Games, Sustainability, And Expectations

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Lately, I got into the game “Portal Knights,” a charming Minecraft-meets-Action RPG video game. It takes a lot of lessons from various games and combines then for a solo or with-friends adventure in a broken world. There are a few polish issues, but for $20 there’s a lot of value.

The game also has optional downloadable content, from a fancy one with new stuff to simple ones with extra hats or buildable items. It all seems quite reasonable, but then I found online complaints about the game having a “money grab.”

Note that for $20 you get a pretty complete game people are supporing, even though it’s been out in Early Access and complete for over two years. It didn’t seem that way to me, but . . .

This made me think about the challenges that game publishing faces – and how much it costs.

  • First, people expect a supported game. But if you make your money on sales, then you need ways to keep paying for it unless you make a lot of money.
  • Second, many people expect games to be around for a long time – that requires some kind of support model.
  • Third, subscription fees of some kind seem to have long ago faded away.
  • Fourth, DLC and extras are reasonably accepted ways to keep the money coming. Heck, it goes back to Team Fortress 2 and hats.

We have expectations of long-term support and endurance of games in the video game community. But how do we reconcile that with the simple financial need to pay developers? Even when we do that, do we have a way to declare a game just simply “done” and move on?

I thought about this and simply realized . . . I don’t have an answer.

We want a way to get good games. We want a way to support them and have them grow. But the methods we have are piecemeal, or limited, controversial, or misused (loot boxes). There has to be something else out there we haven’t invented yet.

I’d like to see a lot more discussion on media production, monetization, and patronage. It’d be great for games, yes, but it might be something we can extend to other media. Right now, we’re probably too confined by current models, past ideas, and recent failures.

Steven Savage

It’s Fine To Spend Money

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

America has a weird approach to money.  On one level, we love to spend it (if we have it) to judge by the things that people buy.  On another level, we continuously shame people for buying things. It’s a strange duality – until you think about it for a few minutes.

Americans believe money is a measure of virtue.  We believe having it shows virtue (even if someone inherited it or made it in questionable ways).  We believe spending it somehow shows virtue as long as it’s the right things.  To have money and spend it has a weird moral quality – if you’re the right person or kind of person.

On the other hand, we view the wrong people spending things on the wrong things to be bad.  Millennials get constantly bashed for A) wasting money while B) killing industries by not buying stuff they can’t afford anyway.  I’m sure you’ve encountered various cases of some scold telling you not to buy things – that they, of course, would do.

Me, I’m frugal.  OK, I’m quite cheap in some ways.  I am the last person to tell someone to spend money for no good reason.  So I’d like to chime in that it’s damn fine to spend money on things because sometimes it makes sense and is better than saving it.  Use this the next time you feel guilty, or some jerk decides to make you feel guilty.

Here’s where I think it’s damned fine to spend money.

Sometimes it’s fun.  There’s nothing wrong with fun.  People need more fun in their lives as far as I’m concerned.  So go, spend, have fun.

Sometimes it’s therapeutic.  I mean if a bar of chocolate or a mimosa makes you feel better, spend the money.  Indulge, feel better – I learned from my studies on diet and exercise that indulgences can be incredibly valuable to sanity.

It saves time.  Pay for that food to be delivered, pay for that restaurant to send you a pizza, spring for postage.  If time is money, sometimes you have to spend money to save time.

Capability.  Maybe you need to spend money on something you can’t do yourself due to not having the skills, illness, physical limitations, etc.  Know what, it’s fine to spring for someone to clean the apartment if you can’t, I mean seriously.

Cost-benefit.  Sometimes you get more out of spending money than not doing it.  That reasonably priced laptop that lets you send email, do your job search, practice your skills, etc. is worth it.

Sometimes you must do it.  Look sometimes stuff costs money and you can’t go without that stuff.  Don’t let the scolds tell you not to do it.

Temporary situations.  If you get sick and have to order out, fine, spend money.  Must change apartments because of a job move, fine, pay the move fees.  Spending money is not always a constant; sometimes it’s temporary.

Spending money as fine.  As an official skinflint, a man that has an involvement with spreadsheets bordering on the romantic, please, spend money.  Don’t listen to the scolds and the puritans who want to tell you what not to do so they can feel superior (and often they have money and positions that you don’t).

I’m all for frugality.  I’m all for careful spending.  But money is just a tool, and sometimes you gotta open the toolkit.  

Steven Savage

Those Little Reminders Of Location

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Lately I tried to do the 10,000 step challenge. You know the whole thing, try to get 10,000 steps a day on average to get more exercise. The exact number itself isn’t gospel at all (it originated in a mix of pedometer publicity, a study of postal workers, and the general fact that walking is good), but it’s a good enough target for me to make sure I stay mobile. I’d been through a lot of changes in my life, and always tried to get in good walks now and then.

What I found kind of surprised me.

First, I have a habit of walking anyway – taking breaks at work, when I write, etc. So I found I was certainly getting my exercise – mostly. Then again there were days where I got a lot less walking than I thought – often when I worked at home, but also less on the weekends when I was active.

Secondly, I had put on some weight in the last few years. Nothing worrysome, but I figured it had been due to disruption and lots of changes.

Walking helped me put it together.

I used to live at a place where I walked a lot. I lived near a shopping complex where I could take care of most of my shopping needs and then some, so I walked there practically once a day if not more. That was on top of my workout and my usual walking.

Then I moved, and shopping was a bit more distant, so I drove a bit more.

Then I moved again, and though there were great shopping complexes, none were across the street. So I drove more.

That’s when I realized literally I had gone from years of constant walking to less and less. So of course I put on a few pounds.

It made me again reflect on what I’ve often talked about – the importance of location. Changes here and there added up (including on my waistline) and I hadn’t noticed them until I ran some numbers and did a little research.

Then of course there’s differences in location for more than exercise. Saving gas. Access to food and services. Pollution. Weather and microclimates. Location matters in so many ways we forget as we get used to hearing how it matters.

It’s easy to forget the issues of location. A little thing like this helped bring me back to just how much location matters.

For me, it was a change in exercise. But think of how a few thousand feet affects if someone can make it to a store. Or how a change of a mile affects home prices. Or one town over has problems with sewage that you don’t.

The little reminders helps with the big things.

Steven Savage