Covenant Game Design: We Live in a Society

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in North America in 1991. When one of us (Sazzy) bought theirs, it came with two controllers and Super Mario World, a game that two people could play. You could take it out of the box, plug it in, and be playing a game with your friend without spending another dime. Pretty slick.

Fast forward a scant 10 years to 2001, when the Xbox was released in the U.S. When Sazzy bought his, it came with one controller and no bundled-in games. You’d have to shell out more money just to use the console, and even more if you wanted to play a game with someone. And if your friend lived in another state, you’d have to pay yet again to play with them over Xbox Live (late 2002). Convenient subscriptions are available.

The situation in the video game world has continued to deteriorate, with loot boxes, microtransactions, games-as-a-service, and soon subscription game streaming, and I’m probably forgetting a hell of a lot here. It’s like sinking into a vat of leeches.

If you’re a gamer, the last thing you should be worried about are the “SJWs” and their “forced diversity” and “political correctness”. You’re being bled white, dude, and the worst part of it is I think you realize it.

People like Jim Sterling have been up to their elbows in this sort of thing for longer than I have. They have a reputation for railing against it, and they’re right to rail against it. However, since I checked my privilege in the last article, I think I have to check my outrage in this one.

See, most of these practices, possibly all of them, are legal. Are they ethical, though? Well, these game publishers are trying to survive in a capitalist society, just like you and me, and capitalism says they can make money this way. And they do make money this way. They’re very good at it.

However, since we live the Mirror, Mirror universe, if you can do something, then eventually you must do it just to survive – or at least survive in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed, which is the same thing to many people.

Game publishers have run out of games, so they have to find new ways to sell you the games that they have. And then sell it to you again. And then again. And then charge you DLC for that game. And monthly subscriptions to that game. And chapters. And game passes. And roadmaps. And “optional” cosmetics. And loot boxes. And locked loot boxes that you can wait to unlock, but why wait when you can buy a key right now?

I’m not immune to this, either. This was originally supposed to be part two of a much longer article. Blogs aren’t conducive to longreads, though, especially ones run on a shoestring. So I had to cut it up and spread it out.

The baloney machine has broken down at the tail end of capitalism, so the butcher has to slice the baloney he has left thinner and thinner. Pretty soon, he’s cut it so thin that he has to sell you the idea of baloney and the idea of eating it. Because if he doesn’t, he’ll starve.

How does this affect tabletop RPGs? Worryingly, it does, but there’s hope. Stay tuned for tomorow’s article.

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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