Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blips: Free 2 Disagree

Source: Game Design: The Medium is the Message
Author: Jonathan Blow
Site: Creative Mornings

This video is a few weeks old, but worth checking out if you missed it the first time around. Game designer Jonathan Blow (Braid, The Witness) breaks down why free-to-play games are a regressive movement away from the medium as one of artistic expression. For the most part, I'm on board here. The convincing analogy Blow sets up is one with hour-long TV dramas in the 70s and 80s. These shows were formed around the commercial breaks and the promise of syndication. Acknowledging that every medium has creative constraints that need to be worked within, these old TV shows felt much more constrained than modern hour-long dramas on cable networks. There are games that do F2P in an ethical way, but regardless, it changes the form that the game takes and the relationship between developer and player.

I'm about to start playing Gran Turismo 6, and have just learned that it contains microtranactions for cars. This has shifted my desire to play the game as one of excitement, to one of "I hope it isn't gross." From what I've seen of Forza this year, I'm not super confident. And that's a real shame. I haven't played a Gran Turismo game since 3, back when I was in high school, and have been greatly anticipated jumping back in with GT6 ever since it was announced for PS3. Having played DiRT 3 earlier this year, I've seen how commercial intrusion can put a damper on what otherwise feels like a pretty fantastic experience. In DiRT 3, you could not earn gold medals on certain events without purchasing additional courses and races. The extra gameplay isn't "extra" when it interferes with what I've already paid for; it creates an artificial gate (made worse by being in a game that costs $60 upfront). I've got my fingers crossed that GT6's microtransactions are truly extra features that will only appeal to people who care way more about cars than I do.

I just hate playing games that feel like the real challenge isn't the puzzles or the enemies, but in figuring out how to get the most satisfaction for the least amount of money. Unfortunately, this is the mentality that F2P perpetuates, and it's very popular.

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