Why Are Games Punishing Us for Doing Well?
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Have you ever had a game you love so much, you spend as much time as you can playing after it launches? You put in all sorts of time and effort to make good progress. You are rewarded with the knowledge that, for a brief fleeting moment, you may have been one of the best and strongest players. The problem is, we have instances lately where people who put in that kind of time and effort are not reaping the rewards they deserve. Instead, companies are penalizing them for their progress.

There have been two instances of this as of late. The first is Destiny 2. Bungie had rigged the experience system. People suffered as a result. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is the other. This new Nintendo mobile game also has a habit of scaling back on friendship points with animals as you get to know them better. In each instance, people were being punished for playing the game and excelling.

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The Destiny 2 “punishment” was far more severe. XP gains were tainted. People noticed this happening during the 2017 Clarion Call event. Even though they would end up earning 5,000 XP, they would notice that alleged amount would fill less of the XP bar each time it was earned. This is because scaling would eventually alter the amount earned, which sometimes resulted in up to 95% losses. It was unfortunate and wrong, especially since the Bright Engrams you would have been earning from that experience could also be bought.

There is a bright side to the Destiny 2 situation. Once this scaling came to light, Bungie acknowledge it was happening. It committed to fixing the problem. XP will no longer be throttled, people will get exactly what they should be, and there is no skeeviness that seems to promote microtransaction purchases versus good, honest work. Yes, it was wrong to begin with, but now we are seeing progress toward change.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has a similar situation. In this mobile game, people run a camp and befriend animals. Reaching new levels of friendship unlocks tangible rewards and doles out the experience people need to reach higher levels. (Which in turn unlocks more characters, furniture, and even things like inventory slots and free Leaf Tickets. However, once you reach level five friendship with a character, you might start notice your gains going down.

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I have passed the level 23 point with my Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp character. With many characters, I have reached a level eight friendship plateau. Now that this has happened, I have noticed how many more points it takes to fill up these animals' empty hearts. Between one and two points is doled out per interaction. Early on, you can fill a heart with three to five encounters. Once you pass the level five mark, the number of points needed to level up grows substantially. Which means it takes much longer to build up friendships with established animals and level up. Again, microtransactions seem to be a motivating factor, since you can pay for the opportunity to complete more tasks beyond the initial three for each character. Improved scaling would help with this issue, which goes from having animals' relationships leveling up about once per day to once every few days or longer. 

Both of these situations highlight a problem in games. People were being penalized for enjoying a product. They were doing well and playing it, and the companies went out of their way to try and force them to engage further to earn the rewards expected from events. Scaling happens, we understand that, but do not use it to punish people and force them to play excessively or invest in microtransactions.

Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
JMariye

Site Editor
Date: 12/01/2017

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