So the last episode of Extra Credits I saw was really thought-provoking, like R.O.T.O.R. So let’s look at some of these dark issues, like R.O.T.O.R.(Rotor)
Given the title “Humane Design: Games Must be Good to their Players” I think it lays out some really important ideas. Recently I have been thinking a bit on this, how games are trying to be services now. How games are moving towards more inclusive character options, but still not nearly as inclusive as a standard D&D game. And how gamers end up being the odd-person-out as for the most part people making games don’t seem to worry what we think.
Battlefield: Hardline is a fun game. It’s got interesting game modes, different classes and weapons and vehicles to diversify gameplay, but at the same time it’s $60 game is just there to get you to pay more money for maps and modes and guns. It’s clear EA wants to move into that annualized money tree space Activision and Ubisoft have built up, whether it makes any sense for Battlefield or not. So we get a Battlefield game not made by DICE
But I look at the game and don’t really know what they’re trying to do. They still have Premium from BF4, which was DICE’s answer to Call of Duty’s Elite-a failed attempt to get more money from the CoD fanbase. Oh and Battlelog. And if you play on PC you get to use Origin to launch the game. I think, I wouldn’t know. Anyways as a whole this game is an attempt to grab the CoD crowd in some ways; it’s still Battlefield but paced just slightly differently.
While the game is in fact not a bad game, I mean the multiplayer I have no idea why they forced another forgettable campaign down everyone’s throat, it never really feels like it’s pushing the boundaries either. It’s fun, but it’s not so fun and well designed that I’m going to pay more money for more maps.
But that’s why they have Premium, a sort of “season pass” for players to get all the DLC, and a few little things here and there. You know, buy the game and before you know if you like it or not buy a years worth of DLC. There’s no way that could leave you pissed. The point being that they had a chance to spin off the series into another game, maybe a totally different model that worked in favor of the player. They didn’t, they stuck to the system that feels more despicable by the day.
I see Hardline, and I can’t help but think of League of Legends or really any game that seems to actually have some respect for their fans and community. In general it feels like the business practices of games have moved into this territory that just leaves players in a perfect place to feel burned. From poor drops in Destiny to Mortal Kombat X and it’s amazing “buy Gorro DLC” start menu it feels like the people who are making games and selling them have no sense of ethical game design.
Players don’t get treated as people so much as cash boxes that if they hurt enough will drop even more money.
So what would humane game design look like? Basically if you wouldn’t recommend the game to someone with a family it isn’t humane. Can they not leave to take care of a baby? Will it eventually try to make them choose between taking their family out to a movie or purchasing DLC? Is it going to be full of terrible characters that leave you having explanatory conversations with your kids?
Basically games can be very manipulative, that’s how they work, but when they start treating players like idiots in this process a line is crossed. We’ve all sat back and accepted it, and then Gamergate happened. Some people felt energized, but instead of really doing anything that could change the big problem they argued. I’m pulling the curtain back here: there’s something dark at the center of gaming and it’s not going to change if we don’t talk about it. They fire a studio whether the game reaches the right numbers or not, they have spent more money to give us less options in the long run, and while people argue about the state of game journalism the essential problem doesn’t change.
Think for yourself, what does ethical game design look like. Likely games don’t fit in a binary from super-ethical to despicable. They probably have several elements that land at different points. But try to think about what you think is ethical. Then imagine your favorite game series crossing the line. What do you do?