Labour—and Capital—Exploitation

With consumerism, as with democracy, it’s the people’s vote that changes the system. Naturally this may lead you to believe that game developers are at the whim and mercy of their players. Wrong. Not only do we put up with such atrocities like lazy ports, Free2Play games, and this, but we pay to help make games better. These trends are worrisome, and point directly to what is clearly becoming a custom. Game designers are letting us do the work for them.

Why bother making a good PC port if players are just going to do the hard work for you? Why charge a straight up fee when you can make the initial game free, and have those suckers pay through their teeth for “premium content”? Why come up with fresh ideas when gamers come up with their own? Game companies are exploiting the labour of the masses through ingenious implementation of capital.

For example, GunGame is a modification of Counter-Strike Source. In it, players are essentially individuals, but remain locked on a ‘friendly’ team. The aim is to progress through a number of weapons by shooting enemies, sometimes with one kill per gun, sometimes with two. There are a few variations of the base idea—some start you with pistols, and others end with pistols (which is more difficult?). The winner is always the person who gets a knife kill, arguably the hardest to achieve in Counter-Strike: Source. It’s an idea so simple that it’s been implemented into other games.

Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops, and Battlefield 3 and the latest Counter-strike iteration all have a GunGame-like mode. Specifically, Gun Master for Battlefield 3 is a hugely refined version of the mod, and was included in the recent Close Quarters update. This was a massive incentive to purchase Battlefield Premium. Early access to the maps and the slick new game mode are fantastically evil hooks to lure the ever hungry gamer.  The point is that the popularity of a somewhat niche modification has been used as a selling point for other games. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be better than the original version. This isn’t the only example either. League of Legends recently added a new map that is only a single lane, jumping on the massive popularity of the custom game All Random, All Mid. The ingenuity of gamers has given Riot a fresh reason to update and improve their game, and perhaps bring more players on board. That’s not even mentioning the popularity of Day Z, which is naturally followed with the fact that a stand-alone remake is in the pipeline (admittedly the maker of Day Z is a developer of Bohemia Interactive). Soon developers won’t even need a creative department.

But there is always a ringleader, a monopolist of greed, and in this case it’s Valve. Ignoring the Arms Race mode in CS:GO, Valve have purported the gamer-as-content-creator model.  DotA 2 and Team Fortress 2 both have systems whereby players make and then trade their own cosmetic items. The Community Workshop is a hive of free extras for a range of games. And, barring the stalled Half-life series, not a single one of their games is an in-house development. And yet we throw money at their feet, lauding the genius of people power. It’s time to rise up.

No longer should you stand by and be trampled by the wheels of production. The creation of games has gone full circle—from basement hobby, to big business, and back into the hands of the proletarian. Rise, rise now and stop the tyranny of capitalist game makers, for the power is yours.

 

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