Addicting games, not even twice.
A couple of days ago, I made a terrible sin against my past self. Boy has that quickly come back to snarl at my ass and reinforce my original ideas of why all the “you can’t do X more than Y times an hour” or whatever games (obviously with micro-transactions as the workaround) are a bad fucking idea. The system’s a half-decent business model, sure, but it’s just not healthy for your players. And shouldn’t those ideally come first?
About a month ago, Nintendo released a mobile version of their 3DS game Pokemon Shuffle. I don’t know how I ended up stumbling upon it, but after looking it over I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s a match-3(-or-more) puzzle game where you catch Pokemon by beating levels and getting lucky. Playing a level costs “hearts”, which regenerate over time and can also be bought with for-real money. Sound familiar? It should.
Yeah, the puzzles are sorta okay. They have some fun mechanics going on. But the game as a whole just sort of sucks you in and keeps you in this chokehold of “hey, you’ve refilled all your hearts, go fuckin’ spend some, play me!” And of course, if you don’t want any regeneration time go to waste, you play the game like the sucker you are so your resources can start regenerating again.
I didn’t even pay a single bloody cent, and the option to pay isn’t even my biggest problem with the game. It’s just that it, like so many similar titles, is designed to be so cancerously addictive. It gives, and it gives, just enough to satisfy, just enough to keep you coming back on the schedule it cleverly proposes. But never enough to make you feel like you’re progressing as fast as you would like to, never enough to make you say “oh boy I’ve had my fill, tomorrow I’ll play something else”. You can’t put it down because you integrate it into your schedule, make it part of your routine.
Plenty of articles I have read on how dirty game design this is, and how ugly a business model this is. And I wholeheartedly agreed. But now I’ve also experienced it first-hand. I have, only two-three days after installation, felt what it was like to feel bad for not playing a game for a couple of hours.
Needless to say, I was disgusted with both the game and myself, and uninstalled it.