here video!

Hey! Some of us gamers just care about the game we play (Cyberpunk) and not about the drama behind the community. I’m not that guy!

If you’ve been following the community for a while, you know there’s this debate about microtransactions. Most due to the fact that game companies cripple their game only to sell us back the features they took. Some even paywalled the game so you couldn’t finish it. What a dystopian world! And don’t get me started on artificial scarcity. I’ve been playing Genshin for 2 years don’t even get me started bro. And then among all these hellish acts, there are games that just sell cosmetics… And they’re popular, even. Games that I’m sure most of us have played, yes even mobile gamers. Apex is on mobile. I haven’t played it, I don’t want to, but I’m just gonna go under the impression, that it works the same as the PC port.

So I would think, “hey this one’s not as bad as the othe-” WRONG! Haha, that’s whatchu wanna say right? Well, I don’t know why it’s wrong. It’s cosmetics. It doesn’t change the game intrinsically. Just don’t buy it. Not like it changes the mechanics.

But I’m not here to argue AGAINST it. I’m here to understand WHY the backlash. This means I’m going to have to understand the argument coming from the opposite side. So I looked for them, the ones that are a solid argument, those coming from YouTubers. I chose YouTube videos because most well-known ones are built as a solid pack. And I’m too lazy to read.

WhatCulture Gaming, in their video titled, “The Sickening Truth Behind Cosmetic Microtransactions,” talks about the predatory nature of microtransactions. He talks that the skins and cosmetics make way for personal satisfaction and emotional investment for players. He argues that, by artificially giving these items digital rarity, it makes an item with no tangible value somewhat of significant psychological importance.  

Well, just don’t think about it(?). I don’t really care about someone else’s or my own in-game skin. If you really don’t think about the cosmetics and just the game, his argument falls short.

Now, I’m not going to act like “I’m right and your just too stupid to understand.” Because! My argument flips back on his head when he talks about the target of these exploits, which isn’t people like me. I’m pretty sure most of you also are just like me, we only care about the game. But for the small portion of players, those who have an addiction problem or kids with their own circle, these are the targets of such exploits.

This makes the whole thing a lot sketchier because you can’t just tell them to “just don’t care about the skins.” For the addicted, it’s not as easy to just tell them to stop, as they can’t. For kids, there are some circles where skins and cosmetics are treated with high social status. They can get bullied for using a default skin, which is a problem in itself.

But then, I think the problem with this isn’t with the publisher’s decision to monetize the game through microtransaction, the problem is with the subjects themself, or even deeper. The publishers are only indirectly providing a place for those to happen (which sounds as bad, but bear with me).

They don’t make the addicted nor do they make bullies themselves. It’s not like they have a bully factory or inject people with addiction. They just milk what’s already there from the beginning. Because, if we banish all games with such microtransactions to the shadow realm, it’s not like addiction or bullying will just go. They just use another agent for their practices.

Now, going back to the company itself, yes this is such a heinous act to allow such a thing to happen. I’m not saying that the company should continue this act. But I think there’s a larger problem here.

The addicted needs help, more than anything. And it can’t be solved just by removing microtransactions. As for the kids, practically the same. You can’t just remove bullies by removing microtransactions. Though, I get where the argument is coming from. It’s like allowing murder to happen by providing a murder weapon and situation.

So, what can we do about this? Help the addicted and get kids a better environment. Unrealistic? Yes. But we’d be removing the problem from the root and preventing it from happening elsewhere. So we might as well start aiming at the right target from now. 

Late Night Gaming, with his incredibly gallant title of a video, “Why ‘ITS JUST COSMETIC’ is a weak argument to me,” actually brings up a fascinating argument instead. I expected that he’d tackle the same old same old problem of “company exploiting people” or “psychology manipulation,” then lambast the people on the other side of the argument by derogating them, calling them “mindless drone slaves of the corporate overlord.”

But no. He tackled the problem that most didn’t seem to talk about, the game itself. I’d recommend checking him out, but to surmise, games are an immersive experience. He talks about how a game’s delicate art direction is easily ditched when a game decides to use the non-aggressive cosmetic microtransaction, like how a warfare game with a dark tone will allow the player to have a pink gun. 

He argues that this takes the atmosphere, the immersion out of the game. An argument that I wholeheartedly agree with. I like to see games deeper than just a playing field. I like to see games as an art form, so yes, I agree with him. Then… what if we still have cosmetics that are still in touch with their art direction? Allowing cosmetics to exist still, yet revolves around the game’s inherent themes?

Lastly, Critical Nobody with his video, “Cosmetics Matter! | Stop Pretending They Don’t” says “You’re free to be neutral towards cosmetics, but you need to stop saying they don’t matter,” which sounds… contradictory… since the neutral party will eventually fall into the defending party since our argument is always: “dude, it’s just cosmetics. Chill out.” Anyway, he argues that games benefit more if skins and cosmetics were tied more to the gameplay itself than the microtransaction. This is proven by old games where games shipped complete, and thus the cosmetics were part of the game itself, not an addition. These cosmetics are a prize for playing the game, thus a show of skill and achievement. This brings the argument back into the game itself because it promotes players to play more.

Again, I think this is a very good argument. I don’t even think I can dispute this argument like the last one. Cosmetics as a reward for achieving something in the game is definitely something that boosts the game’s overall design. It supports the player, instead of spending money, to actually playing the game. A lot of games seem to forget that games have to make players play the game first (wow, shocker!) before doing any transaction. This is why I can’t play MMORPG. I just started and am already bombarded with banners of events, a new store, or… the other store. Maybe FFXIV is better, idk.

He also added that most of the counter-argument used is the fact that the revenue from these practices will help return to develop the game. He provides proof that such an argument is in fact untrue. The publishers initiated the practice, thus the publishers are the ones benefiting from it. Not the developers. Only some indie self-published games benefit from such.

All these arguments I’ve collected helped me to understand why there’s so much of a backlash around the net. And I’m willing to bet I wouldn’t find these answers if I went to Reddit or Twitter, but I digress. 2 out of 3 times the argument I’ve collected for this piece actually resonates with me. Or maybe it’s just that they are such a good talker, iunno. And it’s not like the practice itself is inherently bad. It’s just that most company uses it so much in a way that is so egregious and greedy. One example that does this right has been provided by Critical Nobody in his video: Warframe, a game that is still going strong and has a ton of cosmetics microtransactions. 

Warframe makes sure the cosmetics it’s selling still abide by the art direction it’s going AND because some of the cosmetics can only be obtained via gameplay, it still enforces the player to game. There’s a reason why the endgame of warframe is memed as “fashion frame” by the community.

It all boils down to the company itself. Some companies got this right, others forced it to be right. So, at least, next time we got a game with “cosmetic only” microtransactions, I know what to look for.

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