Video Games: The Past, Present, and Future
What "are" video games in 2018? From gaming addiction to eSports, Brian Pineiro and Steven Keehner try to answer it.
Whether one is a gamer or not, it’s impossible to deny the validity of the impact of video games in 2018. As we see the year come to a close, gaming’s role in society has gone from a niche topic for “nerds” to a commonplace in discussion for all social groups.
It’s often said innovation within humanity has become quicker and quicker as time progresses, gaming is a perfect example of this phenomenon in action. In about 60 years, gaming has gone from post-World War II computers hosting the first iterations of what can be considered a video game, into a billion dollar industry that sees at least two-thirds of American house have a console.
Despite the change coming in what feels like the snap of a finger, it’d be lazy to ignore that a lot of steps had to happen to see gaming reach this point. Like any economic or social giant, many factors had to happen behind the scenes to reach the top.
So what “are” video games nowadays? This isn’t meant to be taken literally. Gaming in 2018 is quite different than what it meant 20 years ago, even 10.
The game, ironically, has changed.
Level One: History
Before one can break down gaming now, it’s impossible to do that without understanding the history that has led to now.
One of the earliest “video games” were not on a console or handheld device, to find out when video games were created would take us back to 1947.
From everything World War II offered, it resulted in a rapid discovery of technology. In an attempt for nations to gain an advantage over one another to ensure victory on the battlefield, one had to have the edge in technology.
But in this constant attempt to create the ultimate weapon, the United States, created another device that would change history: the digital computer.
In 1938, the U.S. Navy had created the first iteration of what one could now consider being the modern computer that was small enough to work within a submarine; the Torpedo Data Computer, as it would be called, used trigonometry to determine information on hitting a moving target.
About nine years later, with the war having already ended, it gave scientists more technology than they could’ve hoped for.
When Estle Ray Mann and Thomas T. Goldsmith’s filed for a patent in 1947 for their “Cathode ray tube Amusement Device,” they may have begun one of the most important social devices since the rise of cinema. But to say their invention was anything close to what we have today would be ridiculous.
With a simple premise of aiming a missile at a target, it would make even the laziest of games in 2018 look like the greatest of all time in comparison. Played on a small box, this was nothing that someone now would marvel at, but its impact would be bigger than anyone could’ve imagined.
But despite the now unimpressive first steps, it was necessary to get the ball rolling. With small leaps being made afterward, it wouldn’t be until 1962 that gaming would pick up after Steve Russell, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology would create Spacewar!
Many within the video community note this as a monumental moment in gaming history as it was the first game able to be played on various computers.
But after, the interest in gaming led to the creation of “The Odyssey” by developers at Sanders Associates, Inc.
Sold by Magnavox, it would not do well long-term and failed to gain much attraction. However, one of its games became the inspiration for one of the most iconic creations in video game history.
This idea would become Atari’s Pong.
Released in 1972, the game itself was simple. Two lines served as a paddle for each player, with a ball to hit back and forth to one another (like tennis or ping pong.) Despite the eventual copyright infringement lawsuit from Magnavox to Atari that would cause a large cash settlement, it was the creation of Pong that would give gaming a mainstream appeal for the first time.
With the creations of Space Invaders, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong, an entire generation of American youth would be introduced to these new sources of entertainment. With that came arcades for these new games to be played in.
Eventually, companies saw that along with being a way to keep active, it was also profitable.
That was, it until the 1983 Video Game Crash that not only resulted in the market imploding in the United States. With an abundance of poorly made and similar games, it took nothing but laziness for the industry to almost lead to its own demise.
But as one may predict, this crash didn’t last forever and with the Nintendo Entertainment System’s release in America in 1985, gaming was back on the map.
By imposing regulations on developers, Nintendo avoided the problems that just a few years back nearly destroyed its own market.
With titles like Mega Man, Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda, NES would build itself an impressive abundance of games that would allow for Nintendo now to still be on top of the gaming industry. Add along with the release of Nintendo’s Game Boy a few years later and the company built the initial pieces for a gaming empire.
With Sega entering the console fray in 1989, consumers had what can be considered their first “console war.”
As time passed, the content of games pushed into more intense themes, often featuring blood, gore, etc. With this, came the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which is still used to rate video games today.
More competitors threw their names into the scene, with Sony’s PlayStation (1995), Microsoft’s Xbox (2001) into the game, they had to deal with Sega’s Dreamcast (1999) and Nintendo’s Nintendo 64 (1996).
While the Dreamcast, despite its ambitious ideas (which included online gaming), did not win over consumers and following its demise, Sega took its name out of the console market. This left the main players as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Add along with the rise of Personal Computer gaming, and it leads us to where we are now.
With the releases of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii, all three companies were prepared to battle one another to gain supremacy of a then massive market. With advanced 3D graphics and online gaming taking over, it has led to all four (PC included) pushing one another to prove which platform is the best.
Game series like the Call of Duty, FIFA or Minecraft are just a few notable ones that have risen in the few years. Gaming has evolved from something one had ashamed about, but with it becoming more common, it’s seen now as a weird thing not to play.
Even mobile phones are a source to play, and with games like Fortnite: Battle Royale, pushing crossplay between consoles and even phones, it doesn’t seem like the gaming train is slowing down soon.
As the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reach their end, while Nintendo’s Switch is still fresh, the future of gaming is one that is unknown yet exciting.
Level Two: Psyche
Addiction is defined as a state of psychological or physical dependence.
“While some studies cite a connection between the rise of endorphins while playing video games as proof of physical addiction, when humans add the concepts of “compulsive use” and “loss of control,” people are most definitely looking at a psychological addiction with regard to playing video games when taken to extremes. When people come upon something that reduces our level of stress, people are drawn to it. By playing video games, people can escape to a fantasy world where we can control our environment,” said clinical social worker and therapist, Dr. Steven Suchow. Although Suchow is mainly a child and adolescent psychotherapist, he has dealt with many issues concerning video game addiction and is well informed on the issue.
But what exactly about video games makes them so addicting?
“Gaming is fun and challenging. Human beings are wired to seek as much pleasure as possible. Gaming also offers immediate gratification and a discharge of tension,” said Suchow.
Gratification and discharge or tension being two key components of the pleasure principle, which is the instinctive drive to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
In June, The World Health Organisation (WHO) added gaming addiction to the International Classification of Diseases. Fortnite: Battle Royale probably has something to so with this new classification as seemingly every week another article was posted about a child’s or adults addiction to the Battle Royale game. Official Fortnite rehabs have been started to aid children and adults from their addiction.
Here’s the turning point when gaming goes from hobby to addiction.
“While we are trained from a very early age to be productive human beings, there are many distractions on the road to maturity. Whether we are students of any age or adults who have entered the workforce, we are given many daily responsibilities. Within that day, there are a finite number of hours to accomplish our goals. When you combine the pleasure created by the games with the potential escape from the stressors of daily life, we’ve created an environment that is difficult to stop. We might start to avoid some of our responsibilities, or take shortcuts,” said Suchow.
Control plays a major factor in one’s gaming addiction. Ignoring the uncontrollable aspects that come with life in favor of entering a world where the more time spent in it, the greater control one can achieve. What about when one loses control?
“When we cannot control our thoughts and/or our behaviors, we need to seek external intervention. With college students, young adults, and adults, it might take a professional counselor or therapist to intervene on behalf of the addicted person,” stated Suchow.
Video games, much like any other hobby, comes with its positives and its negatives. “Since increased practice in gaming most often improves one’s level of skill, it also adds more psychological reinforcement to the activity, and more motivation to continue one’s behavior. The more we play, the better we get at it. The better we get, the more we want to play,” stated Suchow.
Suchow is not big on the notion that playing video games strengthens hand-eye coordination, but offer more in terms of psychological positivity and social positivity.
“I do see gaming as mostly entertainment and fun. Sure, who wants to stop having fun? There is most definitely a social element of gaming when done with a group of players who can interact with each other. As one improves their skill level within the game, the player’s level of confidence increases,” mentioned Suchow.
However, Suchow has not seen gaming lead to confidence in other areas of his patient’s lives.
“Gaming, if not controlled, can take over too much of one’s life. I’ve seen people flunk out of school, ignore interacting with peers, and stay awake into the wee hours of the night just to feed their obsessive need to keep playing,” said Suchow.
Gaming is also a sedentary behavior that limits healthy physical activity. “Gaming’s prime function should not be as a way of opting out of dealing with real life, but should be viewed as a hobby that allows us to relax, have fun, and take a break from the pressures we all deal with on a daily basis,” added Suchow.
It is possible to find a happy medium when it comes to gaming. Gaming activities should be scaled back and never go beyond that of a hobby.
“With children and adolescents, gaming is often a point of contention and conflict between parent and child. It has the potential to be a full-blown battleground. With young adults, it is a matter of self-control,” said Suchow.
Something most adults struggle with one form or another.
“While some people maintain visions of becoming full-time gaming professionals, for most people, it remains a fun activity. We need to attempt to spend a predetermined amount of time with the activity, and then be able to put it aside and return to normal routines,” added Suchow.
Level Three: Twitch
“I have loved video games ever since I was a child, but to think that this is something that I am now fortunate enough to get paid to do shows how far gaming has come,” said Kyle Celaj, a 20-year-old Bronx native and Twitch streamer. He has been a content creator for just over three years now.
Twitch, originally named Justin.tv, launched on Mar. 19, 2007. Initially allowing anyone to broadcast (stream) videos, of several different content categories, online. The video game category quickly rose in the ranks and just as quickly became the most popular content on the site. And on June 6, 2011, Twitch.tv was born. Today, Twitch is by a considerable margin the top live streaming video game platform boasting an average of 15 million daily users and Celaj is one of them.
“Once I got my partnership with Twitch is when it first hit me that I am getting paid to play video games. It is truly a dream come true and still feels surreal to me at times,” mentioned Celaj as his black and blue Sony PlayStation gold wireless headset rested on his neck as he prepared for a live stream. His third of the week. Stuck in between streaming “grinding” his MyPlayer point guard to a 99 overall in NBA 2K19 or getting the “dub” in Fortnite: Battle Royale.
CurlyheadKyle, Celaj’s Twitch username, is one of the over 27,000 and growing partners of the Twitch Partner Program. The process to get partnered on Twitch is not a difficult one, but rather a time consuming one. First, one must submit an online application to even be considered for partnership. Second, fulfill the three main requirements. Those being: An average concurrent viewership of 500+ (not just a one-time peak), a regular broadcast schedule of at least three times a week, and conform to Twitch’s Terms of Service and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) guidelines. The last requirement being the most difficult for Celaj as he used profanity early in his content creating days on his YouTube channel, KylesLife, where he post non-related gaming content. Lastly is to simply wait for the partner approval from Twitch, which took Celaj nearly six months to receive.
“I do not make enough money to live off streaming, yet, so I still consider this my side hustle. As for the guys who pay the bills off this, I can see the rigors that come with the job. Shoot, my back and eyes begin hurting after a live stream and I do not nearly game as much as some of these other streamers do,” said Celaj just as he booted up Fortnite.
He was streaming the “dub” tonight.
Many successful Twitch streamers believe that a stream should be a minimum of four hours. With most doing two to three broadcast daily. Eight plus hours of gaming can lead to injuries sustained and poor health from gaming for too long. Those injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, weight gain, and strain on the eyes to name a few.
Most stream cycles for most successful Twitch streamers consist of a morning stream and an evening/night stream.
Richard Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is the face and name most synonymous with live streaming and Twitch. Need convincing? As of Dec. 2018, Ninja is the most followed streamer on Twitch with over 12 million followers and an average of over 53,000 viewers per stream. He was almost single handily has brought gaming as a profession to another stratosphere. Need more convincing? On Sept. 21, 2018, Blevins became the first esports player to grace the cover of ESPN magazine. Or on Mar. 14, 2018 when “Ninja” along with rappers Drake and Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster broke the Twitch live stream record of over 600,000 concurrent viewers. The record has since been broken… by Blevins himself
“He is an inspiration,” claims Celaj. “He made a lot of this possible and for that, I thank him,” as he just finished wrapping up his live stream. A few “dubs” were earned during the night broadcast.
But when does it become too much gaming? When does it turn from a hobby or job, as stated by Celaj, into something more?
Level Four: Addiction
Despite all the positives that gaming bring to the table, the unfortunate reality exists where sometimes games become more for people than just a favorite hobby or activity.
In 2016, CNN reported that anywhere from four to ten percent of gamers can be considered “addicted” in the United States.
With claims that it allows people to earn a sense of reward that makes players want to return, it makes gaming a prone target for people to get addicted to.
Despite this, Gaming Addiction is often scoffed at, saying that it’s just a case of putting the controller down. But for some like José Antonio Hita Ruiz, video games become an addiction that can push some toward the edge of life and death.
Ruiz, the current Community Manager of Game Quitters, a group dedicated to helping those who suffer from video game addiction, made it very clear on what he thought of those who denied the validity of this issue.
“There are three kinds of people who say that: offended gamers, the industry and a part of the scientific community. About the industry there’s nothing to talk about, they are simply lobbying their interests, which is logical but precisely because of that I wouldn’t expect objectivity or neutrality from them.”
“If you’re a gamer, don’t take it personally. If you honestly believe you are not an addict, this conversation is not about you. Let people who need help get help.”
“If you’re a journalist or a skeptic researcher, give science its due time. Video game addiction is real, if it’s a syndrome or the symptom of other struggles like depression or anxiety is irrelevant, but secondary detail. But it is a manifest condition in the lives of many people. It exists.”
With a difficult upbringing, which he described everything coming to him in an “excess,” gaming became a hobby for the then-young Ruiz after being introduced to the Total War Saga and Paradox games from his Uncle and Cousin. From there, what started out as a way to avoid bullying and the stresses of his home life transformed into a nightmare.
“From 8 years old onwards the only activity I can mostly remember was video games. The same two or three games, again and again. Like a literal drug I’d take to numb myself.”
First came the destruction of nearly every relationship within Ruiz’s life, but as this time passed, gaming went from an intense hobby to one that became the only activity he would do during days. Along with dropping out of high school, he claimed that at one point he was playing around 16 hours a day.
Despite occasional positive changes in Ruiz’s life, it didn’t take long before he relapsed, and before he knew it, he was back to isolating himself and barely leaving his PC. This was to engage in the thrill he received from gaming, but as time passed, more physical and mental health issues gathered up.
It reached the point where he not only lost the interest to engage in the world around him but to continue his own life.
“What should I try first, quit gaming or killing myself?”
Ruiz eventually saw an opening at the end of the tunnel, and through cold turkey and self-education, he ridded himself of the issues that had lingered for most of his life. Since then, he had traveled around the world, found a romantic partner, and is amid joining the Spanish Armed Forces.
But despite moving past these issues in terms of them taking over his life, even he’ll admit that he isn’t perfect.
“In all honesty, there’s been some relapses. The last one was very recently, when I returned from a six month volunteer period in Italy. I found myself at home with nothing clear to do and a lot of pressure to do something with my life and I still cope very poorly with those feelings. So it’s not a finished journey in the slightest.”
But despite this, Ruiz could still give personal advice on how to move past struggles.
He claims one should avoid technology at all costs. “Become as 20th century as you can. Try to do everything you can without relying on technology. Identify the major distractions (excuses) to use the computer and find alternatives. Use paper notebooks to take notes. Create technology-free spaces in your environment. Those kinds of things.”
He also encourages those who may suffer to look for new activities and like-minded people who can push them to be a better person.
“Don’t settle for ‘just anyone to spend time with’. Really commit to finding fulfilling friendships. Focus on the things you like in order to find like-minded people and create your “tribe”. You can even think about what stimulated you in games: Was it the competition? Look for something competitive. Was it the immersion? Look in places related to role-playing or contexts where they use topics you like, and so on. You don’t need to change “who you are” or “act alpha/chad” or pretend whatever. Work with what you have, and for that, you need to know what you have and learn to appreciate it without judgment. It’s not simple, I know. But it’s worth every minute you put into it.”
To those who may not be sure if they’re suffering from video game addiction, Ruiz gives some notable symptoms to look out for:
“Would you rather be doing other things but find yourself playing by inertia? Is gaming the only thing you can think of to have fun, socialize or forget for a while about your problems? Do you find yourself more isolated and can relate it to your use of video games? Have you been performing worse in other areas of your life like studies or work? Do you think it would be really hard to live a life without video games if you considered quitting, even for a limited time?”
Level Five: eSports
Gaming, over its 60-somewhat year history, has gone from a niche interest into what can only be considered a global phenomenon. But through everything that has elevated video games to its current stage of popularity, eSports, have been the most important innovation to come from the gaming industry since 3D graphics.
eSports, a shortened version of Electronic Sports, have taken athletic competition and wrapped it in one of the people’s favorite hobbies. It’s so simple, the fact that the rise of eSports wasn’t seen as an inevitable future for gaming from the beginning of arcades is almost mind-boggling.
For those who don’t know what eSports are, it’s simpler than one may imagine. Players gather in teams to compete in tournaments or leagues for a specific game like Overwatch, League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
With the same practice methods, tactical knowledge, and team creations, it’s no longer ridiculous to claim eSports are a serious, legitimate, aspect of competition that needs to be respected and treated in the same light as baseball or soccer
If that alone doesn’t convince one that people playing videos games is enough for someone to take it seriously, perhaps the finances will. Forbes reported that in 2017, the eSport industry brought in $655 million, but with estimates of this year to be around $955 million, eSports are on the verge of being a billion dollar scene.
And while the NFL, for example, brings in $10 billion plus per year, eSports have a unique advantage that might lead to it overtaking competitive athletic competition: viewership and fandom.
In a report from the University of Tampere, it was estimated that 70 million people watched eSports in 2013, but with Sports Illustrated reporting in 2016 that by 2019, 427 million would be watching competitive gaming. We’re on the verge of a boom in an industry that has been slowly building itself up to this point.
Most children who grew up playing video games before the dawn of online gaming can all draw an idea of what makes eSports so successful, whether that it playing with your friends at your house or even listening to your friend explain their gaming stories, people crave competition. It’s the reason the FIFA World Cup is the most watched event in the world, spectators want to see the best of whatever they’re interested in and see who’s can call themselves the greatest. Video games, as it has turned out, are the best for this exact group of people.
The rise of eSports into a global love can be traced down to three main points:
Gaming, compared to athletics, has a monster advantage that “real” sports can’t boast about: accessibility. If you want to play ice hockey or football, for example, it’s expensive. Equipment, insurance, etc., there are many fees that come in the way for people interested in many athletics sports.
But money isn’t the only denier in many’s interests in athletics. Factors they may be out of control, such as injuries, disabilities, or climate can impede playing a sport. But for video games, they have this advantage they don’t require you to have wealth.
Take the two (debatably) largest eSports: League of Legends and Dota 2. Both, along with being good games, are free, which opens up a huge potential player base (ex: Fortnite), because believe it or not, people enjoy free things. They are also computer games, which helps because while not everyone can own an Xbox, PlayStation, or Switch, many people do own a laptop or computer, which allows for it to avoid any sort of console divide. And finally, it replicates competition; for people who crave that team aspect in life but can’t play sports, this is the next best thing — for many, this is even better.
Even when watching it, you don’t have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to go to a sporting event. You can go on YouTube or Twitch for free and you’ll have immediate access to competitive gaming at the tip of your fingers.
This is a huge aspect of gaming that along with explaining eSports rise, can also directly define gaming’s rise to mainstream fame. Genetics suck; most people aren’t going to be born with the right genetics to make it in the NBA or NFL
Regardless of interest in a sport, the unfortunate reality of this situation is that unless one is born to parents who were both athletic, one’s odds of growing into a 6’8”, 250 pound monster like LeBron James is impossible. One can be the biggest fan in the world, one could know tactics, players, history, anything, knowing isn’t enough in this case; one need more that is out of your control.
But within gaming, it eradicates this physical boundary. When one picks up a controller or use a mouse and keyboard, the physical traits are mostly meaningless in the grand scheme of competitive gaming. One can take a woman who is 5’2” and a man who is 6’7” and put them against one another in a video game, yet one can’t just point to who would win because of size alone, it comes down to talent in the game.
With this physical line being erased from contention in most cases, it allows players who study and learn the games to benefit more than others. It creates a sense of equality, almost; it doesn’t matter what you look like, if you will put the time in to improve, you’ll be rewarded with skill, regardless of weight or height. It isn’t about race or class, it’s about the game.
This is the largest point for eSports; behind everything, competitive gaming reinforces a message that regular sports just don’t have: a sense of reliability.
When watching Leo Messi and FC Barcelona play, it’s quick to realize that one will never, ever, be as good as Messi, who is considered by many to be the greatest soccer player ever. One can try your hardest to replicate him, but deep down even if one is considered a good player, he or she will always be better than just about everyone else.
But with professional gamers, this effect doesn’t seem as present. Watch any competitive event involving gaming; the people you see aren’t these supermodel figures that convey a bigger than life feeling. They’re just people who enjoy playing video games — there’s something distinctly human behind it.
While it’s impossible to throw together a football game with full equipment and referees, it isn’t impossible to gather one’s group of friends together to play competitive Call of Duty, or any other team orientated game.
Despite eSports being a new concept in pop culture, competitive gaming isn’t. Even before online gaming, playing at a friend’s house is an example of competitive gaming, while it may not be for a million dollar prize like many eSports feature nowadays, the concept isn’t different.
But eSports require a certain sense of analysis compared to sports that make it different: in a way, one is attempting to exploit the game.
With games like Overwatch, a 6v6 First Person Shooter that requires a team to play as certain heroes to complete an aim, teams will not only test multiple strategies but will try to break or find the new “meta”, which is the current tactic used by most players.
And for good game developers, this meta is always trying to be rediscovered, because unlike basketball, for example, the rules can change at the developing studios will.
Whether that’s banning the use of the same hero multiple times or even changing the time of a round to one less minute, these changes can change the way entire games are played. It’s then up to competitive players to figure this out and grow alongside these changes.
It’s no coincidence either that the rise of eSports has come with the gained accessibility to good internet; with more people able to watch and play, it makes the interest in it even greater. Add along social media, one can engross his or her entire free time to an entire game.
With leagues like the Overwatch League, the North American League of Legends Championship Series, or even tournaments like The International, it’s even gaining its own league like following. franchises from all over the world; much like you can be a New York Yankees fan in baseball, you can be a London Spitfires in Overwatch.
With athletic clubs in other sports looking to get into competitive gaming, it’s making it possible to even route for your favorite basketball team on and off the court. The NBA has even partnered up with NBA 2K, the most popular basketball video game, to create the 2K League full of NBA-owned franchises that compete against one another.
While you will not see James Harden gearing up for a game of 2K, teams know of the potential and they’re jumping on the train now before it takes off.
Whether eSports ever take over the World Cup as the most viewed event can be argued, but what can’t be is the statement competitive gaming is making, and it’s simple to see: they’re here and they don’t plan on going anywhere soon.
Level Six: Microtransactions
For everything that can be said about the gaming industry, few things have definitive backing, but for microtransactions, they are the most controversial characteristic within all of gaming at this moment.
For those unfamiliar, the concept of microtransactions may seem innocent and not important, but the overutilization has left gamers in a moral dilemma where one’s wallet can be the largest factor in a game.
Take NBA 2K, for example, in their infamously popular “MyCareer” mode, where users create and take control of an NBA player, users are started off at a low overall. This means that one won’t be able to dominate the league like James or Jordan, at least, not right away. This concept in itself is not wrong; one should have to work a little to reach a goal, any good game developer understands this.
By playing NBA games and the other various game modes, one can earn yourself enough “VC” (Virtual Currency) to upgrade the player and make them unique to oneself with clothes and animations.
From introducing the game mode in 2K10, this concept worked as intended, one had to work a little to become the best player in the NBA, but it wouldn’t dominate your life.
Then NBA 2K18 happened.
With the game mode re-marketing itself as the “Road to 99”, it turned what was once an enjoyable experience into one that while also being nearly impossible to achieve, also is even more difficult to achieve success if one doesn’t put extra money into the game.
This still saw one starting as a bad NBA player at a 60 overall, but it also saw 2K make it difficult to earn VC in all of its game modes. With the online aspect of MyCareer being the highlight of the game mode, it makes it impossible to bring the new player into an online setting without taking heavy losses. This can lead to hateful messages from other players and an overall poor experience.
This dilemma is where microtransactions come into play.
With various price packages, one can use real money to buy fake in-game money to upgrade your character and make them better. With everything costing VC and the lack of true options to earn it, it leaves most players in a situation where they can either:
- Deal with it.
- Cheat and exploit the game to get free VC at the risk of getting banned.
- Cough up and buy VC.
Now to clarify, this isn’t a free game. You are paying $60 for the base game itself, if you were to go on the latest installment of the game, NBA 2K19, and create a new player with the intentions of buying VC to max him out at the highest level the game will allow you too, it would cost you around $40.
So if you intend on having a competitive player and have people play with you (since 2K lacks any matchmaking, for the most part, meaning that players can choose to not play with you) one needs to cough up a grand total of $100.
If you make a mistake and are unhappy with your player, it doesn’t matter, one don’t get a refund or any compensation, one can’t trade-in your MyPlayer for a percentage of the money one put in back, nothing, nada. So if one remake the player and want to max him out again, you’re out of luck. Cough up the extra money or else your experience will suffer; and as I mentioned, VC is extremely difficult to earn. In the time it takes someone to earn about $20 worth of VC, you will have had to play for well over a few weeks of real-life time. Unless you intend on spending 12 hours a day playing, which most people can’t do.
2K isn’t alone in this though. In the Call of Duty series, you can buy loot boxes with real money to get an exclusive gun that only people who buy them can earn, in sports games like FIFA and Madden’s Ultimate Team Mode(s), one can buy packs, which give a user a chance of earning a good player to improve the squad, and many other games are guilty of this as well.
While not all microtransactions are bad, like Fortnite and Overwatch, where the only items you can purchase are cosmetic, meaning they won’t affect anyone in-game. But these, unfortunately, make up a minority; paying for the game itself has become only a sliver of the price. If one intends on enjoying any online aspect, unless he or she is prepared to spend way too much time playing, a user will pay.
With the Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, the man responsible to seeing gaming studios such as 2K (NBA 2K) and Rockstar (Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption), recently saying that “Recurrent consumer spending” (AKA microtransactions for those who don’t speak corporate bullshit) was the future for games made by the company, it’s telling that a potentially dark future is coming for gamers.
With microtransactions being reported to be responsible for 62 percent of Take-Two’s revenues last quarter, it makes sense from a financial aspect to go through this method. You can consistently make money off a product, even after the initial investment, which for businesses, is brilliant.
Look at Grand Theft Auto V, which has created the most revenue in media history, with $6 billion pulled in. Despite not being the most sold game of all time (Minecraft has that record), it’s the ability to make additional money from “Shark Cards” has allowed for the game to be extremely profitable.
One can even say the added content is worth it for the extra fees, but this does not accept that this is taking advantage of gamers who either are too young to understand the value of money or adults that lack time to play all the time.
But as time passes, gamers have begun to lose their patience with companies who put these pay first policies in place. With the release of Red Dead Redemption 2’s online mode, gamers were sent into a frenzy with how bad the in-game economy was. Taking up to 15 minutes to earn about $2 from a mission and guns costing anywhere from 25 to 50 times that, it left the gaming community upset. Eventually, Rockstar Studios apologized and along with gifting players free in-game currency, also cut prices towards items by 40 percent. If players can band together on these issues, there’s no doubt that studios will be more hesitant to implement these ridiculous and unrealistic policies.
But unfortunately, microtransactions are here to stay; as long as gamers continue to fall trap into studio’s greed, nothing will ever change.
But if the community comes together and realizes that this is greedy and wrong, perhaps users can go back to the days where success in games was earned from skill and effort, not the size of one’s bank account.