I Bought Facebook Credits This Weekend, and I am (Mostly) Not Ashamed

Illustration for article titled I Bought Facebook Credits This Weekend, and I am (Mostly) Not Ashamed

Until yesterday I prided myself on the fact that I never spent a single cent on Facebook's fake game money. Now that pride is gone, but the cause was just: I used real money to kick someone's ass.

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It almost sounds cool when I put it that way. Not so much when I expound. I used real money to reach the top of the leaderboard in the weekly friends tournament for Zynga's colorful new puzzle game, Ruby Blast.

Nope, still feeling pretty manly.

Ruby Blast is a score-based puzzler that pits friends against friends in a weekly high-score competition, the winner walking away with big prizes like a larger energy reserve, which in turns allows them more chances to best the score of the next tournament.

As Stephen explained last week, the game involves matching colored squares to dig deeper in a mine as a countdown clock ticks down. Clear the bottom of the screen and you score a time bonus, extending your round.

Stephen placed third in the tournament. Granted I only had five friends in the game, but it was a good showing nonetheless.

As of Saturday I was in the lead with a healthy 800,000 point score. The tournament ended on Sunday, and I was confident in my position, the next closest competitor being in the 500K range.

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But one man, whom I shall refer to as Travis (because it's his name), had the audacity to best me. I awoke yesterday to a 950K score above my own; I was in second place. Screw that noise.

So I spent yesterday attempting to defeat this... Travis. I played without power-ups, amassing coin so I could line-up a full set of performance enhancing gems for the big push. I was in the zone. I was clearing lines faster than the bathroom at a Hollywood night club. 800K. 850K. 930K.

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Time's up.

No, not going to happen, Travis. The sad little miner girl popped up on the screen, offering me salvation. For five Blast Cash I could get another 15 seconds on the clock, easily enough to put Travis in his place. It's not cheating to use the mechanics put in place by the developers to my advantage; it's just a little pathetic.

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I sat there, hands shaking with trepidation. Okay, I am lying. I hit the button for buy faster than something incredibly fast. It was the heat of the moment. I could almost hear Steve Howe's guitar solo in the background.

So yes, I caved. I set up my PayPal account and spent two dollars on 15 Facebook credits; Blast Cash in Ruby Blast. I paid to win.

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*spotlight fades to darkness*

*lights rise*

Or I would have, but the game locked up coming back from the transaction. The next round I played I scored 1,600,000 points without spending a dime.

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So yes, I paid to win, but lost. Then won without paying. There's a cautionary tale in there somewhere. You dig for that while I mine some more stupid gems.

DISCUSSION

Pay to Win has been around for ages outside video games. Every card game that requires decks are Pay to Win, it's all microtransactions. Want to win in Magic, buy the cards. Yu-Gi-Oh, pay to have a better deck. The rich kids always had the best Pokemon cards because they paid to win.

This goes a little further too. Warhammer can be pay to win. Buy a better squad, hero, commander, and beat those with a lesser team of miniatures.

Heck, even 'DLC' was around before it came into games. Dungeons and Dragons and the numerous books were purchasable, more content was available to those who pay. Lego had more pieces if you went out and bought more. You would get more out of your initial Lego set if you added to it with other sets. It's the same model.

Now, this might look as though I'm just messing around, but it's true; Microtransactions and Pay to Win, it's always been there. And it doesn't just involve toys either.

Cable channels, you get the basic package, but if you want to pay for the 'DLC', you can get the rest of the content. Pre-Order bonuses or Special Editions? Buy a car from a specific dealer and get extra credit, pay extra for packages over the base model. I bought the car, why isn't the rest free?

I can buy a CD with a bonus disc, but it's only available in a certain store. The special edition DVD can only be bought in selected outlets. You want double cheese? Extra toppings? You already made that shit, why can't you give it to me straight away!?

Sure, some of these examples are a stretch, but they are similar in the model being used in games. It's a global model, it's a consumer model. You get offered options, something you may or may not like, you put in for just what you see as suitable for you. Or, you pay for what you can afford.

I bought some cards too! Why does that guy get a Charizard!? He paid extra I guess.

We have adapted to this model in all other areas. We should adapt to it now too. But adapting does not mean that you are weakening, that you are folding to the man. It simply means you are willing to look at the options. That you are ready to progress.

When we progress, we have the chance to influence out progression. And in games, this is time for that influence. Say how much you want to pay. Don't pay for what you don't want. Show that you expect a good deal and good content, or else you'll buy something else or go elsewhere.

Pizza Hut offers a poor meal deal, I'll go to Dominos, I won't just fold if I don't think it is worthwhile.

We can say that in games, these aspects target the weaker, those who want to pay after getting hooked? It's odd that we can say that considering most of us have no problem slapping down $60 for the latest release. Why is my spending more valid than another, especially if the enjoyment factor is parallel.

The games industry isn't doing anything different. It's simply adopting sustainable models for the future. It's becoming more flexible, it's offering choice. But just make sure you do choose, and what you do choose is really what you want or what you think is a good deal, good value.

Monetization, DLC, Microtransactions; all of these have great amounts of potential for games. We just need to drop the stigma and take a look around. I would love to pay a little more for a little extra content for a game that I loved. If the price was right.

Vote with your wallet, and buy great content.

Today I bought a dinner set. I could upgrade my coffee to iced coffee for an extra $2 (HKD). I did. I'm glad I did. I enjoyed my meal, and that coffee tasted great along with it.