The risk of free-to-play and always online video games

neverwinter logoOne of the greatest advances in video games was the ability to get online and play with or against your friends. I remember late nights figuring out how to play Rise of the Triad against my friend and then wasting many hours shooting rockets at each other. Online gaming has become more than just an added feature to a video game, it’s become the expectation. Always online and free-to-play games are becoming more common than ever before, but they come laced with risk. Microspending can become problematic, servers can crash or have scheduled maintenance, and more serious and more recently, a game can suspend or permanently end all services. Fans of the game Destiny of Spirits will have a special appreciation and aggravation with this reality. So what are gamers to do?

Accept it

Basically the first thing we have to do as gamers is just accept the cold hard truth that with great ability comes great risk. The fact that we can be instantly thrown into worlds, battles, and experiences with our friends or millions of other players is an amazing privilege. But as I said, it comes with great risk. You can sink lots of hours into a game that suddenly becomes unsupported or may just not be available during your scheduled game time. It can be really frustrating to have your favorite game for leisure on your day off be shut down for maintenance or servers have been attacked by trollish hackers. It’s kind of like developing a passion and a love for fishing where the good experience is tied to things completely out of your control. Good weather and right conditions for fishing make the hobby all the more enjoyable, but the absence of those things can completely and utterly ruin the experience or foil your plans entirely. So acknowledge that we have chosen a hobby that has many of its greatest features tied to things that are out of our control.

Fight it

One of the other benefits of our technological world is the accessibility we have to the people behind the scenes. Most games have some level of forums or communication avenues to reach out to tech support, devs, or people in the company who can keep you up to date with what is going on. And this is a two way street. They can keep you informed, but you can do the same for them. So if you get into a game and really start to like it, join the community through their forums or support blogs and give feedback about bugs, glitches, or problems. And do it in a constructive way. One of the greatest things we can do as gamers is help improve the very games we enjoy playing. That is why I’ve continued to make and will continue to make posts and videos about Destiny. I see open channels of communication and hope to offer constructive and helpful input on how to improve the game as well as affirm the frustrations of my fellow gamers. So plug yourself into the games you love in more ways than just with the controller. Give back. Contribute. And you will probably develop an appreciation and respect for the work that goes into the games and the craft behind the product you enjoy so much.

When necessary, move on

If something like what happened to Destiny of Spirits happens to your favorite game, and all your time investment seems to evaporate into thin air, try to move on. Believe me, I know it will be hard. I can’t imagine if tomorrow I suddenly couldn’t play Borderlands or Destiny, and all my characters and wealth of loot went poof, as if they never existed. But if did happen, I would have to move on and try to tell myself, “I got a lot of worth and value out of the game. It provided me with hours of fun and enjoyment which is really why I play anyway.” In the realm of free-to-play games especially, we have to accept that the value we are given through the experience and fun is a massive gift that only costs us our time. If in a year or two Neverwinter or Fable Legends vanish into thin air and all our saves and treasures are gone forever, we will have to just accept it and move on. And the best thing we can do to keep it from happening is to support and give back where we can. Buy DLC and extra content from the free titles you enjoy, and help devs and game companies by reporting bugs and giving constructive criticism. If all you do is take, take, take, it’s hard to complain when something free is no longer available to you. But if you give back and make efforts to help the games you love flourish, you’ll have more of a platform for complaint and a peace about doing what you could if things go south. So let’s accept the realities we can’t control while trying to influence the things we have a stake in.

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