This September I ended a 3 year hiatus from video games when I purchased a new Xbox One. Since booting up, however, I’ve been mostly…annoyed with the new games I have played: Destiny 2, and Rise of The Tomb Raider. In both games I feel leveling-up and in-game rewards such as “loot boxes” are over-emphasized. Now it seems like experience points matter more than the actual gaming experience.
Game Developer, EA’s stock recently fell three billion dollars, following the disastrous release of its latest game, Star Wars Battlefront 2. Last week a hornet’s nest of pissed off gamers took to social media, accusing the company of designing a “Pay-to-win” game. The game’s level-up system appears to be the tool by which the company is exploiting its customers. Gamers have noticed that players who pay extra real life dollars can level up their characters much faster, giving them a significant advantage in the multiplayer arena. Furthermore, classic Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader require 40+ hours of gameplay before players acquire enough XP to unlock them. With its evasive response to fans’ latter complaint, EA became the new owner of the most down-voted comment in the history of Reddit – the popular social community website.
Call of Duty: Raising Grunts Instead of Generals
When and where did the XP epidemic begin? I trace the virus at least as far back as the popular multiplayer shooter franchises, Halo and Call of Duty. Released in 2008, COD World at War was the first video game I played in which I noticed that I was not actually deriving pleasure from the game itself, so much as from unlocking new weapons and perks as I leveled up within the game. “What is this sorcery!?” Forget the mission. “If I level up 5 more times,” I noticed, “I’ll unlock my favorite assault rifle! Then, if I can get 50 headshots with it, I’ll unlock my favorite paint-job!
What happens when I reach the top rank and unlock everything? I “prestige” and repeat the Sisyphean task all over again. How many real-life hours and dopamine receptors this all costed was never a thought that crossed my mind. I would just play, mindlessly. And the pursuit brought me far more anger than joy, which is why I quit playing eventually.
Ironically, I am a believer in the getting there, or road, so to speak. On the surface, CoD appears to honor the road, not simply the destination. Getting attention deficient millennials like myself to marvel at the beauty of something so trivial as a gun’s paint job would seem to be an achievement worthy of the highest praises among road warriors and travelers. The problem with CoD, is that its not really the paint job we admire; it’s the fact that we unlocked it. It’s pride. Players value their weapon’s paint job when it serves as a symbol of their accomplishment and/or superiority. The pleasure comes not from the game, but from the player’s own self-aggrandizement.
Video games get a bad rap for providing meager of any intellectual enrichment. “They’ll turn our kids into zombies!” The parents are supposed to say. However, I see so much educational opportunity in video games, which for whatever reason isn’t coming to fruition. If, for example, instead of better guns and paint jobs, what if leveling up in COD meant added responsibilities on the battlefield and/or perhaps the opportunity to receive tactical advice from real-life generals? Players could use such wisdom to not only better their performance at the game, but solve real-life problems as well by extrapolating the knowledge of the game.
Education at the very least provides fodder for conversation. How much can you say about unlocking a new virtual weapon? “Hey I unlocked the AK-47… it’s pretty sweet.” Good talk -_-
Is it just me or are game developers going a little overboard with the XP?