Kotaku’s Heather Alexandra:
Whether they dole out cosmetics or gameplay-affecting items, loot boxes of any sort exist for the purpose of exploiting players. Whether it’s offering the chance to get Symmetra’s new skin or get a better rifle in Battlefront II, the only reason the loot box exists is to prey on the economically vulnerable. You are not a valued player; you are a statistic on a spreadsheet. You are red or black ink. Loot boxes certainly aren’t there for fun. They have always been designed for the purpose of making sure that a company turns a profit.
They’re in so many games now. This garbage needs to stop.
Valve is about to overhaul Steam in order to ensure that good games are visible and lazily developed games created for the purpose of making a quick buck—which Valve apparently calls “fake games”—sink beneath a sea of algorithms.
I’m not sure how this works, Valve have gone from saying that they want to take a more hands-off approach (back in 2014) to this new war on “fake games.”
The problem with this system, of course, is that it risks burying a handful of good games, as well. To combat this issue, Valve is going to introduce a program called Steam Explorers. Explorers will play through queues of games that haven’t been selling super well. If they dig a game, they can flag it. The more games get flagged, the more the algorithmic gods will smile upon them.
Anybody will be able to be an Explorer, much like Steam Curators. They’ll also get their own forum, so they can do things like arrange multiplayer matches in games that nobody else is playing.
The solution to all problems is unpaid labor from their community while they’re raking in profits. If this were EA with Origin, or Ubisoft’s uPlay, or basically anyone besides Valve, there would be a lot more people upset about not being paid to work. Or you would hope that people would be upset about their passion for games being exploited when Valve could just hire people to help curate the service.
It is with a heavy heart that I begin to say my goodbyes, readers. It’s been an honor to be part of Team Kotaku for the last two years.
Today is my last day at Kotaku. Tomorrow, a new journey begins. Though I can’t talk about where I’m headed yet, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know soon. I’m staying in journalism, building on my work over the past decade, but my byline will appear elsewhere. It wasn’t an easy decision, a sign I’d made a good decision to start writing for Kotaku in the first place. You were part of that, too.
I’ve been lucky enough to work at some truly memorable places over the years, but my time at the last two stops, Giant Bomb and Kotaku, have been the most gratifying yet. In various forms, from reporting to podcasts, I’ve done my best work because I’ve been surrounded by people who pushed me to do better.
Can’t wait to see what Patrick does next. It has been entertaining to watch his career go from a new guy at 1UP to an extremely well-regarded writer for Giant Bomb and Kotaku.
Patrick Klepek has this fascinating article covering two developers who come to find they’re working on almost the same premise for a game:
Perception, where you play a blind person who taps a cane to see around them, was revealed last week. Soon, an email went around indie studio Tiny Bull. “Panic started to spread among the team,” said CEO Matteo Lana. Why? Tiny Bull had been making Blind, a game with the same premise, for more than a year.
It all started when a Tiny Bull programmer was surfing new Kickstarter projects and came across the one for Perception.
“He sent me a message saying ‘Hey, this game looks a bit like our game.’” said Lana. “And I went ‘No, that is our game.’ It was a bit hard. It was quite a blow at the time.”
This kind of thing happens all the time, a few years ago it was the “year of the bow” when every game coming out seemed to feature bows and arrows regardless of the setting. Even Battlefield 3 added a crossbow. Is this the year of indie games with a visual aesthetic that can’t be played by people who are actually blind? Fortunately there are other developers who make games where all the gameplay is aural.