Nickel, meet dime

During our trip to Arizona over the summer, Paul and I stayed at the Ritz Carlton at Dove Mountain, a resort and spa that was every bit as glamorous as it sounds. Because of that glamour, I wasn’t quite prepared for the nickel-and-diming that goes on at joints that charge $800 per night for a basic room. The parking lot was deliberately stationed a bit too far for a comfortable walk because the Ritz wanted us to pay $20 for valet every time we wanted to leave. We weren’t allowed to bring a cart to our room for our luggage; only the bellhops were allowed to touch the carts, and of course they expect tips. There were no vending machines or inexpensive restaurants on site, nor was there anything resembling a continental breakfast, meaning the only food to be had was from room service or the overpriced restaurants below. Wireless internet wasn’t included, either.

Sound familiar? These are all things that would be provided as a matter of course in a basic hotel, the type that we’d normally stay in when we’re not getting a massive conference discount. We felt somehow tricked and guilty for being “cheap” because we aren’t much for spending money frivolously. But we’ve felt this way before… when playing F2P MMOs. Yes, spa resorts, the nicest hotels on the planet, have the real-world equivalent of microtransaction cash shops. What a juxtaposition with gaming! We’ve come to think on F2P games as junky, cheap knock-offs, games poorbies play, in comparison to subscription games, which surely must be high-end. Except… some F2P games are extremely classy, and most of the best sub games are double-dipping with microtransaction shops nowadays too.

Reflecting on these incorrect assumptions — indeed, this snobbery — led me to write the Soapbox article published on Massively earlier this week. Titled Time is money, friend, it covers the inadvertent and intentional class warfare going on in the bloodied valleys between subscription and freemium games. The article wasn’t well-received; I was accused of hating subscriptions (I don’t), shamed for invoking the state of the economy (I didn’t even mention the economy), branded for sensationalism and opinionatedness (sigh), attacked for shilling for the F2P industry (what?), and informed that the word “classism” shouldn’t be used in an MMO context because it’s too easily confused with classes (lol?). I even had one commenter use the word “demesne” correctly in one sentence then suggest Africans are starving because they’re too busy fucking to plant crops (… wow). People don’t like to be told they’re snobs, so I’m not surprised at the reaction, but come on folks: If you’re not a snob, I’m not talking to you!

In its original form, my article tied up all the F2P-hate in a nice bundle of not just classism but sexism, misogyny, racism, ageism, and homophobia, because hatred for casual games and freemium games really stems from all of those things. It was way too long an article for Massively or even for here, however, so maybe bits and pieces of those arguments will eventually find their own articles.

In still other Massively news, I joined in on a seven-person round-table edition of the recent Massively Speaking Podcast, marking my fourth appearance on the show. We debated whether old, outdated MMOs should be kept around forever or retired gracefully. I had agreed to play devil’s advocate and take the side of “shut ’em all down,” and while I found that difficult (especially given that I was arguing to a group of MMO enthusiasts), I nevertheless began to find the argument convincing. As a devotee of certain older games (I don’t think any of my top five games were made in the last five years), I recognize that it is absolutely in my personal best interest to see these games keep going, but it might not be the best thing for the industry as a whole. Furthermore, I’m a historian by trade, so the idea of abolishing old things just because they’re old is anathema to me. Yet usually I find there’s something still to be learned from old books and old buildings — is that really true of an old MMO? Isn’t an MMO more like an experience or a form of entertainment, good in its day, charming in its memory… but not exactly an antiquity to revere? The Ultima Online I played in 1997 is long gone anyway, and what remains is very little like that old game, so in keeping it around in its unrecognizable form, aren’t we doing a disservice to its memory in addition to preventing another UO2 or UXO from being born?

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