Musing: A Gamer’s Guide to Evil Free-to-Play Games

It is a longstanding assumption that gamers look down on free to play face book style games.   Most gamers garner the snobbish conclusion the Facebook fodder aren’t real games and aim at people who don’t know better.   This isn’t true.   Facebook free to play games are real games, they’re just evil.

parasect

D’aww its being forcibly controlled against its will.

Some Free to play games aren’t free at all, in fact they take their toll beyond money.   They use you to advertise their game and spread it like Cordyceps through an ant colony.   This is harmless, mostly, as they give an option for casual gamers to amuse themselves for free.

However, amusement is a relative term.  These evil Free to play games cheat.   Regular games are simply difficult.  Level  design for free to play games bases its difficulty curve on those that pay to play.   This sits at the core of the pay to win stigma.  If a game exists to challenge and amuse, why would you find satisfaction in the game ‘letting you win’ under certain conditions.

Notice how I say the evil ones.   There are some free to play games that do not do this.   They are easy to spot because the pay service items are all cosmetic and promote the message: “Like our game?   Please support it.”  Having these cosmetic items may make your character look cooler and wave a proud message that you have supported a game you enjoy.

However, the evil side of free to play uses money as a dark stigma.   People are able to use bought super-powers to  have inflated scores and conditions not possible without throwing money (or inflicted advertisement on your friends) at the company that makes it.

This is the reason these ‘free’ games are corrupt at the core and the real reason gamers should protest their existence.  It is no coincidence when you compare the average ‘free’ game to its purer counterparts.   There are several ‘free’ Massively Multiplayer Online games out there skirting the line between shady and acceptable.   Some allow you to throw money at the game for the same in-game currency others fought for.   This is paying for saved time.    This is an arguable middle ground to the approach of the dark overlords of fill-in-the-blank Saga.

Tetris_Boxshot

Other than block randomization, this is as pure a puzzle game as you can get.

I didn’t realize this in full until I played Candy Crush to help out a friend.   I thought it harmless as I am a big fan of panel puzzle games like Tetris Attack.   My short time with the game confirmed my assumptions.   I’ve done near perfect puzzle crunching combo runs that have ended in failure because the game has undefined conditions of victory.   Would you play Super Mario Brothers if the level said:   “Run right.   We’ll tell you when and if you win.” Probably not.

That said, these ‘free’ games are a service in itself.   It provides social interactions and the illusion of a competitive atmosphere.   But is a high score really a high score when the conditions for each player vary?  No.   Like the Olympics, competition needs the same track, the same conditions, and the same tools for every player.

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2 thoughts on “Musing: A Gamer’s Guide to Evil Free-to-Play Games

  1. “Facebook free to play games are real games, they’re just evil.”

    Hmmm. How does the saying go? Oh, right. SHOTS FIRED.

    I think Jim Sterling of Destructoid/The Escapist put it best: as soon as the games industry comes up with a good idea, it ends up getting ruined. (Remember when people were universally excited about DLC? I sure don’t.) I guess the assumption is that people will buy — and buy into — anything, so hey, why bother with fair play and effort? Money train’s pullin’ into the station!

    I might have some pent up bitterness.

    You know, it’s funny. A couple of weeks back, my brother told me to try out that World of Warcraft thingamajig Hearthstone. It’s a pretty fun card game — the perfect way to bring out your inner King of Games. But my bro told me upfront that if you aren’t willing to pay to win, you’ve got no chance in an online match. I learned that first-hand. I suppose if you’re a real enthusiast you can get more cards, but it’s kind of a problem for a game that’s supposed to be free-to-play, isn’t it?

    But on a more positive note? “Puzzle crunching combos”? Sounds delightful.

    • Tetris Attack or its equivalents like Pokemon Puzzle league makes the same experience (and you’d probably only drop 10 bucks on a legal copy of it)

      Better still it is based around two player Vs. mode. The thing the aforementioned candy crush gets right is how it handles four, five, and L shaped clears. It makes me wish I could but it for 10-20 dollars and filter out the free-to-play BS.

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