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There was some buzz around the Internet recently, as one of the GDC panels discussed the ethics of gaming – mostly about how aggressively to monetise F2P games, and how that can slip over from the line from game developers earning a crust to manipulating vulnerable people into parting with money they can ill afford to lose.

The flip side of the discussion for me is that maybe if we want our games to be deigned and developed ethically, we as gamers need to show some ethical behaviour ourselves. On the F2P front, that means being honest enough to admit that game developers need to earn a living (and pay back investors) so we can’t expect “Free To Play” to actually mean “Free To Keep Playing Without Limitations”. If you want to keep playing a game beyond an initial period of trying it out, it’s only fair to pony up a payment commensurate with the entertainment value gained. F2P puts the details of what exactly constitutes a ‘trial period’ and ‘payment commensurate with the entertainment value’ in the hands of the player, which is an enormous act of trust from developers who’ve sunk millions of dollars and years of their lives into making the game.

If you’re enjoying a game and sticking with it, then put your hands in your pockets and pay the developers their due. If you do, then they can be more confident that they’ll be rewarded for producing a quality game and will continue to make quality games – because that’s what professionals who care about their work do (and as I’ve pointed out before, anyone who can program games can make a better salary in a far more secure job in financial services IT, so the only reason to be making games is because they care about them).

If, on the other hand, your ethics boil down to “getting away with whatever I can for free” then don’t be surprised if you get the games you deserve – ones that psychologically strong-arm you into paying up.

One Comment

  1. It’s a very good point to make. There is a tendency to complain about any kind of barriers put up in a F2P title; that unless you can play the entire game without paying, that somehow it’s nothing more than a “free trial”. But really it wasn’t long ago that before you could even play a MMO (for $15 a month) you were paying $50+ to even try it out.

    And occasionally paying a few dollars to a company who have given you hours of entertainment for free isn’t that bad a deal at all.

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