As video games have grown into an entertainment juggernaut in recent years, the industry’s largest gaming publishers have become awash in controversy. These include the widespread adoption predatory monetization methods. poor working conditions, systemic misogynyAt work, monopoly behavior, false advertisingRelease of broken, unfinished games being rushedOut to market
This industry has become a comical illustration of the worst aspects capitalism and corporate greed. Nearly 180 million gamersThe United States has become a major hub for ideological struggle.
Longtime gamers have grown increasingly frustrated at how these game publishers have not only taken more money out of their wallet — but also the joy out of their favorite hobby. The industry’s anger and backlash could offer an opportunity to the left to mobilize the community and win them over. This is especially important considering how gamers have been. courted heavilyfor most of the past decade by right-wing forces.
“A Testing Ground for New Monetization”
One issue that has generated intense concern has been the widespread growth of “microtransactions.” Broadly speaking microtransactions are in-game transactions that enable players to turn real money into digital goods to gain a competitive edge or add cosmetic items. This new type of monetization has been a huge success. grown into a $67 billion cash cowFor the industry.
This has had a profound impact on the gaming industry. For decades, gamers could pay once for a game and then play it for as many hours as they wanted at no additional cost. Gamers are now encouraged to spend more for the same game over years. This is often a problem for young children. A Connecticut 6 year old will be in 2020. spent $16,000On a Sonic the Hedgehog game with his parents’ credit card.
“The video games industry has been a testing ground for new monetization strategies and ways to make a profit,” said Jamie Woodcock, author of Marx at the Arcade: Consoles, Controllers and Class StruggleIn an interview with Truthout. “Games therefore provide an important study in how culture is turned into a profitable commodity, often in ways that take some of the fun out of the process.”
Often these in-game transactions mimic casino-style gambling with a randomized reward system, sometimes called “loot boxes.” These have been designedTo psychologicallyGamers are lured into a cycle of addiction. The game NBA 2K20For instance, A simulated slot machineThe wheel would spin as players bought additional cards to improve their online teams. Joe Vargas, host of the “Angry Joe Show” on YouTube, accused the company of “glorifying gambling” by “putting a casino in my basketball game.”
Activision Blizzard published the most aggressively monetized ever made game, the free-to–play online role-playing video game. Diablo Immortal. A report from KotakuIt could cost as much as $1,500 according to estimates from gamers over $500,000To maximize their in-game strength far exceeding the maximum attributes costs of other “role-playing” games.
It is now possible to download products from downloadable games and cartridges instead of brick-and-mortar shops. no longer clear what it meansTo own a movie or game. These rapid changes allow the videogame industry to make as much profit as possible before regulators around world catch up. The gaming industry has not stopped its anti-consumer behavior in the interim.
Gaming Community and Far Right Ideology
The left has been fighting these battles for decades, particularly on the issues of consumer rights and labor rights. The anger and backlash that the gaming community has experienced at this shameful corporate behavior could offer an opportunity for mobilization of the left. The gaming industry is a good example of how corporate greed can not just destroy our rights as consumers but also take all the enjoyment out of entertainment. This is especially important given how many gamers have been targeted as reactionary culture warriors. right-wing political interests.
“The right — and also importantly far right and fascists — have been organizing effectively in online spaces, including games, for quite some time now. Many on the left haven’t taken these debates seriously,” Woodcock told Truthout.
For years, reactionary right-wing elements have been trying to appeal to the gaming community — and with an alarming degree of success. YouTube channels like The Quartering and Geeks + Gamers have earned millions of views mostly by decrying perceived “wokeness” in games, movies and TV shows. These channels and right wing commentators often appear on these channels. lamentThe inclusion of diverse charactersOr complain that games place less emphasis on sexualizing female protagonists.
These critiques became common starting in 2014 when a phenomenon called “Gamergate” emerged. This was an umbrella term describing an online harassment campaign by Online trolls and misogynistic media outlets claimed that feminism and progressivism were ruining the videogame industry. Some women even had their own “feminism” personal addresses and details leaked online.
These misogynistic conspiracies played a small part in the rise of Trumpism between 2015-16, according to some. VoxAja Romano is a writer described Gamergate as “arguably a watershed moment and learning experience for many future Trump supporters” that showed a “trend toward systemized online harassment and increased ideological polarization.”
A 2021 report from the Brookings Institution explained: “Mobilizing gamers to fight for conservative values in the culture war turned out to be wildly popular. [Trump administration official Steve] Bannon turned the rhetorical strategies and organizing tools of Gamergate into powerful weapons for the Trump campaign, and with them, he mobilized a small army of very angry, very online young men into effective political operatives.”
The rise of “anti-woke” militants in the gaming community has been a source of frustration for some on the left — especially since there is so much consensus from gamers online about how greed and the push for short-term profits has irreversibly changed the industry for the worse.
“It boggles my fucking mind how we lost gamers to the right,” lamented one left-wing gamer in a viral post2020. “Capitalism is the biggest cause of the decline of gaming.”
The Gamers’ Revolt: An Opportunity for Mobilization?
While gaming publishers have profited greatlyThey are a result of their This aggressive monetization has not been met with overwhelming backlash from the online gaming community. Left-wing gamers are not the only ones who have reacted to greedy publishers; conservatives and even apolitical voices have spoken out.
“Even these conservative ‘gamer bros’ will criticize the [industry’s]Predatory business practices, including microtransactions, and loot boxes,”YouTube host Kavernacle explainedIn a video about reactionary online gaming communities. “They’re actually criticizing capitalism and the capitalist system. They just don’t really realize it.”
Woodcock explained that as gamers continue to suffer these new monetization schemes for games, the left can help educate them.
“Given the rise of far right across many parts of the world, it is important to make sure that the left is organizing and putting forward an alternative vision — whether in video game spaces or more widely.”
Some interesting parallels include the following:
*The predatory scalpersThese are the people who made a fortune selling next-generation gaming consoles at a large markup. the private health insurers in the U.S. health care system. They play the role a needless, parasitic middlemanThis inflates the prices for consumers.
* The tactics video game publishers use to push gambling mechanics onto children have been compared to the role tobacco companiesAssisted in pushing nicotine onto children in the latter 20th century.
*The overtime crunchThere are parallels between game developers and Amazon warehouse workers who were treated poorly by their bosses like disposable widgets.
*The lenient ratings systems from the Electronic Software Ratings Board(ESRB), has rated games with simulated slot machinesAs appropriate for children, it is similar to how Banks were able to use credit agenciesDuring the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-08.
*The lack of competition facing the Madden football seriesThe NFL logo and players were purchased by the, who has also paid for a parallel license. telecom companiesMonopoly pricing can be a boon.
*Continuous mergers among publishers have led to similar consolidationAs mass Media outletsThe United States.
*The lobbying done by the Electronic Software AssociationTo keep Congress from interfering in the games industry is effectively the exact same thing as how other industries flex their muscles. lobbying power.
In recent years, gamers have shown a desire for change. When there was a huge growth in gamers, non-fungible tokens or NFTS — a controversial digital asset that has been at the crux of numerous scams — gamers resisted efforts to try and bring these into the major video game titles.
Electronic Arts introduced microtransactions to the market that were extremely expensive. Star WarsGame Battlefront II2017 saw enough backlash from gamers to dent the company’s stock pricesAccording to CNBC. The Reddit post by the company defending the practice continues to be visible today. is the most disliked postever posted on the site. Electronic Arts has beenName among the most hated companiesYou can do it many times. a Wikipedia pageThis section is dedicated to the company’s backlash.
There has been a lot more progress outside of the U.S. where consumer rights are more taken seriously. Belgium has banned predatory loot boxes. In the summer of 2022, the Norwegian Consumer Council released a seminal report on these tactics called: “Insert Coin: How the Gaming Industry Exploits Consumers Using Loot Boxes.” The report found the industry was “exploiting customers through predatory mechanisms, fostering addictions [and] targeting vulnerable consumer groups,” among other issues. At least 20 consumer groups from 18 different countriesSupport was voiced for the findings.
Is it Game Over?
Despite the perception that the gaming community is winning the culture war, there are many left-wing leaders, organizations, and activists.
The most successful organizations so far have been consumer rights groups, media reform groups, and organized labor. In May, the first gaming employee unionActivision formed a major U.S. Studio despite months-long union-busting tactics. These kinds of labor victories, Woodcock said, have the potential to “fundamentally reshape the video game industry, changing not only how games are made, but also the decisions about what sorts of games get made and why.”
Other unions, non-profits, and groups such as Public Citizen, Demand Progress and Communications Workers of America have been lobbying for the Federal Trade Commission. scrutinize big mergers regulate the virtual currencyUsed in microtransactions.
The organization Able GamersIt has been pushing for gaming as a way to end social isolation among persons with disabilities. It has made significant progress in making games more accessible. more accessibleTo those with blindness. YouTube channels created by Kavernacle, James Stephanie Sterling,These and other people serve as counterweights for the reactionaries. They have fought against the most pervasive right-wing tropes regarding the gaming industry, highlighted socialist themes in games, and fought for greater accessibility and inclusion in the industry.
Many game designers have expressed anticapitalist sentiments through their games. There are many games that depict a dystopian future where capitalism has destroyed the world. Some examples include Hideo Kojima You can find the Metal Gear series. Creators of Disco Elysiumopenly Marxist and even shouted at Marx and EngelsDuring a victory speech at an award ceremony.
Recent reports still suggest otherwise. they were removed “involuntarily” from the company while existing leaders seek to hire a monetization expert — a fitting example of the state of the game industry in 2022.
The investors for Disco ElysiumWoodcock stated that the sequels would make them more money. Truthout.
“After all, developers who praise Marx and Engels at award ceremonies are not likely to get on that well with corporate partners,” he said.