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Game Studios Are Turning Play into Work (wired.com)
102 points by DamnInteresting 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 148 comments

Look to Vegas to see how grinding for money works out. Especially slot machines. There's a fraction of the population that will play slot machines for long periods. This despite it being a net lose. This is the population that falls for Axie Infinity.

Axie Infinity was, at peak, about half the NFT market. It is now a Ponzi in the final stages. Here's the chart for Smooth Love Potion token, the one players grind for.[1] Down from $0.35 to $0.018. How low can it go? That one suckered a lot of poor people in the Philippines.

From the discussions on Reddit, it looks like people are wising up about NFTs. For a while, there were two new wannabe NFT metaverses a day. That's stopped. Most NFT comments are now negative.

Roblox may get in trouble for using child labor to implement games on their platform.[2]

[1] https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/smooth-love-potion/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/games/2022/jan/09/the-trouble-wi...

That second link is particularly damning. It sounds like the rat race of working for a boss with unrealistic expectations.. but for kids. I'm shocked there isn't a bigger reaction to 12 year olds being set up to be put into positions where they get called an "underage sex doll" and can't say anything. As I hear many repeat nowadays-- I'm glad I'm not growing up in today's world. I may have had to worry about getting scammed on runescape(the biggest social game during my day), but that was about it.

I miss when games were for fun.

Now, games are filled with pay-items which I guess some people enjoy, but it leads to not a lot of fun in some cases. For example, some games sell tokens that you can convert to in-game money. That essentially translates into a boring grind for 100 hours or pay X amount to skip that by getting enough money to buy the items you need to skip that content.

I haven't bought a new game since 2016, and I'll never support the *AAA gaming industry ever again :)

But there are so many good games that have none of this bullshit. Check out Hades. It is so fun. And it is self-contained. The dev doesn’t even have interest in making an expansion despite demand because they made a fun, complete game and they’re done.

There are lots of games outside the pay-to-play arena, even AAA ones. The Playstation Spider-Man games are another great example.

Unless those get support, they may actually disappear.

If you like Hades, check out Noclip's (nearly five-hour long) documentary series about Hades' development:


I'm dreading the day that one of the big AAA publishers acquires Supergiant Games. Hoping that it doesn't happen, but I can't imagine the founders are going to wave off multi-million (or even billion?) dollar offers forever.

The total games market is expanding at a rate where you will have more quality indie games from new game makers than you could possibly play. If Supergiant gets bought and turned into a cash grab, there will be plenty of others out there to take their place.

Yes, but game developers are not fungible. There's still a PopCap shaped hole in indie games since their acquisition by EA.

I'm sure there will be other indie games, but Supergiant's combination of excellent music, art style, and unique, well polished gameplay is not something you see a lot of.

I like a lot of indie games, but I cut them slack for their budget. Indie devs will never accomplish what massive budget, ambition, experience and talent can make. The best I've seen from indie in my opinion is hollow knight. Objectively compared to LoZ:OoT, THPS, GTA IV, etc makes it clear they are in different leagues. Objectively compared to modern AAA like halo infinite's campaign, fallout 76, or cyberpunk, it looks like AAA is dead.

Maybe it was the HR departments that killed them. Maybe it was, in shifting from art to product, they unlearned the basics of how to make fun. Either way, nothing interesting will come from it for a long time.

This is so obviously the case that it's difficult to read the GP comment as anything but a troll. The idea that harebrained monetization schemes have taken over gaming to the point that you avoid it is just flatly lunatic.

I barely even play indie games and I have literally never interacted with any of the much-maligned monetization schemes that people complain about.

That doesn't suggest they don't exist, nor that complaints aren't legitimate. But the idea that they're impossible or even non-trivial to avoid is idiotic.

> I haven't bought a new game since 2016, and I'll never support the gaming industry ever again :)

Oh, come on… While there may be a lot of games trying strange monetization strategies, the majority of the industry is still great.

So many amazing and innovative games have come out in the last 5 years. Breath of the Wild, Half Life Alyx, Valheim, and countless others.

Gaming is the largest entertainment industry. Larger than movies and TV. You can’t just write it off because of a few bad eggs, there’s too much to miss.

Yep. The latest headline Zelda, Mario, and Metroid titles have been really great.

Steam also has a fantastic collection of titles. My favorites this year are all older, but great (and work well on Linux, by the way):

- Journey (I liked this way more than I expected to)

- Donut County

- A Short Hike

- Inside (from the makers of Limbo... an amazing game)

- Limbo

Each of those is pretty different from the rest, but they're all great, in my opinion, and come loaded with near-zero BS.

Just wanted to give a hearty thumbs up to Inside.

I haven't found myself feeling much motivation for games over the past 5 or so years. I'm getting old. Everything feels so predictable and boring (to me).

But Inside.

That game touched something new and nostalgic and gorgeous. I've played through it a half dozen times now just to feel it all again.

Highly recommend.

You may (or may not) be interested in Little Nightmares 1 and 2. Also Limbo from the same dev as Inside if you haven't played it.

EDIT: I see now GP recommended Limbo already.

Thanks! I'll take a look

I absolutely agree that the regressions in gaming are avoidable if you filter a bit more aggressively and that there have been many great releases still. However pretending that monetization-first game design, predatory micro transactions are "a few bad eggs" is just false, they have infested most of AAA space and have creeped into parts of the AA and indie sphere too.

Given the amount of games that release, you got it the wrong way around, it's not "a few bad eggs", it's "a few good eggs" in a basket full of bad eggs. I mean that in a proportional way, and gladly the egg basket is very big, so the few good eggs are enough to have a good time without bothering with the bad and predatory ones.

Given the amount of games that release, you got it the wrong way around, it's not "a few bad eggs", it's "a few good eggs" in a basket full of bad eggs.

I would really enjoy to something even close to evidence that shows this to be true, because this sounds...far from correct, to put it nicely.

> I would really enjoy to something even close to evidence that shows this to be true, because this sounds...far from correct, to put it nicely.

The majority of games by most metrics being crap rings true to me, but I have relatively little evidence.

My gut instinct (yeah, not evidence) is that the games that have the most players, either by total playtime or absolute numbers, are mobile games. Things like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, Fire Emblem Heroes, and other addictive mobile games that are effectively slot-machines.

I'd argue that these are the most predatory games in existence, and probably have the largest total play time total due to their addictive nature.

I would also guess there are more total mobile games than console or PC games due to the android play store being so easy to build for and publish to, and consoles/PC being relatively hard to build for with a smaller total playerbase.

If you search for numbers, you will find wildly large download numbers for these mobile games (which are probably not valuable, since it's free and many people download & delete I'd hope), but you'll also find very large revenue numbers, and fairly large player bases.

Do you think there's obvious metrics where traditional "buy once, pay again never" games are more prominent than any other type of game?

Defining AAA games is kind of hot or miss, but off the top of my head for 2020.

(Micro Transactions)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Destiny 2: Beyond Light, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, The Last of Us Part II, Fallout 76, … and it just keeps going that’s plenty to say it’s infested the AAA space.

Don’t get me wrong I understand the revenue potential, but I want a freaking warning label because any micro transactions is an instant pass for me.

Interesting, I'd have listed last of us part 2 as an example of a great game without microtransactions.

Lots of Sony first party IP is along the same lines - God of War, Horizon, etc - probably because they're invested in the console ecosystem rather than total revenue from individual titles at the expense of others.

Developer said multiplayer last of us II will have micro transactions. But I can see the argument in both directions on that one.

Personally, I thought the game was clunky but I know plenty enjoyed it and it’s clearly a AAA title.

A few people in my family play Animal Crossing: NH, and as far as I can tell from what they've told me it doesn't have microtransactions...

Sort of, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp very much had them, but Nintendo apparently changed their minds on NH based on the in app purchases message being removed from it’s ESRB page.

However, they “removed” micro transactions from the game very late, but it still infects early gameplay with a forced very slow start based on real world delays for the first 2 weeks.

> evidence

We are talking about a somewhat subjective topic here, so first you'd have to establish criteria to measure this, which works the other way around as well. Do you have evidence to show that the majority of games are "amazing and innovative"?

However let me try to make an argument: The example I replied to claims that "So many amazing and innovative games have come out in the last 5 years", the examples are games that stand out specifically because they are pretty different than the main stream.

Let's take a look at some numbers: in the years 2015-2021 a total of 49527 games released on Steam [1] alone, now to make a proper point for what I've said we'd have to make the number more accurate since I added some characteristics to my statements.

Nonetheless, imagine 49527 + total games released on console and then remove, let's say duplicates (re-releases, games released on multiple platforms etc.) from that list. Are you trying to tell me that if you take that resulting number that a significant percentage of that number are amazing and innovate games and that the number of "bad eggs" will be insignificant enough to deserve the classification "a few bad eggs" in a large pool?

I think that is a topic absolutely worth discussing, especially with a bit more time to spend on refining and looking at more numbers (like only AAA released, released with monetization etc.) and I find it absolutely possible that I am wrong in my sentiment, but so far I believe that your claim sounds "far from correct", or should I say "further from correct". And listing ~5 titles isn't enough to convince me, even if I add the very very good games I have played in the past 5 years (and I can certainly come up with a few dozen myself).

[1]: https://steamspy.com/

> they have infested most of AAA space

If every company has a certain chance of selling out every year, then by the time you get old most companies you grew up with will make bad products.

That's a pattern that happens with everything, and it's the one of the reasons why being loyal to brands is bad. There are a lot of newer studios that make non-predatory games that you should give a chance over the ones you played a decade ago.

I came out of “solo-game retirement” for two games this winter: Disco Elysium and Valheim, (which I also play with friends), neither of which I feel pressured by, beyond being well-designed play/exploration spaces. I swore off WoW and anything with daily quests awhile ago, knowing myself well enough now to be wary of those systems. Solo videogames cut into my reading time. That’s an ongoing challenge, as my future self (now, for my past self) would rather I have access to that much more information.

>Oh, come on… While there may be a lot of games trying strange monetization strategies, the majority of the industry is still great.

While it's possible to separate wheat from chaff, it's also OK for someone to move on from an entire category of things because of the chaff.

Would love to hear someone narrow down the era "when games were fun".

It wasn't the 1970s and 1980s. Arcade games were designed to extract quarters from consumers. They were brutal. They heavily influenced game design for home systems, for years, so you'd expect games for the Nintendo Entertainment System to act like they're trying to extract quarters from you.

In the 1990s this should have been gone, but there are games like The Lion King (1994, SNES / Genesis) which...

> Disney actually told the developers to make the game so difficult that people wouldn't be able to beat it during a rental period.

I think the analogy isn't quite the same.

Imagine if instead of a quarter granting you an extra life, it gave you a power-up that let you clear the first 10 levels in 2x the speed. That is the design we have reached.

More quarters never made an arcade game easier or different, it just got you more time to play the game. The game design principle of arcade games was to make progression difficult but still possible by playing MORE. Pacman has some RNG, but the rules are there and aren't circumvented at the whim of the developer when a player starts to excel.

New games seem to have espoused the principle of pay more to play LESS which is almost an opposite goal and in the parent comment I think "fun" refers to playing the game, which they might feel is warped when people pay to avoid the playing aspect.

A little off-topic, but I liked the "fighting game" model that rewards skill, for example, the Mortal Kombat series on arcade. Only the new human challenger would have to pay the quarter, and if you beat him, you continue to play the next person and the next person without having to pay again. I recall in the '90s playing MK3 literally all night (hours of play) on a single quarter, with a line of people paying $0.25 over and over to lose to me in 15 seconds. Ahh, the good ol days of gaming.

IMO affordable consoles (SNES / Mario / early 90s) and App Stores (Farmville / mid-2000s) mark the beginning and end.

Console exclusives drive console adoption, which incentivizes better games.

App Stores undermine the console market, and simplify micro-transactions.

Those examples are "pay money to spend more time with the game" but OPs example is "pay money to spend less time playing the game". Both extract money from you, but in different ways.

> Arcade games were designed to extract quarters from consumers

I think the point of the article is about making games less fun and more grinding, preying on gambling addiction, the gatherer-hunter instinct (gotta catch'em all), and the sunken costs fallacy (if I stop playing I lose all my efforts).

Take Pokémon Go, which is free to play, and the transactions are optional and not completely pay-to-win. The main game mechanic is mind-numbing repetition, the same actions done tens of thousands of times for meager rewards, and the occasional good reward, chasing the moving goal post. That game is not fun by any stretch of the word, it's a grind designed to keep players trapped for years.

Paying quarters for having fun for 15 minutes was better than not paying for mindlessly grinding. Games are supposed to be fun, not exploitative.

Not really hard to nail this period down. 1992-2009 (the release of Call of Duty Modern Warfare ushered in the age of progression and weapon unlocks in multiplayer games).

What makes this a bit hard to pin down is that around 2009 was also the (re)start of indie gaming. Xbox Summer of Arcade started in 2008, Humble Bundle and Steam Greenlight followed in the next few years and ever since we had an enormous mass of high quality indie games available.

So even with AAA gaming starting to go downhill around 2009, gaming as a whole did actually quite well.

Agreed. Watch a documentary on game dev during the period. It was very often just a bunch of gamers creating the game they wanted to play.

I might even push it to 2006 and TES Oblivion. With both cosmetic and technically power DLC. Horse armour was pretty bad, but then some addons(not Shivering Isle) clearly were little content, but making game easier by giving free stuff...

Rental period? I owned that game as a kid and NEVER beat the second level.

Die Siedler. (The Settlers).


For what it's worth, I lost 2 weeks of my life to Metroid Dread on the Nintendo Switch. It's a 2D side scrolling action/adventure/platforming game that I enjoyed and not once did I have to deal with pay mechanics. Two years ago I played Breath of Wild (Zelda game) and again did not deal with pay mechanics.

There are plenty brand new AAA games and were of great fun to me!


Nintendo in particular has been experiencing somewhat of a golden age with the Switch. It goes to show you don't need high performance to make fun games.

Really excited to see if the Steam Deck results in a similar boon to PC gaming.

I used to be a huge gamer in the mid-90's but now I only really play 1-2 games a year. No matter if PC/console, AAA/indie, there are just so many insanely good games to choose from because I get to pull from the last couple of years! Prior to Zelda I played Stardew Valley on PC and absolutely loved it. I really enjoy old-school shoot'em'ups (little spaceships that shoot at fast moving enemies with fast scrolling) and have been able to play both old classics via emulators and a couple on iOS that were really enjoyable.

To a now casual gamer like me, all of gaming is as good as it has ever been! That Steam Deck does look tempting but I have a tendency to dump hours into games. I'm planning to talk it up to friends so one can get it and I can maybe borrow it once in a while.

> Now, games are filled with pay-items which I guess some people enjoy, but it leads to not a lot of fun in some cases. For example, some games sell tokens that you can convert to in-game money. That essentially translates into a boring grind for 100 hours or pay X amount to skip that by getting enough money to buy the items you need to skip that content.

You are not looking in the right places, there are more great games coming out now than ever. Try Inscryption or Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds is so much more interesting than No Man's Sky

These days I only usually play old games and indie games. I heavily favour short single-player games, and find myself quickly irritated by repetition and filler content. I know there's a lot of people–particularly younger folks and those with less disposable income–that demand sprawling worlds and play times in the triple digit hours, and all this micro-transaction shit is ultimately in service of supporting the huge budgets those games demand. I'm so far past that now though; when I look at the Battle Pass screens for Warzone or Halo Infinite, I imagine it's how my grandparents felt when they tried to use a computer. Just utter bewilderment.

Part of it is having less time to play due to general adult life things, the rest is just having other stuff I want to do, be it other games or different hobbies entirely, but I would much rather spend my money on a polished 2-6 hour experience, especially if that means the teams working on it actually get to go home and see their families instead of crunching half to death.

But at the same time, the non-AAA part of the industry is thriving. The amount of creative, original(!), quality games out there by 1-10 people teams is absolutely amazing. I'd go so far as to say that we're actually in the golden age of gaming. I for one blame nothing except my lack of time and energy.

There are so many games that are still fun, even for people who don't define fun as grinding away at a Battle Pass (which some people do indeed enjoy)

In the single player narrative space you have any Sony first party exclusive, along with games like RDR2 / Prey / Outer Wilds / Witcher 3 / Yakuza 0 / Disco Elysium / MGS: V.

For less narrative heavy single player games you have any Nintendo first party exclusive, along with games like Factorio / Hades / Rimworld / Carrion / Hollow Knight / Ori 1 and 2 / Stardew Valley.

And these are just the games I personally enjoy off the top of my head since 2016. I'm sure there's many I'm forgetting, along with many which aren't for me but might be for others.

The top level of games like CoD, Battlefield, Apex, and pretty much any Ubisoft game are MTX riddled Skinner boxes alright, but there are so many great single player MTX free games out there right now.

Prior to Covid we had a strict “no free games” rule in my house because the free games were the ones with advertising schemes or paid items in them.

During Covid it became impossible to avoid the likes of Fortnite and Roblox so that my kids could still play with their friends. Not sure how to put the genie back in the bottle at this point.

I'm not sure I get the problem. My friend's 7yr old son calls to play Brawl Stars with me. You run around in an arena, multiplayer, and try to shoot each other. The game is polished and AFAIK he's never spent a dime on it but he loves the game.

In addition to ads and upsells, many of the free games come with timed rewards (hourly, daily, etc) that you have to hop on to claim. Creates addictive behavior.

I want to say Brawl Stars falls in that category.

I’m sure there are some good free games out there, but for the most part the dangerous patterns I’ve seen in game design happen in free games.

If you squint a bit you can view the buying a battlepass as actually buying a game, due to the added challenges. In that way its not actually violating the policy.

This is actually what happened. :)

> Not sure how to put the genie back in the bottle at this point.

This sentence sums up my entire parenting experience for age 5+.

This comment encapsulates what confuses me about commentary on the way videogames have evolved. I fully understand and support the idea that monetization has had a negative affect on many games. But the idea that "games aren't fun" to the point that you haven't bought a new game is beyond lunacy. I've continued to buy videogames over the last half decade, and haven't spent a single dime it had my experience compromised even remotely by any of these trends. They're insanely easy to avoid and still have access to a wide variety of high-quality games.

The level of moaning about how the very concept of gaming is ruined due to what some games are doing just reads as people who enjoy being miserable manufacturing something to complain about.

After years of not playing a single game I picked up a Nintendo Switch a few months back and every title I have played is great. I’ve been playing Mario Odyssey for more than a month and it’s still a fantastic game to pickup and run around in for 15-30 minutes. Loved Link’s Awakening as well.

Remember how grindy world of Warcraft used to be?

I mean it’s still grindy but remember how much worse it was?

Well let me tell you a secret: when it came out in 2004 people were talking about how it was turning MMOs into very casual play because of how little grind there is compared to EQ and others.

Games were always work. Not all of them, of course, but this isn’t a new thing. It’s just that there are genres of games that are better suited to the grind; they come and go.

Your example leaves out a ton of aspects and how the MMO landscape has changed since then. First of all MMOs are not strictly comparable to regular single and multiplayer games.

Back then MMOs were very grindy, that much is correct. However you have to take a moment to think about the reasons for that. One of the main reasons is that in old school MMOs socializing was a very major part of the appeal and made up large portions of your gametime, you were required to cooperate and coordinate with people manually (form groups, guilds, trading etc.).

WoW is a good example, because it was very similar back in 2004, but made many aspects, especially playing alone much easier than e.g. EQ.

So what does it mean when people say that modern day WoW feels more like work than oldschool WoW? The reason is that many many social components are gone from modern day WoW, it now has automatic systems in place for pretty much every aspect of the game, most content is soloable, and the parts where a group is required offer systems to automatically search and find players etc.. In short: basically no manual communication is required in WoW nowadays to see and complete almost basically everything the game has to offer. There is one exception: there are versions of parts of the content that is just harder versions.

What makes modern WoW feel more like work than oldschool MMOs? The reason is that the game design intentionally keeps you locked in a very tight loop, many parts are designed in a way to keep them from being completed too quickly, many parts build on "daily quests" that can be completed exactly once per day/week, but no more than that. There is much more nuance to this, but in short it can easily create the feeling that you have to show up to play certain content you don't enjoy and if you don't you lose progress/time you can't catch up on. Think "oh no I still have to login today to get my daily quests done...", players typically complete missions/quests like that not because they are fun, but because they are working towards a reward.

But since ingame mechanics have killed the need for social cooperations and interactions (this is not strictly a negative thing, and a hard problem to balance) it creates an atmosphere that is a very different flavour of grind than back in the day, which is closer to some kind of work obligation as opposed to a virtual world you go to to adventure and meet with other people.

I’m glad you replied, because your post says a lot of things I wanted to say, but didn’t want to type on the terrible iOS keyboard.

That said, while MMOs were always a class of their own I don’t think it’s unfair to compare them to other modern games. There are many of their aspects that just moved to other games. Their social aspects moved to actual social networks (which didn’t really exist back then), their grind moved to mobile apps, and the whole virtual world moved to more sandboxy games such as Minecraft and its cousins.

You're talking about MMOs, who have always been a very different beast.

People spend orders of magnitude more time playing them, mainly socializing. Which means they need a lot of grindy content to keep people occupied while they chat.

That's such a terrible design pattern for games. And it's one of the reasons that I found mmos baffling from the very first moment that they were created.

If a game isn't 100% FUN 100% OF THE TIME then the designers have failed. I shouldn't have to do X amount of things before I'm able to get to the actual game, and if somebody says "well once you get past the first couple hours of the game it starts to get fun."... then I won't even bother.

this is also one of the reasons that I tend to prefer carefully crafted narrative style games (8-10 hour experiences) that are shorter in length then huge open sandbox worlds that you play for hundreds of hours.

Spoken like an armchair designer, with a huge bias at that.

Game designers know that you have to splice in boring moments into their games so that the next dopamine shot has more impact. You can't do 100% fun all of the time. This is why god of war is peppered with puzzles to break the sequence.

MMOs specifically need a social experience, and if you're 100% engrossed in the fun there will be no time for the socializing.

Im not defending the grind, but this is completely untrue:

> If a game isn't 100% FUN 100% OF THE TIME then the designers have failed.

For high highs, you need lows as well. My personal highest, most epic moments in games I played are from beating and besting truly frustrating and difficult challenges.

Knowing how to design challenge and frustration is a difficult exercise. There are many different types of difficulty you can use as a designer and some are better received than others. The best games make you feel like you can beat the challenge, and it is entirely within your reach as long as you learn.

Twitch games (as in reaction games not streamer-friendly games) are an excellent example. Geometry Dash is immediately difficult but also immediately approachable and if you don’t have fun the first few minutes, the game probably isn’t for you.

Beat Saber is another good example. It can be incredibly frustrating, in the same way that trying to beat your personal best 100m sprint record can be.

Apparently MMOs used to contain huge grind because they were half chat clients, half games. So you would spend an hour chatting with people, while also mining rocks.

> If a game isn't 100% FUN 100% OF THE TIME then the designers have failed.

Making something that literally every person finds fun all of the time is completely impossible. For example I have friends I don't play a lot of multiplayer games with, because I have the most fun when things go sour, while they just get frustrated.

What's EQ in this context?

EverQuest, sorry for the undefined acronym.

Likely to be EverQuest


I'm on the same boat: haven't bought AAA in years but am happy to spend thousands of dollars on indies. It's not just that AAA companies are awful, but the games they've been making are the same old stuff from 15 years ago. Sometimes lacking even the most basic polish.

The indie world is full of great games with no paid content and if there are expansions, they are worth the money. I'm a gamer and I play on average one AAA every few years, rest of the time is indie only. I agree AAA is not sustainable, especially because the stuff delivered on average has a way worse gameplay than good indie games.

And by the way, Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind forest (and the will of the wisps) is a slap in the faces of AAA games. Beautiful, amazing to play and in the case of hollow knight, really intriguing story.

Games aren’t a monolith in this respect. There are loads that don’t do this sort of thing at all.

I basically buy mobile stuff that have a retro gaming feeling and don't take GB of space.

If you’re open to a recommendation from someone who holds a similar outlook towards today’s games, Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. I recommend coop with a less gaming-inclined partner.

I'd argue to manage your expectations. If you're coming into odyssey with the idea that this is a traditional Mario game, you're going to be sorely disappointed. It's more like a open sandbox scavenger hunt using Mario IP.

Who played the hat?

Asking because my son is pretty good at games, and we're about to start this one in the next week.

Plenty of games without pay-to-play. Here are my favorites:

Indies: Celeste, Hob, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, Factorio, Tesla vs Lovecraft

AAA: Returnal, Horizon Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, Civilization, Nier: Automata

Just don't play anything from Ubisoft.

What sort of games do you enjoy playing?

Nintendo still hits home runs in game design so don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

this is why i've grown to like fighting games, shmups and other arcade style genres so much. there is little to no padding between you and the core of the game and by extension, the most exciting elements.

> I miss when games were for fun.

Recently I completed Outer Wilds (note not Outer Worlds), and also Incsription. Both amazing games I will always recommend playing to anyone.

Indie games are not corrupted as mass production AAA production run like a late stage capitalism corporations, who quite literally add cocaine to their game if they could. Companies run by people who never played games, dont like them, don't understand them have very low chance of creating something good.

There are good AAA games out there that are not exploitative, Marvels Guardians of Galaxy - everyone thought it will be awful ended up being great, God of War games, Ghost of Tsushima.

That said there are a LOT of exploitative games that child or teen should not play if they have any tendencies that can be exploited.

Previous discussion of Axie Infinity & Bullshit jobs: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29716900

(A bit surprised this article references David Graeber, but not PB's piece)

> Players pit their Axies in combat to win cryptocurrency tokens. In 2020, someone paid $130,000 in cryptocurrency for a particularly rare one

Wtf is happening? I mean it seriously. How did we get to a point when someone paid $130,000 for a video game pet? Is that what humanity decided it should spend time on? Is it valuable to anyone that someone spends months collecting pokemons?

Yet, a guy with money decided that the best way to spend that money was to have people build some exp in a digital game.

I don't get it anymore. fuck that.

I'm pretty sure that NFTs are just money laundering schemes.

My guess is most of these big dollar NFT stories are fake. People are making the claims or buying from themselves to attract attention so they can sell NFTs at big amounts to suckers

There was a good reason that early MMOs treated gold-sellers as persona non grata. Allowing the trade of real money for in-game advantage (pay-to-win) strips the value from in-game achievements. Spending $1000 on some gold/items/runs is not particularly impressive or notable. It's just a function of your real life social standing.

There's definitely an audience for games where you can perform conspicuous consumption in front of your peers (see any Gacha game), but to me it's far less interesting than the skill/time-based competition it replaces. My impression is that a lot of the competitive, intrinsically-motivated energy in gaming that made old MMOs so addictive to some has moved into e-sports and speed running. Spaces where time investment and skill are still differentiators.

I'll never forget spending like five bucks on the Real Money Auction House in Diablo III, only for it to completely ruin the enjoyment I was getting out of the game at the time. every weapon I'd find was substantially worse than the sword I spent a few bucks on. these things seem like a good idea at the time, but...

That's an optimistic take.

A more cynical take would be that content is expensive to create, and if players could just buy it, they wouldn't spend time playing the game. And if they stop playing the game, they stop paying for a subscription. Without something to "work" for, players would stop paying.

Which makes the title of this article ironic to me. As if game studios didn't invent grind decades ago. They turned "play into work" a long, long time ago. Gold sellers completed the cycle and enabled people to actually live off it.

I think the key difference is in the motivation of the player. Many people have hobbies that one might call "grindy", consider how much time and effort goes into gardening for example, but because they're not getting paid we don't call this work.

For me it becomes work when the motivation to keep playing shifts from intrinsic (sense of achievement, community, completion, etc) to extrinsic (money).

>spending $1000 on some gold/items/runs is not particularly impressive or notable.

It's specifically the real money investment too. I bought some Challenge runs back in my WoW days, but with Gold that I had earned playing the auction house. Didn't feel an less earned, just a different challenge. I imagine it would feel different doing so today with the solid wall between AH and Cash shop partially dissolved.

The latest Animal Crossing is one of the clearest examples of this trend (and it doesn’t even have micro-transactions, much less NFTs!)

Previous games in the series were famously “there’s nothing to do” games. You could make money, but there were limited things you could spend it on. You could collect items and furniture, but there were limited options each day. You could pick weeds, but there wasn’t much in the way of “rewards” for that; it just made your town more pleasant. Instead of grinding, you spent most of your time just dwelling, hanging out with your neighbors, walking along the river. And then after a little while… you stopped playing the game, and did something else. In many ways, the game wouldn’t let you turn it into work.

Contrast that with the latest entry, where you now have a smartphone. On it is a bottomless todo-list of arbitrary, menial tasks. It has a little notification light whenever you get a new task. Completing a task gets you a reward, and then a new task takes its place on the list. There’s crafting in the game; you no longer have to wait for the store to refresh its items, you can grind for resources and then build whatever you want. And then because you can terraform the entire island, there’s a massive source of goals to set and then grind for.

And the thing is… most people like this game. It’s brought the most mainstream success the series has ever had, by far. And because it doesn’t have any financial aspects, we can’t call the developers exploitive, really. It’s just this (imo) toxic, demeaning direction the whole industry seems to be taking. Even series like Assassin’s Creed are now stuffed full of resources to collect, loot to hoard, “rewards” for the hundreds of grueling hours you put into mindlessly wading through wave after wave of enemies. More and more games are trading genuine play and affective experience for finely-tuned, dopamine-peddling, addiction. Because that’s what sells. The only saving grace is that the industry is growing so fast, there’s so much diversity, that there are also lots of games that don’t do this. But I worry about how the trend is affecting/will affect people’s mental health, not even getting into the financial side.

It seems to be pretty harsh to call Animal Crossing toxic. Do you also call Minecraft toxic? I call Micecraft animated legos. I wouldn't call Legos toxic. Not sure why these games are considered toxic.

For me the games that push my "this game is too addictive" button are like simple solitaire (https://www.google.com/search?q=solitaire). For whatever reason I feel compelled to clear all the cards. If I can't I'll start another round. More than once I stay up 90 minutes past my bedtime playing. And even when I do clear all the cards I'll tell myself "just once more" and then it's another 45 minutes until I get lucky into to clear every card.

There's other similar games like Fun Towers (not sure it's real name) but they create the same itch. In the one I played recently you have a time limit to clear all the cards, plus the added challenge of what order your draw pile and stacks are. Every time I play I want to clear the stacks but doing so both in getting lucky about the cards, and doing it before my time runs out, don't know what it is but again I can easily lose 1-2 hrs

Basically I just don't play those games. But there's nothing really special the developer has done. Solitaire is the same with a deck of cards and has been for 200+ years.

I agree with your thesis, and I dislike the direction the gaming industry at large is taking.

At the same time, it's hard to see where lines are drawn. The only thing that really separates 'Engagement' from 'grinding' is whether or not you enjoy doing it.

While I take a lot of time in considering what games are worth my time, and have a positive "feedback loop" that will leave me feeling satisfied rather than burnt out, I also have to ask myself what "genuine play" really does mean. We can point out the behavioural strategies devs use for reinforcing more play-time, but outside of the question of perverse incentives like NFT's, paid lootboxes and pay2win microtransactions, a game needs to feel rewarding in order to be played. Some just have this reward cycle more ouvert than others.

It’s definitely a sliding-scale, not a binary. But I still think there’s such thing as enjoyment that ultimately leaves you unhappy or worse-off emotionally than you were before, even though it’s hard to define when it doesn’t manifest in something concrete like finances.

I personally tend to feel empty and stressed-out when I spend too much time on an artificially dopamine-driven grindfest. Where for contrast, the original Animal Crossing actively relaxed me and improved my outlook.

I agree entirely- and I try to do an "emotional audit" on how I'm feeling while playing a game.

I know exactly what you mean by that dopamine grind sensation, and when I sense that being present (and no joy), I will either uninstall and stop playing the game, or take a step back and reassess my relationship with the game.

Having had more time to think about this, I think one distinguishing factor is to what degree the dopamine is based in superficial signifiers, vs actual accomplishment. Of course not all games have to be about accomplishment at all, but I think the ones that are are more fulfilling when it’s rooted in substance and not just fanfare (noises, animations, numbers going up).

I think this is just looking back with rose tinted glasses and assuming things have changed.

The game was always a rat race. As soon as you dug out of debt, your landlord would upgrade your house and you had an even bigger mortgage. That was in the original.

That said, the game is fun. Humans like feeling accomplished.

> That said, the game is fun. Humans like feeling accomplished.

The question is, who's setting the expectations? I abhor 'accomplishment' tokens/scores. Even in de 90ies, my favourite game was Simcity with unlimited money. Screw the budget and the missions, let me build the city I want; let /me/ decide what the accomplishment is.

I’ve gone back and played the original, it was different. You could put off paying your “debt” indefinitely; it was really just a way of buying a bigger house, if you felt like it. At a certain point I usually stopped

IMHO games are slowly becoming simply colorful Skinner boxes. I think we've always kinda walked the thin line between fun and exploitation, it was always a fragile balance, which now has tipped over to the exploitation side. If people accept it (and actually enjoy it) then there is basically no reason for companies not to do it. I guess an indie dev creates games for fun and art, especially in the beginning, but a job is a job and if it pays better, then why not? I wish gamers would move away from this and value more the subjective characteristics of fun and beauty, etc. but the truth is that we can't really control that.

> The only saving grace is that the industry is growing so fast, there’s so much diversity, that there are also lots of games that don’t do this.

This brings up a very good point. There are alternate options now. We won't after the industry inevitably consolidates.

I don’t think that’s true at all. Indie studios abound, empowered by common frameworks like Unity and Unreal that put cutting-edge tech in the hands of individuals. For free, in many cases. I don’t see that trend ever reversing direction.

Yes the tools are getting more and more accessible to the public. But profitability will be sucked dry for these studios when they need to compete with the more addictive, more profitable games for app store/social media/youtube ads and influencer sponsorships.

People didn't stop making creative movies or music when the markets matured and the profit-centers consolidated around the least-common-denominator. Artful art still exists, especially if you include the people who aren't even trying to make money. The same is/will be true for games.

Nintendo makes the dumbest/silliest games that are super fun for my entire family. They never feel like work for me.

For example, the recent Big Brain Academy for Switch is a great multiplayer game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld9kVptUWcE&t=900s

I play with my 8 year old and 5 year old, and we can each set our difficulty level separately (from Sprout for little kids who only want to press A, to Super Elite for gamers who love a challenge).

Being able to set our difficulty level separately makes it a challenge for me every time, and it's fun to play against my 5 year old.

Nintendo is increasingly dipping their toes into gacha-style games on mobile, with Fire Emblem Heroes being the most prominent example. I worry that once they get a taste of the money these games generate the same mechanics will seep into their console offerings.

If you haven't tried Overcooked (1 and 2), it is definitely a game to get into. Good fun for the whole family and has only light mechanical elements with mostly puzzle/working together as a team being the focus.

My 8 year old and I beat Overcooked 1 and we are currently working on "All You Can Eat" which is the edition with all the DLC. The original game was one of the toughest games we ever beat. It took me, my wife, and our kid multiple tries to beat the Onion King. My 5 year old watched since he would mostly get in our way when we played with 4 players. :-).

No one will ever see this comment... But my child reminded me today that the ultimate boss was called the Ever Peckish. The Onion King was on our side.

In my opinion one of the worst things to happen to online modern gaming is the tendency towards several different kinds of "rewards" for the player. I don't think I'm unique in this view but I also know a ton of gamers disagree with me.

A recent example is Battlefield 2042. The game is massively flawed, but one of the silver linings is the Portal mode, which enables highly customizable games on retro maps. It's fun - a lot more fun than the base game. But almost no one plays it because DICE (the developer) has disabled XP rewards for the mode, meaning people can't "earn" points which enable them to unlock yet more rewards for the main game.

If you read the forums or subreddit you'll see people claim to enjoy Portal mode, but also say things like "what's the point in playing Portal if you can't earn XP". It's an attitude I don't understand at all - the point in playing Portal is that it's a lot of fun! But most of the community seems to disagree with me and as a result Portal mode is empty.

You can criticize game developers all you want for turning games into work (or skinner boxes) but from what I can tell there's a huge amount of demand for this type of gaming and very much less demand for high-quality, fun experiences without an endless stream of "rewards".

For the XP example you’ve come up with, I think the more pragmatic reason why people were swarming around Portal XP farms was not that people were particularly hungry for just grinding XP, but because grinding them was the only way to gain access to the really important guns and equipment (which you need in order to enjoy the actual base game!) And the XP grind in 2042 is excruciatingly slow (although BF3/BF4 also had this issue and there were many complaints about it).

The thing is, most people actually want fun. I’ve never seen BF players play it solely for gaining the highest rank/level, since the real merit for BF is that it’s a sandbox shooter that creates all sorts of complex emergent situations and rewards you for dealing with it both reactively and creatively. But there are so many aspects of 2042 that actively tries to hinder this “fun” and are arbitrarily forced at the players (the XP grind, lack of server browsers, the difficulty of changing squads, squad size limits, no global chat, etc etc.), and players genuinely hate them. So I really don’t believe that “most of these players are mindless consumers who just enjoy skinner boxes, and they demand those type of games”.

I have a lot of friends who play almost exclusively shooters and this kind of stuff is what's put me off of the genre. I really miss back when you could get a copy of unreal tournament or half life deathmatch and just drop in w/ all the guns unlocked and available and just rampage.

I know it's a different genre completely from the more realistic shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty, but even still I miss the unfettered drop-in fun in those older games and there seem to be hardly any left.

> I know it's a different genre completely from the more realistic shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty, but even still I miss the unfettered drop-in fun in those older games and there seem to be hardly any left.

Old Battlefield was great for drop-in fun too. My high school had Battlefield Vietnam on the library computers, and you could usually find a couple people running a LAN game at lunch to drop into if you wanted.

Unreal's mutators were great! It was like the fun you could get from Quake console without having to read and type a lot. Also very discoverable.

One of the coolest things when I was playing games as a kid was working my way through the single player story, but being able to "skip ahead" and see all of the cool guns and gadgets by opening a multiplayer session. Nowadays you're locked out of most of the weapons in MP unless you're willing to put in 40+ hours (and much much more in some games).

I think this is a result of adults making up a much larger share of gamers and profits to gaming companies.

I've noticed myself doing this and I can pause it if I try but I don't think I can turn it off. Playing games as a kid, it was all about exploration and doing fun things. I didn't beat many games but I played a lot of them. As an adult, I need to be setting goals and earning achievements. There always needs to be something I'm working towards.

It's fun planning/achieving at first but after a few weeks it just feels like i've given myself another job then i get burnt out and reset.

I haven't played battlefield 2042. I bet you're right that portal mode is fun but I'm willing to bet if I was to play I would probably start to express the same sentiment that there's no point in playing portal mode if it doesn't help me progress in the game. It's stupid and I have a hard time admitting it but it's true.

Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy a game for what it is and not be thinking about "what next?" or "what does this accomplish?". I think its just because we're adults (and probably because we have fully developed prefrontal cortexes?)

My reason for not playing Portal mode was that I couldn’t find good servers with enough players and low ping in the Asia region (I managed to play a really good game of BF3 conquest by luck, but that was it.) Actually, I still want to play Battlefield 4 more than 2042, but am forced to play 2042 for the same reason. The sad reality of multiplayer shooters is that people flock to whatever is the latest and has the biggest number of players…

This is pretty close to ruining multiplayer in Halo Infinite, too. They totally botched the rewards system (it's really, really bad), so everyone is complaining about that. But the core gameplay is actually really great, among the best in the series. If the stupid, tacked-on reward crap wasn't there, everyone would just be enjoying a fantastic online shooter. Instead most of the buzz around the game has been negative because of their terrible rewards system. But it's hard to argue with Fortnite's success, hence all the braindead clones.

> They totally botched the rewards system... If the stupid, tacked-on reward crap wasn't there, everyone would just be enjoying a fantastic online shooter.

Ah, I remember the old days, when you "won" by having your side win, and having a Kill / Death ratio sufficiently above 1.0.

I haven't played much since the Halo: Reach release. Even back then, they had started adding XP, so that you could earn a higher rank... which didn't mean anything in-game as far as I knew. Just access to more fancy armor mods and such.

Progressing a meaningless rank is like the perfect amount of multiplayer grind. Just something that signifies "I've played this game a lot" for the players who care, without forcing it on those who don't.

I just don’t care about the rewards, I like dropping into Infinite and playing some SWAT. As the rewards don’t impact the game, it doesn’t matter to me. I always hated having to grind in COD for guns

That seems like a win-win -- it separates the XP-chasers from the "play for fun" cohort, so they don't annoy each other.

Maybe it would be a win-win with a big enough player base, but as it is the Portal mode is basically empty now - at least in the Australasia region. BF2042 player numbers have dropped too far to sustain it I'm afraid (for other reasons we shan't get into).

XP gates weapons and equipment in the base game. You are literally not getting to do all the fun stuff if you don't grind some.

Thats a bit of reductionist view, xp gates started of as a fun mechanic.

You play the base game, and unlock new weapons that you try out and compare with older ones. You get sense of progression and something new to play with.

Its a good mechanic to keep player interested and expose them to different play-style.

Problems starts when money-people starts to poke around with this and design it for exploitation, making XP levels too big, making starting weapons worse and lategame weapons overpowered. After that they give you solution of buying XP booster etc.

They literally break their game in order to sell you solution.

Yeah, XP gating on paper has positives: reducing choices for new players, giving you achievements, etc.

I'm explaining why I am an "xp chaser" though - I don't care about my BattleRank but I want those locked weapons.

>If you read the forums or subreddit you'll see people claim to enjoy Portal mode, but also say things like "what's the point in playing Portal if you can't earn XP". It's an attitude I don't understand at all - the point in playing Portal is that it's a lot of fun! But most of the community seems to disagree with me and as a result Portal mode is empty.

I have a strong preference for rougelites over rougelikes because the former includes a meta-game progression. It includes a sort of XP that makes me enjoy the game loop more, even though the fun from the actual game loop would in theory be equal regardless of some sort of meta-progression.

I also enjoy fighting games with RPG mechanics over those without, once again because there is a meta progression system. It isn't just a matter of getting better, because you'll end up facing harder enemies who also are now better and the skill doesn't change.

I think these concepts are related to what you mention. Even RPGs in general have this sort of progression across a long span of playing that adds value to a game beyond what the minute to minute gameplay offers, despite enemies getting stronger and the net gameplay not really changing. When I play Diablo style ARPGs, same thing. I get stronger, but so do the enemies, and the gameplay remains much the same but I wouldn't play the game if it didn't have what I'll call potentially pointless progression.

I also think it is interesting to measure potentially pointless progression that becomes so pointless it harms player experience. Possible examples, and I say possible because the threshold changes per person, are Elder Scrolls games, especially Oblivion, and FF VIII. Both games are some flavor of RPG where enemies get stronger as you get stronger. Not enemies in new locations and often not even new enemies. You level up, the enemy you were just fighting also have gotten stronger. With a good build and knowing the system you can ensure your own level curve is higher and thus a real power difference happens that matches more classical RPGs, but it is also possible for those not min maxing to become overpowered by enemies. This factors into my fun even though it has little direct impact on my minute by minute gameplay (at least until one side really overpowers the other).

Video games have always had this sort of progression that increased fun despite not looking like it adds to the fun during the minute by minute gameplay. What has happened is that developers have found ways to tie these mechanics to other factors that can then be optimized, generally for the purpose of making money, though sometimes you see developers optimizing engagement for the sake of engagement. This sort of optimization can end up running counter to the minute by minute gameplay. Progression becomes so important that people sacrifice enjoyment of the gameplay so they can get enjoyment of the potentially pointless progression. While grinding isn't new, there was almost always some other gameplay as the goal. Now that has changed to grinding just for the sake of more grinding. In the past that would have been the sign of a bad game and people would not engage if there was no end payoff, but these days it has been optimized to just the right level to replace fun with compulsion.

It makes one wonder what is the ultimate game. Imagine a game that you plug in and then it fills the TV with light patterns that activate all your pleasure centers like some cyberpunk electronic drug. Is that the future down the path we are currently going? Was that always what was waiting us at the end of the path of entertainment even before video games existed?

I find roguelites tend to have really bad progression systems. Most of the progress doesn’t help, a few things at the end are super broken, and if you’re good enough to beat the game somewhat fast you’re left with an enormous grind if you want to every see the other stuff but no actual progress left to achieve. Just repetition.

Binding of Isaac was a pretty good progression, but it spawned a subgenre of poorly balanced systems and I hate it.

People now think one of the defining features of rogue likes are huge variance and rng based outcomes for god tier runs where no skill is required. Meh.

This is similar to the new trend of gamified workouts. Liteboxer recently announced rhythm-based boxing workouts on the Quest store. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.tomsguide.com/amp/news/i-ju...

At least those games give you some exercise rather than grinding you into sedentary ill health.

Games as "work" is a fickle thing. Digital items beforehand (CS:GO skins, MMO items, etc.) garnered real-life value because they represented a certain amount of progress or luck required to attain the item. Third-party markets were a weird, but effective workaround for representing these items with real cash.

The issue as I see it though, is that you need more than artificial scarcity to build an economy. The reason people spent crazy amounts of real-life money on a Black Lotus card or an AWP Dragon Lore was because they loved their respective games. When I look at Axie Infinity, I have to ask; do people actually love this game? As far as I can tell, the majority of people are playing it because they want to make money. Even the "whales" appear to be in it for the cash too, since once you have enough resources in the game you can "sponsor" poorer players and take a cut of their earnings.

The whole thing reeks. I was never that into rare game items as a concept, but this strikes me as outright stupid, NFTs and blockchain aside.

Yep. Squeenix really jumped the shark on this one. I have become an expert in disengaging. We're in an attention economy and I have wrestled back control of my attention. If they want a slice then they'll need to abandon dark patterns.

I know I'm not alone in this. The noise levels are at all time highs and people naturally have developed a sense of tuning out by default and carefully tuning in.

Dark Forests and moving castles. You can form a small group, leave big attention platforms and focus on small meaningful communities.

It's one of the reasons why games like Minecraft and Stardew still get tons of playtime.

Exactly correct. Black Lotus is expensive because MTG is fun and the card is rare. Same for AWPs.

It really doesn’t matter what the technology is that’s used to store the transaction of these items, the most important thing continues to be that the game is actually _fun_!!!

The gaming industry with all those tricks that help grow an addiction is way out of control nowadays. The worst type of it, gacha games, are essentially casinos for kids. I think there should be much more regulation of it. A society doesn't need hordes of useless addicts.

Games with gacha mechanics (i.e. the ability to trade real money for tries at a random reward) should be rated 18+. I hope we get to a point where there's enough outrage that the ESRB is forced to act.

It makes me think that all the controversy around video game violence decades ago was focused on the wrong issue, but there was a glimmer of something else that did ultimately come true. Video games do not motivate violent behavior because they're simply ineffective at motivating violent behavior. Having real-world violence attached to a video game can only damage revenue, so there's no point in designing the game to encourage it.

I think the only reason a lot of media does not cause full-blown riots is because the number of human behaviors that you can motivate which also have a profit advantage is very small in practice. But now that we've discovered the profitable method, what the doomsday forseers believed would be a more violent future instead became an attention-destroying future. The general principle is ultimately the same: we can now build games that are more effective at controlling our behavior than ever before.

Video games are almost becoming video gaming(as in what they call those places where you play video slots in the closed off section at the back of a restaurant in my area). It is definitely concerning

This is why the humble bundle is still important.

Their Humble choice prioritizes games which are actually a full package. Very rarely there might be some DLC, but normally their isn't.

I absolutely love the humble originals, usually these are hour-long bite-size experiences. Experiences. I tend to enjoy a good mix of 80 hour epic RPGs, and games I can finish in one sitting.

"Skyrim dollars" was a concept that my friend group roundly pooh-poohed when I brought it up in a late night rant some time around 2012. Over time it has become something of a meme, but this winter break we were all sitting around and realized that Skyrim dollars have become hot new tech.

The primary motivation for the idea was that there are tons of people out grinding in game money in single player games, and all that labor (leisure time?) is trapped in the game (yet somehow not creating disastrous inflation in-game ...).

What if there was some way that players could capture that time and (leisure labor)? At the time Valve was already trying to reward people for creating value for others, but what if we could just exchange the Skyrim dollars that we had earned from our single player playthroughs?

Well, here we are.

Decent concept, but why Skyrim? I don't think I've ever found myself looking for money in that game. Hell, I mod it to reduce the amount of gold in the game.

It was just an example of a game that people sink lots of hours into, and yes, way too much gold, to the point where you are swimming in it even if you aren't trying to grind it. There is also the issue that you can break the crafting system to create single potions that are worth hundreds of thousands of gold and that should probably cause the game universe to be sucked into a black hole, but that is a separate issue.

How absolutely disconnected from reality can you be to think that putting money inside games will be a good idea and will actually improve them for the players? I mean, seriously.

The goal is not to improve them for players. It is to make money for the publishers.

Progression is rewarding. Most peoples lives have 0 sense of progression. Video games are fairly unique in that regard without being a creative outlet.

Unless someone can find a way to make grinding in games produce a tangible benefit, all this will wind up being is a giant scam. If you're getting paid to perform useless tasks, whatever they are, someone is going to be left holding a bag.

idk I always loved grinding games especially in MMOs and JRPGs. If anything I'd say games are not turning into work, they are just generally much easier than 10-15 years ago. And it's much more noticeable. There is a reason for example FromSoftware games (Souls-series, Bloodborne, Sekiro etc.) are insanely popular because they offer you a great challenge that you rarely find in modern games. On the other hand the "noise" is also much higher so of course more thrash game exist too.

Can't wait for SquareEnix to be sued in California then. He basically made their case for them.

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