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The Flawed Philosophy of "Free to Play" -- The Contemporary Casino

Updated: Feb 17

A game room.

In the recent decade, countless video games, good and bad, were created under the philosophy of what is called a "Free to Play" system. To put it simply, this type of philosophy gives free access to anyone who has access to the internet, and while it is possible to play such games free-of-charge, one can also buy things inside these games, with real money.

The term "Free to Play" is often used to disguise games that are essentially casinos. Even if you don't know how to play poker, blackjack, and so on, you can "gamble" in this type of games with something known as a "loot box", which is a package that rewards you with random stuff, after you pay for it. There are also other flaws, but I will get to them later.

Before the advent of free-to-play games, most video games could be purchased for a single price and played without any additional microtransactions. Nowadays, countless games use the "free-to-play" term as an excuse to gain extra cash using gambling methods such as the "loot box" method.

This leads to the sad truth that physical casinos are no longer necessary, assuming you're not gambling for real-life cash exclusively.

There is some thrill in gambling, that's true, as I played these games myself over the years. However, this is a kind of thrill that can turn certain people into gambling addicts, and their potential addictions can ruin their lives financially. I, at least, am glad that I did not succumb to the temptation entirely.

That is basically the motivation of such companies to use the "free to play" label, as things are not always as they seem. If they allowed people to buy their games in a single purchase and nothing more, they would lose a significant amount of potential revenue from their product. As long as their games are online, they can generate an indefinite amount of revenue from lootboxes and microtransactions.

To better make you understand what a loot box is, and why it's a relevant feature, A loot box is essentially a package of things within the game, that you can benefit from them as a player: Troops, equipment and whatever else.

Sometimes these loot boxes are more valuable than others, but what they all have in common, is uncertainty: You just don't know what exactly you'll be paying for. There might be times where you'll be paying a ridiculous amount of cash, only to find out you did not buy what you wanted to have in the game. It really depends on chance, which is essentially what a casino is: A gambling den where you won't know what you'll be getting or losing there.

It's sad that "no one" doesn't really care for the fact that anyone with an internet connection, including small children, have access to casino-based games, all because these specific games allow you to play them for free. And it's not like these companies are always legally responsible for these purchases. After all, they are allowed to charge whatever they want in their games, and they do not force upon anyone to gamble. Thus, it may be difficult to accuse them of a purchase that was made voluntarily, by a player, and not by themselves.

Therefore, the philosophy of "free to play" is a deceptive one, both practically and potentially-legally. I believe it is better to play older games, which typically have a one-time purchase price, than newer games, which are designed to tempt players into spending more and more money on microtransactions.

Nowadays, with smartphones being so popular, anyone can be tempted to gamble excessively, even if they have no prior gambling problems. People may spend thousands of dollars just to enjoy some game they could've played for free, whether or not they can actually afford all of their purchases. And by anyone I literally mean anyone, not just kids but older adults as well.

There may be some gratification in spending some of your paycheck into buying something that is far useless than better food, but sometimes the gratification doesn't worth it, especially when it can be done on your smartphone and computer, quickly, and indefinitely.

And remember this: There may be someone who pays far more than you do on some loot boxes, so they might as well render your own payments as useless, in games that are free to be played, and where you can be defeated by others. If you don't want to be tempted, it's best to avoid free-to-play games altogether. If you "must" play video games, choose older games with a one-time purchase price. It can save you a lot of money for the long-term.

An afterthought: I forgot to tell you this, but many games have also become defunct eventually, as they weren't profitable or due to other reasons. Never pay so much on a game, especially if it requires an online connection, because it could be lifted off the air at any time, and with it -- your hard-earned money!

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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