6 Groundbreaking Ways Video Games Are Screwing Players

#3. 3D SexVilla 2 -- Everything Is DLC

I'm almost jealous of the makers of 3D SexVilla 2. I have never been so clear in my purpose, in my mission, as someone who calls their work "3D SexVilla 2." It's an inarguable statement of intent, and unfortunately a failure on more horrible levels than Dante getting lost in an Escher painting.

M.C. Escher
And features even more horny guys.

In theory, a virtual sex simulator is a good idea. Current computer limitations mean that they can't really render emotions, skin imperfections, or smell, but those are only downsides in most amateur Internet porn. It lets users control every move of every body, which sounds good, but anyone prepared to learn an entire computer animation modeling system to generate porn could probably save time by convincing real people. Hell, they'd probably be faster inventing lifelike androids. When someone's hard or wet, even a video buffering symbol is too much frustration. Few people want to spend days manipulating animation stick-and-ball models when they can manipulate their stick and balls directly.

How pick-up artists see women.

Where it breaks down is when you try to do anything. Every single prop, control, and slide bar in the game costs real money. You even have to pay to adjust the breast size, aka "the first thing anyone would do," and when your explicit sex game offers less free sexy character customization than most fighting games, you're in trouble.

Namco Bandai
Not a porn game. Apparently.

Unlocking every option would add up to over $750. I don't care what you're into, you'll find real people prepared to do it for, with, or to you for that much money. I understand where Thrixxx is going with this -- anyone at home buying upgrades for their 3D SexVilla is a captive market imprisoned by psychological bars stronger than any steel -- but the Internet is already infinite pornography for free. And even when you create your own disturbing mating-mannequin masterpiece, the user agreement indicates that all resulting custom-made hardcore porn still belongs to Thrixxx, which is the most I've ever seen an End User License Agreement screw anything.

#2. EVE Online -- Manual Autopilot

EVE Online is the most exciting and vibrant video game universe ever created, as long as you only ever read about it from the outside once a year. (Why not read about the $17,000 assassination, exploding a thousand dollars for free, or the Ultimate Video Game Dick Move right now?) Actually playing it is like being one of the attackers in the Battle of Helm's Deep: Something awesome is happening, but most of your life has been boring drudgery and now you're going to be killed by characters who've been here longer.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Level 90 takes a heavy toll.

EVE Online tries to replace the player's real life, mainly by preventing him from having one to compare it against. In EVE, time is literally money: You buy PLEX for playing time, and these PLEX can be used as currency. Every player shares the same gigantic persistent universe, which sounds impressive but means that the main gameplay mechanic is "commuting." Ships hopscotch across the universe from stargate to stargate. This can take hours, which is why you have an autopilot, and that autopilot might as well be a self-destruct system. It dumps your ship out of warp 15 km from the next gate, tootling along at sublight in places where only autopiloted craft ever go, in a universe where every other player is a piranha with a warp drive. You might as well set your ship to transmit "FREE KILL HERE!" and replace the autopilot with a starmoth attracted by enemy laser fire.

The thing is, your ship can totally warp directly to the next gate. There's no imaginary physics or warp bubble stopping it. Your autopilot just refuses to do it. So the fastest way to get from place to place is to run the autopilot, turn it off when you're warping, manually arrive at the next gate, then manually turn the autopilot back on to launch the next jump. When you're remaining at your keyboard to save your autopilot the bother of doing its job, you don't know what "autopilot" means. You also don't know what "games" and "fun" mean, because you're staring at a flying stars screensaver for most of your play time. It's an antimeditation system: forcing you to contemplate endless nothingness but stay focused only on the most trivial material aspects of our world.

Making the multimillion-dollar EVE Online game functionally identical to a Windows 3.1 screensaver.

It's an efficient way to dilute half an hour of gameplay over an entire day, which is EVE's entire design strategy. The gate frequency is perfectly timed to disrupt your thought processes at regular intervals, preventing you from escaping or thinking of anything else happier or better. It's Chinese water torture applied to game design.

Thousands of players worked out how to get the autopilot to do its actual job and were banned from the game. Bots and scripts are normally evil, but when the game is specifically designed to trap you in a prison of minimalist data entry where you press three keys a minute, that's not cheating, that's psychological self-defense. Altering the autopilot code was less a hack than a basic intelligence test.

#1. Gun Bros -- Consumer Behavioral Optimization

Gun Bros asks the important question "Why hasn't anyone remade Smash TV properly yet?" But while Smash TV satirized capitalism and violent entertainment, Gun Bros combines them. You can spend real money on extra weapons. One of them costs 500 real dollars. The "Kraken" fires a barrage of enemy-obliterating homing missiles, and that's just while it's charging up its main gun, a handheld satellite laser cannon. It costs almost as much as the iPad you're playing the game on, and its only function is saving you the bother of actually playing the game by constantly killing everything on the screen.

Glu Mobile
Note how the gun blocks out even the picture of the player appearing in the game, never mind actually playing.

These weapons are bought with WarBucks, which can be bought with real money. But what's even scarier is that players can also "earn" WarBucks by watching advertisements. You earn money for weapons that save you the work of playing by watching advertisements for things you don't want. That is the exact opposite of the function of every word in that sentence. The problem is that ads operate on your mind even when you hate them. And these iPad games are mainly used as chains and gags for children that won't get Child Services involved. So we're granting advertisers unfettered access to our children's psychology through a brain reprogammer that makes A Clockwork Orange look like a doting babysitter. And they're teaching kids that watching ads counts as work.

Luke also investigates the Worst Nerd Comment Ever, tumbles, and responds to every single tweet.

Luke improves more video games with 4 Ways to Make Open World Video Games Better and takes on more idiots with The 4 Worst T-Shirts Ever Made by Man.

More money is flushed away with The 5 Most Absurdly Expensive Items in Online Gaming and The 10 Most Insulting Things Video Games Charged Money For.

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