Greedy Goblin

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bum fights

You probably heard of Bum fights. In these videos homeless and other low status people were paid trivial sums or alcohol to perform dangerous and humiliating stunts. They were filmed and the films sold, producing millions of dollars profit. Despite financial success, making Bum fights got the producers lawsuits, time in prison and public humiliation. The consensus opinion is that paying "losers" to hurt or humiliate themselves is an assault on "human dignity", even if the "loser" agreed to it and accepted payment. It is exploitation of those who can't take care of themselves. It is also believed that Bum fight videos contributed to young criminals performing attacks on homeless and filming it.

Why do I talk about Bum fights in a blog about video games? Because I believe that free-to-play games aren't different from it. The poor players (often children without legal way to earn money) are recruited as "bums" to serve as punching bag for paying players. The bums were doing it for the fun of alcohol: "I just wanted some money to get drunk, so I did what he told me to" said "Rufus the Stunt Bum", who later overcame his addiction and settled a lawsuit for undisclosed amount of money against the producers. The free players do it for the fun of gaming, paying the same price: being defeated and then humiliated for their defeat (just read League of Legends chat if you don't pick - because you don't have - a "hard counter" champion). If you think that in-game humiliation isn't "real", just think about the bonus room of Erotica 1.

While in both cases the victim consents the participation, he doesn't really have a choice. He is too poor and has addictions or young age making him unable to do what is best for him. Both the films and the games are exploiting his inability to make proper decisions and uses him for entertainment of others. Everything that can be said for Bum fights can be said about free-to-play games. On the other hand Bum fights at least abused adults, while free-to-play games often offer children as punching bag to paying adults.

Please note that hiring someone to do Bum fight isn't the same as hiring him for a low-paying job. A job is creating a useful product for the society and teaches useful skills to the worker. A Bum fight sells the feeling of superiority to viewers by artificially placing the "bum" into humiliating situations - just like the free to play games that places the free-player into a competition where he is seriously disadvantaged and set up for defeat.

If you wouldn't pay $20 to watch "Rufus the Stunt Bum" setting his hair on fire for a drink, you shouldn't pay money to free-to-play game developers to line up avatars of children front of the gun of your avatar. By the way the more I think about it, the more I'm surprised why is it legal to recruit children into free-to-play games.

PS: frig PvP is fun... until someone brings cruisers.

PS2: I still hope that the next layoffs will reach that horrible fail developer who created the new sell interface:
But hating doesn't help preventing this recurring problem, so I removed the numpad Enter key from my keyboard, so this cannot happen again.


Anonymous said...

That is a fairly brutal juxtaposition... but you're not wrong!

A F2P game that pits players against each other in direct competition is just bad design. The "free" class of players will always be used as fodder. That should say something about the paying class of player, too.

A game that is probably a good example of "F2P done right" (Although I've never played it... only seen the advertisements.) is "Candy Crush", which seems like a strictly single player game.

An example of "WTF, dudes?" would be a collectible card game F2P, where you can pay to get better cards. How would that be fair? Now, to be certain... that's how the original "Magic, the Gathering" actual card game went, people would go to comic stores and buy the rare cards. I stopped playing the second that shit started. I was all "Really? Your blinged up power deck against my normal one? I'm done here."

Anonymous said...

Oh god, literally a Helen Lovejoy "won't someone think of the children" post.

Btw, I always looked at it the other way round, I get to be subsidised by someone pouring their real money into a computer game. Kind of like how I can watch tv for free because there's plenty of suckers who spend money because the adverts tell them too. It's a mutual arrangement.

Anonymous said...

"Kind of like how I can watch tv for free"

Wait... How exactly does THAT work? We haven't been able to watch TV for "free" since the 60's.

Anonymous said...

Especially for stuff like league chat or any other f2p game:
yes, you will probably not be part of the top 1%. but there is nothing stopping you (most cases) to reach a 90-95% value just by actually being good in a game.
people being mean to you in chat? report and ignore.

it's really quite easy. nobody has any power over you (in games) that you didn't give them by placing any value in their opinion.
if an f2p game gives unfair advantage - mechanics wise - to a paying player, then switch the game.

in games as in rl: know what you are doing and why. if you have fun playing (for example) LoL, then it doesn't matter if someone buys a few champs more or has some special skins.

Esteban said...

You're a little behind the times. Yesterday's bum fights are today's American reality television.

Good post, though, and hits near the core of MMO psychology in general.

maxim said...

You are confusing the reason why bums participate in bum fights and the reason why people play f2p games.

Bums participate in bum fights because they have no other way to survive or feed their addiction. What they are getting out of it has nothing to do with the content of an actual "fight".

People play f2p games because they like them. It has everything to do with actual content of f2p game. Plenty f2p games out there never take off, because people can't be bothered to play even for free.

Unless you make a solid case that a significant portion of f2p players suffer from some manner of pathological need to play any game whatsoever, you got nothing.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: severe isolation and desperate need for "social fun" is like an addiction. These players want to play with others no matter the cost. You know, they are "4 fun ppl"

Anonymous said...

"Bum fights." Awesome. Just when you think the human race can't sink any lower.

Until, of course, you remember the shit the Romans did under the title of "entertainment."

We are not an enlightened species.

Von Keigai said...

Seconding Nony up there. Won't someone think of the children? The dewy-eyed innocents, corrupted into bum fights by the promise of cheap liquor?

Seriously, I have been playing Clash of Clans, and a couple other games of its ilk for free. Never bought a gem with money, though I have watched some of their ads. Guess what? I don't feel used. As Nony said, I feel like I am the smart one here, and those people paying $20 or whatever to play the same game I am playing are the chumps. (PLEX, anyone?)

maxim said...


"4 fun ppl" don't degrade themselves by playing for fun. They are not hostages to fun the way bums are hostages to money and drugs. "4 fun ppl" do very much have a life outside of games and their in-game fun-seeking behaviour only proves that games - to them - are not life.

There are, of course, some exceptions, to whom games are life. But these are indeed exceptions. Stop trying to present these exceptions as the rule.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: free-to-play games started to replace subscription games.

If someone can't pay $15/month for his hobby, we can safely say that he has no job.

maxim said...

You think this connection you made made perfect logical sense, but it does not.

Games are getting cheaper is a simple consequence of competitive game market getting increasingly more crowded. People are looking for ways to improve what is being offered. Making what is being offered ask for less up-front is one of the ways to do it.

You are trying to present that this change in business model only attracts "bums". Well, this is false. F/ex I have been reluctant to try a game for $15, because i know that given my tastes in games these $15 may simply be wasted.

Latest example - Transistor. Worst money spent of gaming in my life (IMO). I literally would be better off using these money to buy a book or go to the movies.

Free-to-play is simply business model evolution. You can't use business model evolution to draw conclusions about customers. At least you can't do that while still maintaining the pretence of intellectual honesty.

Also you failed to address the original point in that in games fun is not necessarily being held hostage to self-demeaning behaviour. A bum literally can't afford to not participate in a bum fight. Walking away from a game you don't like is way easier. Especially if this game didn't cost you anything to start with.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: trying out games isn't an argument as every subscription game offers a free trial.

Anyone who plays several hours a week with a game but would stop playing if he had to pay $15/month is a bum.

Walking away from a game is easy. Walking away from your imaginary friends in the game is very hard for a social.

maxim said...

I gave Transistor as an example. Is it a subscription game? Does it offer free trial? No and no.
Would it work as a subscription game? Also no.
Free to play model has its place, whether you like it or not. And it doesn't actually compete with subscription model. Products that work as subscription and products that work as f2p have wildly different parameters, to the point of being entirely separate markets.

Your definition of a bum (stops playing a game once it starts requiring payment) would make me a bum. I stopped playing Clash of Clans the instant i hit a point where i couldn't really win any more without starting shelling out the cash.
If i'm a bum, then - income-wise - 99.5% of humanity are all bums.

If walking away from people is hard, they are no longer imaginary. Imaginary social connections are separated from real social connections by pretty much this criterion.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: I have no idea about this Transistor, so can't comment.

Why did you stop playing CoC if you liked it before?

The connection being imaginary isn't defined by "is it hard for you to walk away from them" it's defined by "is it hard for them to walk away from you".

Anonymous said...

"@Maxim: severe isolation and desperate need for "social fun" is like an addiction. These players want to play with others no matter the cost. You know, they are "4 fun ppl""

Umm no, people want to play a f2p game that they enjoy with friends, the vast majority of people are not these desperate people who only crave your attention despite what you seem to think and they actually play video games for fun.

Also your fallacy that people who don't want to pay $15 per month on a game is a bum is absurd. I play GW2 which is buy to play game so am I suddenly a bum because I don't pay $15 per month for an awesome MMO? (hint: the answer is no)

Anonymous said...

If someone can't pay $15/month for his hobby, we can safely say that he has no job.

Well I prefer sub games.

f2p more often sucks you into micropayment. potions, hourly buffs, agents so items don't disappear while enchanting/slotting/etc. Sure I yould opt to farm 2months pvp to get one item that will have to go trough several enchanting stages which has a 30% success chance for all the seperate stages without the cashshop item.

most f2p is like heroin.

Thanks to smartphones and app-stores we are back to 'insert coin' timer and gate constructions.

maxim said...

Everyone has been ga-ga over Transistor. Game of the year, beautiful art, depth of mechanics etc. I found it to be clumsy and self-indulging.

So when other people are connected to you it is real, but when you are connected to other people it is not?
That's a weird case of one-way reality.

I stopped playing CoC because i got all experiences in it that i found worthwhile and then got bored. "Liking it" is not a permanent state of being. Even the most addicting experience wears thin with repeat exposure.

Unless that experience becomes a real part of your everyday life, that is. That's how it is for people who played something like WoW for over a decade and have no intention of ever stopping.