#1. It Was Addictive
For some reason, addictiveness is considered a favorable quality when talking about video games, kind of the same way we use it to describe potato chips or getting high on life. That certainly sounds reasonable; after all, unlike alcoholism, or crackoholism, video games have never killed anyone. Except when they have.
Yes, it was StarCraft. It was always going to be StarCraft. Don't look so shocked, Blizzard.
But even if we have more self-control than Koreans, it's still wrong to celebrate how addictive games are. "Addiction" implies compulsion, that the urge to play isn't an entirely willing or rational one. As established, I wasn't playing Tank Tank to improve myself, nor because it was fun. I was playing it solely because I was addicted. And even though I didn't keel over in an Internet cafe, or suck off a drug dealer for my next hit, or write a country music song, this was not a good thing. Once I realized how much time I was putting into this piece of shit, I got kind of pissed off about it.
More so when I realized that this addictiveness was completely artificial. I had been deliberately manipulated, tricked into continuously playing this colossal turd burger.
Overlying the basic (and piss-simple) Tank Tank game mechanic was an even more primitive mechanic, one I guarantee you're familiar with. Depending on how long and effectively you tanked, power ups, upgrades and larger, more virile tanks could be earned. Although this all felt very important at the time, none of these upgrades affected the strategy in the game in the slightest way. You just got a slightly better Tank Tank, and, more importantly, a new upgrade to strive toward. This is a well known game design called bar filling, which is basically an upgrading mechanic borrowed from RPG games. It's since been applied to nearly every other genre in the industry, entirely because it seems to make games more addictive.
In RPGs, bar filling is a reasonable way of spreading out the upgrading and character building aspects of the game. And because this upgrading will affect how fast and fun the bar-filling gameplay is, a kind of feedback loop is established; there's strategy and fun to be delved into here. And when the central mechanic that "fills" the "bar" is fun, you've got yourself a good game; it's been at the heart of RPGs for decades. But in Tank Tank, every bar I filled changed shit fuck. The difference between low-level Tank Tank and high-level Tank Tank was nonexistent. I was filling bars just because they were there. Tank, tank, repeat.
(thinking) "I am so fucking bored right now."
And Tank Tank isn't even the worst offender for this kind of shady gameplay, an honor that falls to well-known Freemium games like FarmVille and VilleVille and SituationTown. Those are the colossal pieces of shit that keep flooding Facebook with spam whose gameplay consists entirely of clicking on things. After several days' worth of clicks, more clickable things are "earned" and the cycle repeats itself. Most importantly, it seems that after two or three clicks, an email, text or fucking telegram is sent to every person the player has ever met, asking them to join the fun. It's a potent combination of left clicks, spam, pyramid schemes and endless human suffering, and the fact that someone's making a lot of money off of it is just the worst.
Please, people, follow my lead, and stop playing these shitty little manipulative games. Free yourselves! Stop killing time! Have fun! Expand your horizons! And if on the horizon you happen to see the police wrestling a duck away from a pantsless man, then stand up and start clapping really slowly, for that man is the freest of us all.
For more from Bucholz, check out 7 Video Game Healing Methods Least Likely to Actually Work and Chatting With Mario During a Game of Super Mario Brothers.