so I can see what all the fuss is about.
Point 3 – But at the End of the Day…
This is where the more ‘human’ side of me begins to come out.
I can talk about bad business practices all day, but after all is said and done, I relent because I just want to have fun. With all the bickering over microtransactions and crappy DLC models, it’s easy to forget that video games are still pretty fun to play. Shadow of War may siren to other studios that, ‘hey, you can throw loot boxes into single player games now’, but I still want to play that experience. Same goes for Battlefront II, because I loved the last one and enjoyed the recent beta.
Hypocrite, I know.
But that’s also because I remember that video games were never perfect. People look back on the history of video games with rose colored glasses, saying, “There were never any microtransactions or DLC back in my day!” But if there were ways companies could suck money out of your wallet, they were doing it. Classic arcade games were cool, but you died every 15 seconds because they were designed to vacuum quarters out of your pocket. Gimmicky accessories were released in quick succession, and many of them didn’t work as advertised (as cool as the Power Glove looked, it was a real piece of crap). Nintendo introduced an add-on for the N64 in Japan (which was very short lived and a retro gaming collector’s dream to obtain). Corners were often cut during game development, and at times proved detrimental. And despite what many are lead to believe, games could often cost a bit more than $60.
Get my point?
Things have ALWAYS been shady. If I wanted to draw a strict line in the sand between their bullshit and my money, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game in the last 30 years.
How Does Supporting Games With Bad Business Models Make Me Feel?
Although ‘fun’ is my bottom line, that doesn’t mean I’m turning a blind eye to the practices that have infiltrated the gaming world. I’m well aware of the ‘slippery slope’ and how I’ve contributed to it. I’ll say that I rarely buy season passes, or even cosmetic items for that matter… but deep down inside, I know that’s not the best justification. When I buy even the base product, I’m telling studios I support what they’re doing, not to mention a potential customer for their DLC and microtransactions. Yes, that makes me feel dirty, and yes, I am, at times, disappointed in myself. I don’t like being part of the problem.
So why do I keep riding this merry go round? Well, because these are the choices I’m left with:
I can take a stand and never buy any of these exploitive games, but then I’d be sad I was missing out on the fun.
Or, I can continue to have fun playing the games that come out, but try and spread awareness about the things I see happening in the industry.
Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter.
I don’t believe that boycotting games or even particular studios is the answer. Because even though I haven’t bought the game, plenty of other people will. My sale won’t be missed. Casual gamers don’t care to delve into the stuff happening behind the scenes, so they’re going to buy whatever they like anyway.
The ESRB has finally chimed in on all this loot box nonsense in our games:
“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
Why have they made this statement? Well, because loot boxes are coming in virtually all of this holiday’s most anticipated games: Shadow of War, Battlefront 2, and even Assassin’s Creed: Origins (the latter of which won’t allow you to obtain these with real world money). As a result, online personalities like John ‘Totalbiscuit’ Bain have asked the ESRB to classify loot boxes as gambling. Fortunately, they’re not going to do so.
Before I continue, let me be clear: I don’t like loot boxes in my video games. I like the progression systems we’ve had just fine (levels, skill trees, etc.), and loot boxes are really only there to make the publisher a couple extra bucks. Lots of people wave loot boxes off by saying, “Well, who cares. The stuff they provide is cosmetic.” They aren’t, though. Not anymore. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that all loot boxes are just a means of delivering cosmetic content. If a publisher is allowing you to purchase these things with real world money, that means the game you paid full price for has been artificially inflated. A game with padded runtime, all for the sake of having a loot box system in place, is a waste of your time. They WANT you to spend money in order to skip the grind. That’s why these systems exist in the first place. Now, also for the sake of argument, let’s look at games that have loot boxes, but don’t allow you to buy them with real world money. That’s still a game that treats grind as actual content… but what’s the point in that? Quality over quantity trumps these practices every time.
So yes, please, keep loot boxes out of my game. No, I’m not strong enough to stay away from games like Battlefront 2, whose loot boxes can be purchased AND offer clear advantages over other players in-game. At the end of the day, I want to play the games I know I’ll have fun playing. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t say, “Hey, this game would be better if they…”
Now with that all in mind, I need to get something off my chest: I actually agree with the ESRB. Loot boxes should not be considered gambling.
No, really. They shouldn’t be considered gambling, and I wish people on the internet, especially people with large audiences behind them, would stop saying so. Let’s look at the definition of gambling (per Dictionary.com):
-The activity or practice of playing at a game of chance for money or other stakes.
-The act or practice of risking the loss of something important by taking a chance or acting recklessly
Gambling has a very specific definition. Yes, unpredictability and the triggering of a dopamine response (and even addiction) are major components of gambling, but to ‘gamble’, you’re putting up money, or something else you’d lose if things didn’t turn in your favor. Loot boxes, on the other hand, do not carry these stakes. As the ESRB have said, you’re always getting something in return, even if it’s not what you had wanted.
Dr Luke Clark, director at the Center for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia, recently told PC Gamer: “The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably,” “We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”
While loot boxes may engage similar activity in the brain, there’s still a distinction between loot boxes and gambling. They are not one and the same. If anything that triggered a dopamine response, especially triggered by uncertainty, were considered to be the same, then we’d have to start making other ridiculous statements, right? “Loot boxes are drugs!” But that’s silly, because we know they aren’t. And they also aren’t gambling.
OpenCritic has decided to note which games have loot boxes, as its CEO doesn’t care for this system at all: “You can call it gambling, you can call it gaming addiction, you can call it whatever you want. The problem is still the same.” He has a point. “The ESRB would say that violence is bad for society so violent video games get a higher rating. Gore is bad for society so gory video games get a higher rating. And nudity and cursing, those are bad so they get a higher rating. And yet something that really could have a serious impediment to the mental development of children, they’re saying ‘well it’s not technically gambling so we’re not going to make a stand here.” More good points, but ultimately, he lost me.
Loot boxes. Aren’t. Gambling.
I’ll certainly agree that they can lead to the same negative outcome, but the distinction is important because think of everything that would be screwed over if we allowed opinions on the internet to change the very definition of what gambling is…
If you declare loot boxes as gambling, then you have to consider the plastic egg machine that most of you have seen at your local supermarkets. You know the ones; you feed a quarter (or two, or three) into a machine, and it gives you a plastic egg with a tiny toy or trinket inside. You don’t know what’s inside, but that’s kind of what makes it exciting, right? Is THAT gambling? No, of course not. If there’s anything from the local arcades which could be considered gambling, it would be all those games of chance, especially the ‘money broom’, where a brush is always on the verge of pushing a bunch of coins over the edge. You say, “Gee, I bet my quarter will be the one to push ‘em all over!” So you pop your coin in, you get nothing, and you walk away with nothing. THAT’S gambling. You took a chance, you lost some money, and you have nothing to show for it. That happened to us all the time as kids, and were we traumatized? No. We walked away a little disappointed, and it helped build character.
But recreational outrages want you to believe that loot boxes are going to lead your kids to a life of drugs, mental illness, or worse. That’s taking things way, way too far.
What I do agree with is clearly labeling the games which contain the loot box mechanic. I mean, anything extra is usually labeled on the back of a game box. Need hard drive space? It’s listed. Need an internet connection? It’s listed. Require a PSVR headset or something? That’s listed. Mobile games especially will tell you if there are additional purchases involved, too. If loot boxes are involved, people should also know about that. Because yes, it’s a mechanic which people can get addicted to, and if their game is going to have it, they should be notified at the point of purchase in case they want to avoid it.
But let’s not hold our breath, because that won’t happen anytime soon.
When it comes to these practices, the industry is still in the wild west. Government hasn’t stepped in to make any rules or regulations yet… but it’s inevitable. Studios are earning a ton of money with microtransactions, DLC, and loot boxes, that it’s going to draw enough attention for regulation to become a consideration. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but AAA studios haven’t been able to help themselves… and gamers are the ones who suffer for it.
The sad thing, is that loot boxes don’t have to be inherently bad. The only reason why they are is because of corporate greed. If a game was designed with loot boxes in mind, didn’t charge real world money for them, and actually made the game an all-around rewarding experience without hours and hours of pointless grind, it could be fun… COULD be. But they aren’t, and here we are.
To those of you who avoid these games completely, I applaud you. Your resolve is strong. Again, some of us (like myself) still like to play the games we know we’ll have fun with, even if it means sending the wrong message. Life’s too short to not enjoy things… but I think we’re getting into something which can be a whole other article.