Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This post is going to be politically incorrect, at least in the context of the egalitarian "on the internet we are all equal" culture you hear so often argued. Of course that pretense equality ends as soon as you look up, because the real world is very inequal, and is often getting more so. So when I thought about it, I felt nearly priviledged when I looked at my recent impulse buy of The Sims 3. Not just that I could spend the money for the game without thinking, but also that I have an internet connection which allowed me to download those 5.6 GB in two hours, and a computer on which the game runs very smoothly.
I'm an impulsive spender on computer games. Which means that much of my spending isn't very wise, and some of it is even wasted. I buy games some of which I end up playing them very little. I wasted 100 bucks on Free Realms trading cards, and never used them much. My life-time subscription for LotRO was used only for a few months. And I'm planning to blow 100 bucks on Luminary once the item mall for that one opens, mostly for items of convenience like unlimited teleports and bigger inventory, but also to explore what works and doesn't work in the microtransaction business model.
Hey, you there, I can hear you groaning in the back! The internet, and especially the games community there, is one of the few places left where conspicuous consumption isn't welcome. That has to do with its demographics, which is still mostly in the teenage and young adult age bracket. 100 dollars or euros is a lot of money if you are at college and live of an allowance from your parents and flipping burgers. But the average age of the gamer is going up, and so is his average disposable income. Being called a nerd went from an insult to a mark of pride, and part of that is the realization that being a nerd has a lot of earning potential. At least if you manage to leverage your interest in technical stuff into a degree in science or engineering, instead of becoming the proverbial guy who plays WoW all day long in his mother's basement.
So, having earned that money myself, I'm not ashamed to spend it freely on games. When I observe what other men my age spend their money on, for example my neighbors, I must also say that gaming is comparatively cheap. For what a BMW or a big SUV costs, you can buy a *lot* of games, including the machines they run on. When I spend money on things like microtransactions, or I insist on actually paying for all the games I want to play, instead of just downloading them "for free" from Bittorrent, I often end up getting negative comments from those determined to get the maximum gaming experience at the minimum cost. But of course in the end it is me who subsidizes them: Game companies simply wouldn't make any games if nobody was paying. If I point towards trends where by design (and not by piracy) some players pay more and get more out of a game, that isn't necessarily bad news for those with less money. Because the other side of the coin is the opportunity to legally play high-quality games for free. And if somebody absolutely wants those advantages one has to pay for, well, maybe he should think about leaving his mother's basement. Sorry for sounding like Gevlon there, and unlike him I am *for* welfare. But I don't think that those who receive the welfare should spit on those who work hard to pay for it.