Free from Fremium

Fremium. A portmanteau of free and premium, and it drives much of the game app ecosystem the world over. I was a diehard participant in plenty of such apps for years, until one day I woke up and realized I was trapped in an abusive relationship with the game app industry. And I got out. And I never looked back.

This isn’t to say I’ve stopped gaming. Not by any stretch of the imagination. We have an Xbox downstairs somewhere, tabletop gaming happens almost every week, and Blizzard still gets thirty bucks a month from our WoW subscriptions–shame on them for their mistreatment of women, but this post isn’t about that.

One of the key metrics used for gauging app performance (hell, they even brag about it in their own ads) is how addictive a game is. Except… addiction is bad. Addiction to anything is destructive and corrupts the base nature of the addict.

But that’s what the most successful game apps out there rely upon. They prey on addicts. They need them in order to keep the money flowing, and they don’t give a damn about how many lives addiction ruins.

After spending years in Marvel’s Contest of Champions, I finally started to see the slippery slope I was sliding down. I had already spent a couple hundred bucks for what? A few chances at a top-tier hero? A fraction of the materials needed for an even better one? I eventually came to accept I will never have godlike reflexes, so the only way I was ever going to complete the hardest content was to throw thousands of dollars at it. And for what? For what?

I quit that game and started playing Seven Deadly Sins: Grand Cross. For the first year, it was great, but after that, I started to see the game’s content pushes echo those of Contest of Champions. To misquote the Giant from Twin Peaks, “It was happening again.”

This time, I got off the path before I reached the slope. From my new vantage point, I started to look at all my game apps. They all had high addiction ratings. I resisted opening any of them. Still craving that kind of play however, I went digging around for anything that wasn’t designed to suck the blood out of the hopelessly addicted.

But every game had the same business model…

Every game was designed to exploit their players. With my eyes now opened, I deleted every game app from my phone. This was October of 2020, and I have never felt freer. I’m reading more, getting better sleep, and my stress levels have plummeted.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against microtransactions, but I have a lot against requiring them in order to complete essential content. I have a big problem with anything or anyone that preys on the vulnerable. And it broke my heart to watch my friend have trouble making ends meet as they spent three hundred bucks a month on their game addictions, hiding their spending from their spouse.

It’s time we all raise our voices and demand more from the game app industry. It’s time we held them accountable for their pervasive false advertising, and its time we demand a more ethical business model. Because this one is predatory.

For the record, my friend is on the road to recovery. They’re looking into 12-step programs, and they’re accepting help from family and friends. They’re going to be okay. As long as they don’t relapse, they’re going to be okay. Please God, I hope they’ll be okay.

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