Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 05, 2015
Joe Nobody

j3w3l claims that Free2Play games are financed by "Joe “I am stuck at the laundromat because the parents cut me off” Nobody is bored enough not to wait another five fucking minutes, so he spends a dollar anyway. It can’t hurt, he thinks before racking up enough credit card debt to make his student loans look thin in comparison. Fuck you Joe Nobody, you just subsidized an evil, manipulative, and horrible monetization model." leading to a future where "every MMO will just be a store where you spend globs of cash just to show off how cool your avatar can dress while your house rots, your husband leaves you, and the kids get tired of pizza for dinner every fucking night and move in with grandma who smells".

I see two major problems with that assertion. First of all I don't think that Joe Nobody actually contributes much to the profit of Free2Play games companies. Journalist looking into "whales" have more frequently found examples of bored businessmen with an income in the six figures. Somebody who has more than enough money is more likely to spend it on something not terribly useful than somebody who has very little of it. Research also suggests that the typical Free2Play whale is over 30, and is not an impulsive spender, but a long-time fan of the game.

The second major problem I see is that if Joe Nobody played let's say World of Warcraft, he would still be extremely likely to arrive at the situation where "your house rots, your spouse leaves you, and the kids get tired of pizza for dinner every fucking night and move in with grandma who smells". If you have an addictive personality disorder and no self-control, a game where you advance by spending too much time in it is as unhealthy as a game where you advance by spending too much money.

In the end the attempt to paint Free2Play players as Joe Nobody's is exactly the same as pretending that hardcore gamers are unemployed losers who moved back in with their mother and play in the basement all day. What makes both of these assertions so unlikely is that games have become mainstream, with Free2Play games like Hearthstone having 75 million players, and that results in the players being a lot closer to national demographics than to some select niche group of losers or addicts.

I think it's like you implied, that j3w3l is simply perpetuating the stereotype of some gamers to confirm his own biases.

I know of people who have issues with their spouses because they spend too much time on sports or hanging out with their buds at the bars. Same addictive problems, just manifesting in a different way. It's just that society seems to give a "thumbs up" to the sports/bar issues but not the less popular "gamer" ones.
I'm a F2P whale - I adore mechwarrior online, and have spent far too much money on it.

So who am I? Turning 40 in June, gainfully employed as an IT professional for one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, enroute to a CISSP certification, my family's chef, father of two, and guy who spends too much money on video games.

I find the anger against F2P astounding - people always want something for nothing, that's true, but this takes it to a new level. Using MWO as an example: Piranha Studios has perhaps fifty people working for them, mostly dedicated to this game. The only way this game gets built is whales like me being willing to pay for it, and yet we're the problem?

If you would rather have a AAA studio money model, where everyone pays the same price for the same, safe game every year? By all means, we can do that - but if you want something different, something like Elite:Dangerous, Star Citizen, MWO, Hawken, Space Engineers, Kerbal... you've got to pay for it somehow.

F2P makes sense. Let everyone enjoy the game in their own way, and, if you're not willing to pay your way? Don't rail against those of us who are.
Good luck on that CISSP cert, Standing Dragon, and hopefully you don't work for Anthem. I would not want to be in IT Security for them today.
I think it depends on the pricing model. It seems j3w3l's description is more fitting for the Zynga model, which is designed for an extremely small percentage to pay anything, but for those "whales" to spend hundreds.

By contrast, the League of Legends pricing structure is catered to getting a lot more players to pay a smaller amount. Most skins are just a few dollars. Fewer than 20 cost more than $10, the two most expensive costing about $20. The concept of a "whale" doesn't really work in League of Legends. Even if you bought every champion and every skin on release, it still wouldn't be more than $30 a month or so.
The Standing Dragon--- the anger is due to F2P intruding on the fantasy world. Instead of the game being a place where people can go to be elite and successful even when they're not, it's back to the way it is in the rest of the world. People with money have nicer shit, people who are broke struggle.

Since for many MMO gamers the whole point is to escape their problems in the real world, the intrusion of economic realities into the game threatens the entire point to them. Video games aren't about entertainment, not really, not for most hardcore players. If it were you wouldn't see half the ludicrous behavior that is out there. The games are part of their identity, and when that identity is threatened, they freak out. Cf. Gamer gate, disdain for casuals, hyperbolic hatred of F2P, etc.

As far as j3w3l's model goes, games designed to play on people's addictive tendencies through supernormal stimulus are ethically challenging, but that describes all MMOs, regardless of the payment method. Personally I'd rather spend too much on a game than spend too much time. Sub mmos want to suck as much life from you as possible. If people put 1/5 of the time they spend on WoW on going to the gym or any productive activity, it would lead to huge improvements in their lives, but WoW is designed to suck time.

I mean, dailies? How cheap and manipulative do you have to be to come up with that?

I so agree with 81's last two paragraphs.
I would suggest that someone spending an extra 2-3 hours a day playing an addictive game is harmed less than someone spending an extra $20-30 a day. Whether you make $20k a year or $200k, we're all far more time rich than money rich. I believe microtransactions cause more harm to addictive personalities than games with excessive grinding potential.
I would suggest that someone spending an extra 2-3 hours a day playing an addictive game is harmed less than someone spending an extra $20-30 a day. Whether you make $20k a year or $200k, we're all far more time rich than money rich.

The problem with that argument is that it doesn't scale. Somebody spending 20 hours a day playing a game is obviously harmed much more than somebody spending an extra $200 a day. Our time per day is limited for everybody, while money for some people isn't.

Imagine making a survey at your local university, asking every student for their grades, and for how much time they spend studying and how much time they spend with leisure activities like video games. I think there would be a pretty strong correlation, with people spending the most time playing video games (or other leisure activities) having the least good grades.
That extra two hours a day adds up to sixty hours a month. That's almost two work weeks of game playing.

To put it another way, if we valued his time at $10 an hour, that's $600 bucks of time every month.

If he spent that time studying, studying, working out, learning the guitar, reading books, or any number of other things, he'd be better off.

Both types of MMO play on addictive behavior one way or the other, and some people can't handle it. But I can't say that someone who ends up filing bankruptcy over their MMO habit is really all that worse off than someone who has had entire years of their life wasted grinding for raid gear.

In a contest between the two types, neither comes out ethically clean. If you want to torch the whole genre as unethical and destructive, I'm with you. But I don't agree that one type is less skeezy than the other. At least with F2P you get a credit card bill to give you an objective indication you've gone overboard, while the other will just let you wither slowly away.

No, we aren't all more time rich than money rich.

$900 to Bill Gates is worth about three minutes of his time. 60 hours is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I can tell you that if I had to choose between dropping $900 a month on a game or spending 60-90 hours extra (which implies that I'm spending 60-90 hours a month anyway), I'd be better off spending the money. I'd have more money and time at the end of the month than if I just spent time.

Of course I'd be better off not to do either, which is certainly an option.
Since we are speaking of unhealthy behavior I can say that if you are prone to video-game addiction than I consider both things equally-worse. Given usually persons tend to have a specific amount of "free" money they can spend on "unuseful" stuff as they see fit. The problem lies when people are so addictive that they spend money that is not free and should be used for important/basic expenses like food/health/rent/mortgage.
But the same is true for time spent on leisure activities. Every person also has a mount of free time he can spend on activities like gaming. If someone has 5 hours of free time each day and he usually plays 2 hours per day and then decides to throw in the extra 2-3 hours of gaming per day maxing out his free time there will not be a problem.
But this is not what happens the time will similar to the money example come out of the time that is not for free expenditure and is reserved for things like work/sleep/your kids/spouse if you start also using this time in addition to your free time - you will pretty soon see severe consequences in your life work might suffer, constantly neglecting sleep will result in health problems with increased rate of infection and depression, problems in your relationship etc.

Way back before WOW in a game called the D4O/Die vierte Offenbarung (german hosted version of "the 4th Coming") I had the problem with spending to much time which almost cost me my apprenticeship (luckily some Guild-Drama caused me to stop playing and saved me).
And a few years later in WOW it happened a second time even that I knew about the possible dangers - this time playing one part (not the only one) that cost me my marriage.

I can say that I'm far more money rich than time rich - and that I can easily handle spending a few hundred bucks/month on gaming but usually don't even have more than 1-2 hours of free time per evening for all my leisure activities.
I admit it, my argument doesn't scale. But I'm not really worried about whether multimillionaires might be spending too much money on video game hats and sparkle ponies.

I worry for a more reasonable person, like a young professional just out of college, to people in their mid 30's/40's in a moderately well paying but not excessively so career.

If a friend were to tell me that they were up all night watching a marathon of a tv show they liked, I'd just smile indulgently and tease them for wasting time having fun. If instead they said they spend a couple hundred dollars so they could sample every flavor of ice cream or have really really good whiskey instead of regular stuff, well then I'd be a lot more concerned.

Perhaps it's simply my own bias, but I'm more concerned about profligate spending ahead of poor use of time.
@Michael - with regards to your "profligate spending" / "poor use of time" thoughts.. do you think there could be an element of:

* A one-off binge of poor use of time (like the all nighter TV marathon example) is hardly likely to be harmful
* But even a one-off binge of spending can have serious consequences (e.g. racking up a credit card debt in one big binge that takes many months to pay off)

If you compare long term regular time wastage to long term regular unnecessary spending, do they look more equal?
The problem is that your argument is also not really balanced in terms of itself.

I was a World of Tanks whale for a while, and I was dropping $100 a month. That's with me buying everything I wanted when I wanted it. I don't know what game would even need $300 a month to play Maybe if you used gold ammo for public matches and played 18 hours a day. It's theoretically possible I guess, but there's only so much they can really get away with.

So you're using a amount of money that would be very difficult to actually spend vs an amount of time that most MMO players would think makes you casual (60 hours a week adding up to 15 hours a week, well below the "casual" threshold). This is a genre where people who have "gone casual" ( and spend 54 HOURS A WEEK on the game.

There's no a few hundred dollars of cash compares to spending 216 hours a month on the game. I mean, the effect on your health alone.

Time drain is far more dangerous than money drain, because it means you make less money now and will make less money in the future due to lowered income potential.

Money is money. You can hit the lottery and get back all the money lost. You can never get the time back, and in fact MMOs probably speed up your death due to the health consequences of sitting on your ass for 160 hours a month.


If he spent that time studying, studying, working out, learning the guitar, reading books, or any number of other things, he'd be better off.

The average American spends 2.8 hours a day watching TV. That doesn't count videogames, which is in addition. I'd say games are much more useful in every capacity than watching TV.

I'd have more money and time at the end of the month than if I just spent time.

Are you saying that would be working overtime instead of enjoying leisure time?

This is why the whole "you're grinding for less than minimum wage" arguments never make much sense to me. I'd be at home gaming no matter how much money I spent skipping parts of the game, so it's not "saving" me anything. Chances are my interest will wane on the same timeline regardless. If I have to pay to enhance the experience, I may as well use the money on a game that's fun out of the box.
Oh wow Tobold - your comment section actual went from topics like payment model issues and social stigma to gaming addiction and erm our old friend, the "games are wasteful activities" strawman. I suggest to move on quickly before someone starts talking about last wishes on your deathbed and how they don't include more game time.

Bloody hell. All the things payment models are responsible for! ;)
Nobody has with a job has 160 hours of free time a month unless they're employed.

Work: There's 720 hours in a mont. You sleep for 216 hours or so, work for 160. Chores, social life, eating, driving, mowing the lawn all take a huge chunk of the month. That is cutting into something, guaranteed. I could spend relatively little of that time working to earn $900. The loss of quality in my work to make time for the game would be considerable, leading to less money in the end.

The TV comparison always gets made. First of all, it depends on what TV, second that's about half of what a 40 hour a week player spends on MMOs, third I never said spending 80 hours on TV was good thing. MMOs aren't as bad as shooting heroin into your balls, that doesn't make it good.

And syl, I am not saying video games are wasteful. IF you are having fun and not hurting yourself, it's a fine way to spend time. There is a HUGE amount of space between "video games are wasteful" and "video games for 160 hours a month is wasteful." Not to mention that people aren't actually having fun playing the game--- MMOs are the only genre where people pay other people not to play the game for him, and where they would skip playing as much of the game as they can.

It's not even a fun waste of time.

unless they are unemployed
I wish there was an edit button.
I think it's less about other things you could be spending your time or money on, and more about the difference in the mechanics of how time and money are spent.

You can (and should) save money. You cannot save time. A day from now I'll have spent 24 hours, no matter what I do. I can't put the hours into a box somewhere to pull out when I have a better use for them. I have to spend my hours each day, I'm required to spend them. Might as well spend them having fun, right?

But money is different. There's a threshold where you have to spend money to survive, food and shelter and such. But beyond that, money is just for extravagance and enjoyment, and it is utterly fungible.

When I choose to spend an hour having fun, I'm choosing that hour of fun ahead of whatever else I can be doing in that hour. When I choose to spend $50 on something, I'm not just choosing that thing ahead of any current alternatives, but ahead of all possible future alternatives. It's a larger choice.

I don't have any troubles with f2p or microtransactions or whatever, because I'm moderately wealthy and I like having nice things. I buy stuff in games instead of spending time grinding for it. But I view that as an extravagance, a luxury I grant myself, not as an even exchange of money for time, based on what I have more of.
I think one of the big reasons many gamers deride P2W or P2P games is that it feels like it cheapens their gaming accomplishments. A lot of that could probably be alleviated with raising the price significantly. Look at the derision that guy earned who bought the first Rogue that had two of those orange daggers or swords way back when. He paid $10,000 reportedly, which even for something so rare was an extraordinary price. Compare that to Blizzard selling a max or near max level exp bump for $20. Now I realize that leveling is faster than ever in WoW but I think it illustrates my point. Of course if F2P games went that route and charged way more money for their items you of course would end up with only whales being able to buy that power, so it's not like it'd fix anything.

The last F2P game that really annoyed me into quiting was some russian thing with floating islands that I can't recall the name of anymore. Anyways the game was pretty solid and lots of fun until you got to the point that death left you with a massive debuff that could only be removed through a very long timer, 15 minutes or more if I remember correctly, or paying for an item from the cash shop. The game was meant to have a PvP endgame, and death wasn't uncommon at all once you started leveling up. Still nothing would have been wrong except that if you played semi-regularly the price for that item alone would push you past $20 a month and if you played everyday you'd likely be paying $50 or more.

The one game I've played that I thought did F2P with P2W/P2P right was the Ultima themed Evonly clone. There was lots you could foolishly spend money on and a few things that were well worth the money. The things you needed to be competitive cost $7 a month, which was half the price of most MMO's. Given that it was a much more interesting and challenging game I was happy to spend that much on it for something like 8 months I think until I finally burned out after being a major player in a server win.
I don't know what game would even need $300 a month to play

There are some games which allow you to spend endless amounts of money for endless power in an PvP environment, for example Clash of Clans. You don't "need" to spend a lot of money in Clash of Clans (when I tried it, I played for free), but you *can*. The people who do basically got caught up in the competition, their pride doesn't allow them to lose, so they have to spend tons of money to force a win. The same thing pretty much happens at every single auction and is known as the winner's curse.
Well, F2P can certainly get shady, no doubt about it, and it's also beyond doubt that some people can't handle it.

But if we look at the most extreme cases in determining moral worth, somebody going bankrupt over a game is, to my mind, at most equivalent to a 30 year old living in their parents basement spending three or four hundred hours a month on a game. A fairly simple legal procedure can clear out the debt (at least in the US), whereas the guy in the basement will have life long problems from the 5 years he spent in the basement raiding.

They are both bankrupt in different ways.
I've been a Whale for a few games...D&D Online notably, where I determined back in the early days of its f2P model that I could get all the purchasable content I wanted for the same price as a ten month subscription...and then stuck with it for three years. Most recently it's Marvel Heroes 2015, which I spent about $120 on after a couple days' play, realizing I'd enjoy that content for the rest of the year. But despite loving Rift I didn't stick around long after it went F2P...the game just didn't inspire with its purchase options, and by the time it moved to the freemium model I'd already gotten what I wanted out of it. Now TESO is preparing to go that direction, and I'm not sure I've gotten all I want out of that game yet, so maybe they will get some money out of me after all....we'll see.

But yeah: I'm a Whale for what I like, a business professional in an industry that's not going anywhere anytime soon (medical insurance administration, a booming business in the US these days) and no one in my family is starving or unappreciated.

That said: when I met my wife many years ago she was almost destitute and her only free income included paying for internet and WoW. Without it she would have had nothing do do....but, here's the problem....she was definitely an addictive personality, and spent thousands of hours in that game. She's better now (because life is generally better) but there was a time when WoW was all that mattered to her. She was not a Whale, and it was time...too much of it spent in game...that was the killer, not money.

So...more evidence from the sampling of one! Or two, in this case.
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