Broke My Golden Rule of Gaming. Here’s What Happened Next.
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #143. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath and David Shimomura, who adds any typos or factual errors that might appear within.
Every day, once a day, give yourself a present.
– Special Agent Dale Cooper
Treat yo’ self!
– Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford
I will never make an in-app purchase in a game. Ever.
– Matt Marrone
Last month, my wife took the kids to her dad’s in New Jersey for the weekend. That left me to my own devices, which is a dangerous thing – particularly because one of those devices is an iPhone with apps and games on it.
Naturally, I decided to do what any self-respecting, hard-working husband and father would do when given an ultra-rare weekend off: Eat tons of greasy takeout food, drink like a fish and spend my birthday money on worthless garbage I swore I’d never buy.
For those of you scoring at home, that’s a recipe for three strikes and I’m out. Or, to stick with a sports metaphor, a final score of Regret 3, Me 0. Right?
Wrong. I only lost 2-1!
Which means one of these things must be true: 1. The takeout food didn’t make me feel lousy. 2. The booze didn’t make me feel lousy. 3. The in-app purchases didn’t make me feel lousy.
So, which one was it?
Let’s take them one at a time.
- The takeout food. My wife hates Chinese food, so it’s the first thing I order when she goes away. I always regret it. I love it in the moment but, without exception, I feel disgusting afterwards. Still, the next time she skips town? I’ll be right back on Seamless. In that way, the weekend’s most indulgent delivery order was exactly what I expected: Regret galore!
- The booze. Like Chinese food, I also love beer, and I also feel pretty shitty after drinking too much of it. I only had one beer the whole weekend, but the formula remained – pair beer with Chinese food and death is only a fraction worse.
- The in-app purchases. I’m not going to tell you what the in-app purchases were or how much money I spent on them. The main reason: I’m embarrassed. I broke my gaming Golden Rule, of which I had been quite proud. Still, if my wife were ever to read this – and I’m fairly confident she won’t, so you know I’m being honest – she could rest assured that I didn’t shell out all that much in the grand scheme of things. And, like I said, it was my birthday money, so all good. Even better: I don’t regret it!
I don’t regret it for two distinct but related reasons. All this time, I have held the unwavering belief that in-app purchases are a scam. A waste. No-good, awful, repugnant things that need to be stamped out of existence. And now I know for sure – I was right!
I knew, too, that in-app purchases are a slippery slope, that the rush of bonuses and perks in a game and the mighty achievements you can suddenly unlock can easily become addicting. Leveling up quickly and painlessly, scoring points like a madman . . . heck, all that can literally turn you into a madman, particularly when you find yourself chained to your phone trying to squeeze every last advantage out of the real-life money you just parted with. And when it’s all over? The game will never seem quite as fun as when you had those God-like powers.
Sounds awful, right? It is. And yet . . . I had a blast! I had my greatest weekend of iOS gaming ever. It was not enough to stack up against the real whales, which only drives home the point that these people are spending thousands and thousands of dollars on games with no tangible prize, and that all still seems really sad.
But, hey, that’s their problem. I scored four times more points in a single weekend than I had in all my countless hours playing the game previously – combined. The power-ups and upgrades I grabbed continue to boost me even now. I’m still feeling the advantage, still kicking ass weeks later.
In other words: In-app purchases are horrible. In-app purchases are amazing.
At last, I have tested my theory. I hated it. I loved it. And now, knowing I was right, I am done with it forever.
Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at ESPN.com. He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.