I’ve been playing a lot of Minecraft lately. Specifically, I’ve been playing it on my PC using a mod collection called the "Direwolf20 Feed the Beast" collection. It adds all sorts of fantastic mods to the game; stuff that adds magic, industrial machines, new ores, new enemies and in fact, in some cases, entirely new dimensions. It is this incredibly dense, highly polished and seemingly endless procession of features and activities. It takes a game that already seemed to provide infinite replayability and exponentially jacks it up to some kind of hyper-infinity that likely is slowly eating away at the quantum flux of the whole universe. We’re going to end up living in a The Neverending Story nightmare, where we’re just floating on fragments of reality surrounded by the devouring Nothing created by my playing this game.
This is bad for the universe as a whole certainly, but for the games industry it’s even worse. Bad enough that the universe collapses, but what’s really unforgivable is that I have invested so many hours into a single game, finding a way to constantly enhance my experience without handing someone more money. Or, to put it another way, I had more fun than I should have been allowed without cashing back in.
Looking at the way the core of the games industry operates suggests that games are built to deliver a finite, intentionally limited, amount of fun on a per-dollar-spent basis. The result is some games that seem to be built with the explicit intent of being fun enough to be interesting, but not actually fun enough to exist as a complete and coherent thing. My gaming experience with something like Minecraft is anathema to this model.
Mainstream video games often feels less like a product and more like a doorway into a cash-syphoning system of diminishing returns, designed intentionality around hamstringing the customer. As far as I can tell, the biggest industry leaders have become so out of touch that they’ve backed themselves into a corner where this is the only way they know to make money. They’ve built a broken system and then locked themselves inside as it slowly builds toward a monumental collapse.
Which may not be a bad thing.