How gaming has evolved is disturbing February 10, 2024 on Kenneth Dodrill's blog

My last post addressed some problems with how awful the experience is of finding a “real game” on a digital storefront. I thought about it some more and came to a conclusion: modern gaming is disturbing. I want to start this off by going through a small history of (modern) gaming.


Games used to be made in-house for specific platforms, and that encouraged people to buy specific consoles or handhelds to get those games, driving profit but also driving the people working on those games to make really good games. A game would fail if it wasn’t fun, and games were spread by mostly word-of-mouth and advertisement through TV, magazines, and other traditional forms of advertisement.

The internet changed this by allowing digital downloads. Most people probably saw it as a way to keep all their games in one place (example: Steam), but this more than likely kicked off the practice of terrible habits (example: Steam) by enforcing DRM on the user by only allowing them access to games through payment, and therefore the consumer does not actually own the game itself. Physical copies for PC games left shelves, sometimes even just including no disk but a download code for said game to enter online in some client.

Consoles adapted quickly (Nintendo less so). Now you have people buying new hardware and buying keys to digital games. So without one or the other you have nothing, unless you continue to buy physical games.

Again, I suspect that the majority of people had no problem with this, and most people even liked it. The ability to have all your games on one system, all installed and ready to go, is appealing. The ability to see all the games you have purchased is appealing. To be able to sort your games into various folders is also appealing (more so to collectors).

However, I know for a fact that there was a group of people that didn’t like any of this, and saw how things were going. Eventually, there would be no physical games anymore right? Well, we aren’t there yet, but it certainly has become worse and worse. There are many games that are published to online stores simply because they lack the resources necessary to distribute their game physically. Thus, the bar is set lower to game developers looking to distribute their games because you can simply upload your assets and game to a digital marketplace. That’s a good thing, right? Well…

Enter the mobile gaming age. This is really where things kick off. Advertisements in-app dominate here. In-app purchases also allow people to purchase whatever extra they want for their “game”.

Moving on…

Let’s be clear, most mobile games are not actually games. People who grew up with real games will know what I’m talking about.

A real game plants itself in quality, uniqueness, originality, and has respect for the player.

Modern games disregard the player and treat them similar to the own digital currency that that game has.

Modern games treat the player like they are stupid. They vomit advertisements to the screen and demand that you pay extra for basic functionality. They promise fun, but deliver addiction. They are digital tourist traps.

Humans are easily addicted to things. As long as it feels good, it must be good, right? So duh, of course mobile games profits shot way up. The problem comes when companies that actually cared about their consumers saw all of this and decided “hey, that looks pretty cool”. Move over, “EA sux” and other comments about Activision/Blizzard, because you aren’t thinking deeply enough. Apple and Google started this with their app stores. They started pay-to-win. They started in-game advertisements for random shit and the own game’s dlc. They started loot crates, battle passes, in-game currency, in-game marketplaces…I could go on. Basically, for all the people who love real games: all of the things you hate? Yeah, Apple and Google started those. Why? Money, of course! Again, humans are easily addicted to things. Moms play candy crush because it feels good. They don’t think about any of this. But now we get to deal with all of it because it makes money.

So what’s the solution? There is none. Gaming has evolved to be the most addicting pay-to-win advertisement of all time. Modern gaming advertises itself. People want that addiction. Slap on brand loyalty and you have a Pokemon game that is completely broken but still sells like hotcakes. Bring up generations of people with these “games” and you have games like God of War: Ragnarok where the characters constantly (CONSTANTLY) chatter to you about their whole lives, while also telling you the solutions to all the puzzles in the game the moment you turn the camera towards said puzzle. People want the addiction, and they also want it to be easy.

Fuck that. I want to play a game that I own, that respects my intelligence, that is creative and unique, that has meaningful and well-written dialogue, that clearly has love put behind it, that doesn’t tell me what I should or what I want to do, and that is made for people who like real games.

My point

Games used to be about interactivity and fun, creative ideas. Now games are 10/10’d by massive corporations just because 1000 people worked on the game (yet, it is still broken). The actual quality of the product is brought into question, but it’s overruled because “they worked really hard”. People and critics judge games based off how popular it is (good or bad) and/or how much money it has made. Last I checked, making video games was a creative endeavour. Maybe it isn’t anymore.

If you are playing games like these…why? Are you addicted to that game? Have you invested money into it and feel like you’re stuck? The game may be fun, but look past that and consider what the game is trying to do. You are being manipulated and lied to. The game has not been created for you, or any particular person. It has been created for money.

The truly sad part is that most people never think about this, because most people are mobile “gamers”. Their data is being sold, their play is being analyzed, they are shown advertisements (that likely collect more of their data), and they purchase in-app currency and products. They don’t care about any of this, because they don’t care about real games. Nobody can change that. Therefore, I will restate my title. Modern games are disturbing. It is disturbing that the majority of “gamers” like all of these “features” because it lets them get an extra dopamine hit. It is wrong that these companies allowed this to happen, but it is more sad to me that nobody thinks critically about what they are doing and what they are consuming anymore.

Fun fact: We Love Katamari REROLL (a remake of the 2nd Katamari game on PS2) has a privacy policy and TOS agreement that you must agree to in order to play. It is a singleplayer game with no online components. I think this is because they decided to use Unity in order to remake the game. Ugh. Even cool games suck now.