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EA Games And The Ethics of The Computer Games Industry

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posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:13 AM
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I am an avid fan of computer games. Although I do not get the time I would like to spend in leisure, and although my resources are and have always been limited, its been a rare year in my life, where some computer game or other, did not find a way to enrich my experience of life in some manner.

I remember fondly being a child, and getting my hands on the Amiga 600 for the first time, with its impressive catalogue of games to choose from. The discerning gamer could have a whale of a time with that machine, and I certainly made the best of it, playing that machine well beyond the point where my more well to do contemporaries were upgrading to higher spec machines, dedicated gaming consoles, and the like. The games were engaging, colourful, and some of them were downright hilarious!

The next machine I got a hold of, was the N64, which was my personal machine, and my sister got a hold of a Sony Playstation. Suffice to say, the jump from the Amiga to the N64 was incomparable in the modern age. For those not alive at the time, or not gaming at the time, there is unlikely to be a time where any of you will experience the jarring difference between the immersion one experienced with the charming, but objectively flat looking games of the Amiga, and that available to even the least impressive titles on the N64. The advances as made in terms of visuals these days, while technically impressive, are small steps, compared with the leaps that were being made in those days.

But the cost of these machines and the games that they ran, necessarily increased in real terms, over time, something that pretty much everyone understood was inevitable, as the technology being offered was simply greater in terms of its potency, more complicated to construct, both in terms of the hardware, and indeed the software being run by it. Gamers understood, largely speaking, that the outlay involved with getting new gear to play on, and new games to play, was going to only head in one direction, a direction which would mean that for ones money, one would expect ever better player experiences, longer games, more nuanced, detailed, immersive experiences for the user, as well as games which simply looked better than what had come before.

And so things progressed, with the progression of gaming consoles and machines generally, ratcheting up the graphical quality, and the responsiveness of games over time. But one thing had, since the beginning of my journey in gaming at least, remained true. Once a game was purchased, one could expect to play the game until the machinery used to play it was beyond use, and never pay more than the box price to do so.

I have extremely fond memories, for example, of Star Wars: Battlefront II, on the Playstation 2. It was a stellar game, an absolute masterpiece of a game, which kept myself and my friends engrossed for a very long time indeed. Coming out in 2005, it had narrative, depth, entertaining maps for ground based warfare, vehicle combat and broad strategy combined to make an immersive player experience, space combat modes where dogfights, raiding of capital ships, and careful deployment of bomber type ships were key to success. Playing a certain troop class for a certain amount of time, scoring certain numbers of kills with certain weapons, would go toward unlocking new gear, and indeed making hero class characters available. Unlocking all the good stuff, took a player a damned long time, but was not unobtainable in the least, and the feeling of accomplishment, when one knew one could open up the game, and play any character one wanted, from the lowliest trooper, to the likes of the Fett Man, or Luke Skywalker, was intense. It was a journey to go on, and one felt when one had opened the game up fully, that ones freedom in game had been earned in battle, that ones tactical prowess and ones combat skills had been honed, forged in the fire of a thousand conflicts, over a large number of worlds and game modes. It was, in short, a fantastic game, and one which I look back on with a fondness eclipsing that with which I view any other game of its sort.

That game, although there were downloadable content packs, some of which cost money, could be played end to end without spending a single extra penny on it, and no one had the ability to access skills or powerups in game by spending money on the problem. ALL player advancement was earned by play, all of it. This meant that if one had the desire to play with others, one would never be at a disadvantage, because ones bank account was smaller, or ones common sense greater, than ones opponents. Only skill and time spent ever had the slightest effect on how well one might fare in a multiplayer environment. This aided immersion, because the more you battled, the better at the game you got, and the better the gear and characters one could access became. Nothing external to the game environment, effected your success rate in warfare.

Fast forward twelve years though, and things are not well in the Galactic Republic, or Empire (which ever faction you prefer).

Where the original Battlefront II was both beautifully arranged, visually impressive for its age, and fairly balanced to ensure that player skill was the only barrier to success, not to mention being a broad game with massive scope and replay value, Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017, has been making headlines for all the wrong, all the worst reasons.

This is a game with a short story mode, a limited number of theatres of battle, and although it looks impressive and has the sort of soundtrack you would expect from a Star Wars intellectual property (i.e. an epic one), does not offer nearly as much bang for your buck as the original SWBFII, from 2005 did. Whats worse, is that alongside not offering nearly as much for the relative cost of the initial outlay for the game, EA were trying up until a few days ago, to release the game with a lootbox, micro transaction linked progression system, whereby progression items in the game could be purchased, rather than earned. By purchasing "crystals" with real money, then using those crystals to purchase lootboxes, a person playing the game for a short time, could collect upgrades to their weapons, additional unit types, and even hero class characters, without having to put in the grind, which brings up an important point. Estimates derived from user experience in the testing phase for the full game, suggest that opening up the whole game, without spending a single further dime than the box price of the game, would take 4,528 hours. Thats 188 days, 15 hours and some change. Alternatively, one could purchase the estimated 3,111 loot boxes, necessary to collect the necessary star cards and materials required for a full unlock. This will cost approximately $2,100, or in English money, a still staggering £1,582.

Being a gamer, I know that time played is important, but thousands of hours on one game is an unhealthy amount to be playing ANYTHING. I have a save on a game called Just Cause 2, which I played to death. I did that game to death, to absolute death. I would play it every time I was at home and with nothing better to do. I sunk one hundred and fifty nine hours into it. I did the same with Fallout 3, took my time, ignored the fast travel mechanic until I was level twenty, walked everywhere, killed everything I could kill without damaging my karma level...

But SWBF2 has officially screwed the pooch here.




posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:14 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit

By putting all the key characters from the Star Wars franchise, behind frankly insane walls of either epic, inhuman grind, or alternatively asking people to simply pay an extortionate amount for access to better gear and characters, EA have shown that their intention in publishing games is not to create entertaining diversions for people, but instead, to publish games for the purpose of accessing the vast reserves of wealth, held by those referred to in gaming circles, as whales.

The same term is often used in Vegas, to describe those who are happy to walk into casinos with masses of cash, and leave with nothing or less than that, without sweating it in the least. This description does not correctly apply however, to most of the people who have played computer games over the years. Families save up for years in some circumstances, to by machines for family members who are avid in their appreciation for computer games, so that they can play current games, enjoy the experiences being offered them by games production houses.

This has been the way of things in the gaming world for many years, since its first “proper” blush, during the early 90s.

But EA and other companies offering lootbox and micro transaction based games to consumers, are not creating experiences that casual gamers, even fairly serious casual gamers, can ever aspire to connect with, as the outrageous example set by their Star Wars title fully demonstrates.

Its worth pointing out that this game will cost sixty to sixty five dollars at release (and I use that currency here, because most folk reading this are going to be from the United States). That’s not a small amount of money for a piece of entertainment software. For that amount of money, the gamer of not too long ago, used to expect that at the barest minimum, their financial contribution to the experience was over, and that what they got in return would be engaging, interesting, exciting and entertaining.

But if you purchase this game at its retail price on release, and refuse to pay another cent toward it after that, then EA have a nasty surprise for you, in the form of your own willpower. They know, because beta testing and studies besides have shown it, that once you play for a certain amount of time, getting really talented at the game perhaps, but getting no progression related benefit, there is a really high chance that you will shell out more money for an upgrade or two, and that if you do, you will almost certainly throw a bit more money at it later, to get a hold of those really tough hero characters. The tactics they are using here are nothing short of criminal, precisely the same as those tactics used by gambling houses to make their customers come back for more, deliberately constructing the environment in game in such a way as to induce the collapse of your willpower.

Star Wars is popular with adults, and has been since the release of the original trilogy of movies, back in the mists of time, when movies were good, when beer was cheap, when people looked both ways before crossing the road, not at their smartphones. But its also rabidly popular with children. Exposing children to this game, means exposing them to a company which is actively trying to damage or control the ability of users of its service, to use reason and willpower to prevent themselves doing things which are bad for them, waaaay before the child concerned can be expected to be mature enough or aware enough, to protect their minds from that sort of abuse.

In short, not only have EA screwed the pooch, but they may as well have gang banged the entire kennel at this point. They recently, in the last few days, turned off part of their micro transactional system, in an effort to mollify the user base. But they also indicated, in the same press release as they announced the shut down in, that this was a temporary measure, and that purchasable advantage would be returning eventually. Rumour is, that it will return right after the next movie instalment in the Star Wars franchise drops, near the end of the year.

But things are getting worse for EA as we speak, because the Belgian Gaming Commission, as well as a group of legislators in Hawaii, are looking very closely at the games mechanics, as well as those of other triple A games with lootboxes, to see if they could be considered gambling systems. Belgium has already come out and categorically stated that it feels that the Battlefront II system is indeed a kind of gambling, and are looking into either getting the game heavily age restricted, or banned outright from the shelves of Belgian computer games outlets.

Meanwhile it is also looking at other companies, and other games, and their inner workings, to ensure that these practices are knocked on the head as fast as possible.

As far as the Hawaiian group looking into this goes, they made a press statement in the last day or so, declaring their intention to make noise about these systems, until some sort of regulation comes about to prevent their insertion into games, or to ensure that these kinds of games are not marketed in the same way as more traditional games are, and not aimed at children either.

This is a tricky and complicated topic, which is why this post has gone on for so very long, but its necessary to get the details of something like this at least half right, so everyone knows where they stand, and so proper discussion can occur. Heres my take on it. I am dirt poor, and I got a PS3 a few years ago, many years after its release date. It was a present. I purchased games for it every now and again, and as cheaply as possible, and have managed, even though I was late to the PS3 party, to have an awful lot of fun during the time of my ownership of it, without spending a great deal.

But on the evidence of Battlefront II and other titles involving micro transactions, I may be looking at a future in which the gaming industry no longer caters to people who just like to play games, rather than put themselves in steaming piles of debt. I want to hear from those among us who are gamers, especially those gamers who are thirty plus years old, how they feel about these matters, and I also want to hear...



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:14 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit

...from casual gamers from the younger generations. I would ask that members responding here, indicate whether they are old school gamers from the 16 bit era or previous, or the thirty two bit era onwards, just so that we can figure out if opinions on this topic are affected much by age and experience or not. Thanks for your time folks, and I look forward to seeing what you all come back with!


(post by Br34kingp01nt removed for a manners violation)

posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:22 AM
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Great post...
Here’s my list and which game “defines” each memory...
Basically which game pops up when I think about the console...

Atari - Combat(reflecting tank bullets)
Nintendo - Super Mario
Super Nintendo - Madden
Computer - Doom
XBox - Elder Scrolls of Oblivion

-Chris



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:24 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit

I thought they removed the micro transactions? Rumor is Disney stepped in and made them do it. This isn't just EA, this whole loot box thing and micro transactions are taking over a lot of games. It'll take a few kids to get a hold of their parents credit card and go nuts before anything really changes. I know there has been talk of classifying it as gambling but they say it's not because you get something every time. Even if you have a 0.0005% chance of getting the rare item you're after.

If I pay 60 bucks for a game, I shouldn't have to pay 1 frickin penny more to get everything in the game.


edit on 22-11-2017 by FauxMulder because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:26 AM
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8 bit gamer here. Played simple computer games on teletype machines, with a mainframe computer that used a reel to reel tape system to load it's operating system.

First PC owned - Timex Sinclar, then a Commodore Vic 20 with an impressive 3kb of memory.

I don't play loot box types of games, nor any of the Star Wars games.

However, I agree that EA is evil, simply because of what they did with the 4th installment of Mass Effect.

Basically, like many major computer game publishing companies, they are trying to push everything to be MMOs.......which for those of us who hate MMOs: we're screwed.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:28 AM
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Op ignore the first guy posting in this thread. This was an excellent OP and thread and i agree with you.

EA has basically turned into a loathed villain in the electronic entertainment community and for good reason.
edit on 22-11-2017 by BASSPLYR because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:28 AM
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It doesn't take a traditional gamer from the days of Pong to know a scam when it rears its ugly head.

Never had money for a game when I was growing up. We barely had a VCR and never had cable until I was into high school.

I don't like PvP type games anyhow, so something like Battlefront was never exactly going to be my cup of tea. But this sort of thing reared its head in The Sims franchise with the EA store where you could by extra outfits, clothing items, furniture, decor, hairstyles, etc., and they always popped it up at the bottom of the screen with little price tags attached. "Look! This couch would only cost you $1 ..." while you were decorating your next house as if showing you a piece you might be able to use when you might need it would be even more tempting. It was, but I wasn't going to drop everything and spend a buck right there.

Modders in The Sims were awesome.

But I digress.

This is no different. And if I have to pay hundreds more just to feel competitive at something (pay to win), then there is no point paying to even begin. So I don't.

I think there does need to be some kind of clear warning label to indicate the presence of micro-transactions the way they are being used nowadays, but thankfully, as a parent who games myself, I know enough about them to be wise enough to thoroughly research anything I might think to pick up for my kiddo someday. So if I get caught by micro-transactions, it will be because I opened myself up to it.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:29 AM
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a reply to: eriktheawful

I loved my vic 20...
It’s the only computer I ever saw with a how-to book on coding(BASIC)
Most nostalgia I’ve had in a long time remembering it...everyone seems to remember the Commodore 64 but many [like u and me] had the Vic!!!

-Chris



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:31 AM
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Really nice summary on the current state of gaming. If you haven't checked out his coverage, Jim Sterling has been doing a number of videos tearing in to the current spate of games with lootboxes, focusing particularly on WB and EA.

I don't really see any way to get around calling lootboxes gambling at this point. They are designed to give you that same rush and "just one more" mentality. I mean you have people making money on YouTube just opening lootboxes.

The only issue that I can see arising with labeling lootboxes gambling is how far does the gambling definition then extend. I mean there's not much difference between lootboxes and buying a booster pack for a CCG. So if games with lootboxes are then considered gambling does that mean some like Magic: The Gathering also falls under that defintion?

It's definitely a conversation that's going to dominate gaming for at least the next year. I think the reaction to EA's money grabbing practices (most downvoted post in Reddit history) is a good start. Maybe the only real solution is to have gamers vote with their wallets and avoid actual regulation.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:33 AM
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I first experienced the loot chest on the first Destiny. I am not a huge gamer but more of a casual one. I'll play anywhere from 0-10 hours in a week. When Destiny first came out I played the living # out of that game. Having recently purchased the new COD game I see they have adapted to what Destiny did with a HQ's and loot boxes.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:33 AM
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More money in their pocket. How can this surprise anyone.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:33 AM
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a reply to: TrueBrit
ZX81 1k, Spectrum 16k, Amstrad, Amiga500.

Old Gamer. Even played arcade game BattleZone, Tempest, Scramble. Highest score yet the big arcade box has probably been on a dump for the past 30 years.

One thing i have learned from spending countless hours on MMORPGs is, even though every moment played is unique giving good value for money; these experiences will never be as memorable as moments out in the open, being with friends, experiencing life in the countryside or beach.

Looking back over the hundreds of hours played on these games, i keep finding myself saying the same thing; 'did i really spend that amount of time on that game that has given me no useful talents for future tasks'.

Literally, money down the drain, especially after an online game goes offline forever and your character just becomes a distant memory.
edit on 22-11-2017 by Rapha because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:33 AM
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a reply to: Xcalibur254

A lootbox isn't a bad mechanism per se, but only if it's linked to something you do in game to get it.

I think in the ME3 multi-player you could play matches and earn points that you could spend on lootboxes that would have various items in them, including rares. Of course, you could pay actual cash too, but you didn't have to. The rate of earning in-game credit was reasonable enough to make it worthwhile not to have to for most people although you did have some who spent their cash.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:34 AM
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a reply to: FauxMulder

The thing is we've already seen kids get a hold of their parents' credit cards and spend a ton of money. Maybe not with this recent spate of lootboxes in AAA full price games but certainly in the mobile free-to-play market. And nothing has really changed. I think a few European countries passed some legislation. But nothing here in the US.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:35 AM
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a reply to: Xcalibur254

Haven't there been stories about it happening in Japan with some of the games over there?



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:37 AM
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I used to enjoy Bad Company 2- an older EA game. I enjoyed the battlefield series before that one, too!

Then battlefield 3 came out. I played the beta, it was garbage. Addicted friend, though, be bought it anyway.
Sure enough, a year down the road, the game is for sale- he buys me a copy so I can play with him.

Sure enough, BF4 comes out shortly after.
I don't even bother with the demo, I'm certain they've just made it worse. He buys the game. He hates it, but plays anyway.
Down the road, it goes on sale... he buys it for me so I can play with him. Now we both hate the game, but play it. It is addicting. I don't have time to play more than a few hours a week, which is a bummer because we have other, better games to play- but he insists we keep playing that one.

Then the new one came out. Not this most recent one, but the last one. We both decided to boycott the starwars franchise when it sold out to disney, but his wife let it slip that he has not. He watched the movies, he played the games- and won't tell me, because I'm done with EA, and I'm done with Disney.

Not another dime, I drew my line several years ago with these creeps but their addicts did not.
Seems they're finally getting some backlash, but I'm sure they'll get away with it. They offered "premium" content in the past few games, where you could pay more and get better equipment.

Anyone paying attention knew it was going to come to this- I'm just happy to know people are actually getting annoyed by it.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:37 AM
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Belgium just declared loot boxes are gambling and now Hawaii might follow.

Hawaii

Belgium

EA has really screwed themselves this time. No one outside gamers cared about loot boxes, until Star Wars was linked to gambling aimed at children. When you factor in Disney being outspoken against gambling. You have a perfect storm. Gamers are mad at EA, politician are mad at EA, parents are mad at EA, Disney has to be mad at EA for making them look like hypocrites, other big video game companies are probably mad at EA for getting a spotlight shined on their gravy train.

This is why you don't go full greedtard. And unlike last time the government made a big push to regulate gaming, the gamers themselves might be on board. That is how greedy these companies have gotten.



posted on Nov, 22 2017 @ 09:37 AM
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a reply to: FauxMulder

I agree entirely with you on that score FauxMulder.

With regard to EA having removed lootboxes, their statement on the matter stated that they are temporarily removing the pay to win element from the game, but indicated that it would be returning at some future point.

Many people are speculating that they are waiting till after the release of the next Star Wars film, before re-activating it, which would be a very callous move on their part.



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