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No Shame in Paying to Game

Beau H Posted:
Columns A Casual, Cornered 0

I’m not the type of person who says stuff like “these kids have no concept of value” because I know that sweeping general statements are often devalued by the particulars. Sure, some kids have no concept of value but some kids do not, in other words. But, I also know that sweeping statements are a useful literary tool when making a point. In last week’s Not So MMO I seemed to be saying that all fans or players of MOBAs or esports participants act like hooligans but we all know that many are perfectly adjusted individuals. Luckily, my main point was about how esports destroys gaming innovation, not about player behavior.

Having said all of that, however, I would like to say that I do believe that there is a particular group of privileged young people who do not have any idea of value or any grasp on just how lucky they are to be gaming fans these days. Gaming has never been cheaper, of higher quality, and more accessible. It still needs to go much farther in some areas, of course, but it’s much better than it was 10 years ago.

These youngin’s seems to think that everything in gaming is or should be free. It only takes a few minutes of perusing the comments section on gaming articles, app stores or Steam reviews to see what I mean; kids are upset when a creator asks them to pay.

These kids will grow up to think that cable TV should be free, that music should be completely free, that all games should be free and books should be free because, well, it is in some cases already. Why not all cases?

Fellow blogger Jessica Cook wrote a nice post about how she plans to publicly report her cash-shop purchases in an attempt to “keep me honest and possibly shame me away from my more ridiculous purchases,” Read the post here. She goes on to say that she has spent a total of 32 bucks this year so far.

I do not believe that Jessica is someone who seriously thinks it’s shameful to spend 32 dollars on virtual purchases, but her comments do point to an underlying guilt that many players still feel – or say they feel – about purchasing virtual items. I was on the Game On podcast recently and Ryan, the panel’s resident hardcore min-maxer, begrudgingly admitted to purchasing World of Warcraft’s “sparkle pony” as though he had just admitted to being caught in a “gentlemen’s club” at 2:00 p.m. because he “liked the chicken fingers.” (For the record, he was not caught in a gentlemen’s club. I just wanted to illustrate something that would be very, very, very embarrassing to admit to doing.)

I don’t want to rehash the same arguments about free-to-play that I have had since 2007, but it’s safe to say that even though most MMOs and many other games are now free at some level, players still feel a strange need to apologize for supporting gaming. I have worked in community as well, and the same attitude seems to apply to players who feel that developers are somehow the enemy or, at least, not to be trusted.

In the end of the day, I call BS on any gamer who seems sad or upset or mildly ashamed that they purchased some cool horse or pet or housing item. Deep down, that gamer knows most of us do it and most gamers know that no one else cares about what they purchased. They wanted the thing, so they bought it. There was no shame involved, and any reported shame comes only from a need to appear shameful.

I’m also calling BS on gamers who scream about selling power. Those players know the main reason they hate the idea of anyone being able to buy something powerful in game is because they might not be able to afford it themselves. If the item was free, they’d all happily accept it even if it was the only item in the game and they’d all happily kill the other players with it.

These discussions about shameful purchases and developer suspicion always come down to the same basic concepts:

1) We, as gamers, are somehow not supposed to be carried away on such frilly things. We are supposed to build up our worth through hard work alone. Through skill. Through split-second, perfect-timing reflexes and hardcore, database knowledge of game systems.

2) The developers of our games are supposed to need us more than we need them. They should feel lucky to have players show up at all.

Again, I call BS.

Gaming is often a wonderful escape for many people. It can be a distraction from a horrible day or, in many cases, a needed and necessary tool that helps combat stress or low self-esteem. Gaming is wonderful and powerful and deep.

But that does not mean that gaming is to be treated so seriously. Some players, if asked, would literally consider themselves conservative gamers. They think gaming should go back to the time when “things were better” meaning the time when basement-dwelling was a thing, and gaming really was a hobby enjoyed by a few. Somehow, purchasing fluff or showing true love for a title through one’s pocketbook is not on the menu for a serious gamer, or at least that is the only explanation I can come up with when confronted with “gamer’s guilt”.

Here’s how I see it: When you announce that you are a gamer, it should reflect your open and curious personality. It should show others that you like to explore, to use your brain (yes, sometimes in hardcore fashion) and to laugh. It should also show that you are thrifty and have been smart enough to participate in a hobby that is often dirt cheap or free.

There’s no shame in that.


Beau H

Beau is a writer, artist, PR/CM, game designer and pro moderator, and he's been blogging since 2002. He lives it up in Austin, Texas with his community manager wife. He's also the author of Anna the Powerful, a sci-fi book about the world's only superhero. Buy it here: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/anna-the-powerful