From the site: “Definition: A gaming dark pattern is something that is deliberately added to a game to cause an unwanted negative experience for the player with a positive outcome for the game developer.”
I remember when I was first writing about roguelikes at late, lamented GameSetWatch, it was right around the time of the rise of mobile gaming. It would bring video games to a whole under-served audience, and it did! It would become industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and it did that too! And it would all do it fairly, taking nothing from poor players while granting extra perks to wealthy ones who would just pay them a little money, a microtransaction*, to justify their outlay, and, well….
Mobile games are fun, and many of them are inexpensive, at least at first. But frequently, and especially with the whole “free to play” genre, they are full of tricks to try to get you to shell out cash for advantages. A certain nominal fee might be appropriate, but most aren’t in it for a simply nominal fee. Interesting and/or important features will turn out to be locked behind the “premium currency,” which at first seems plentiful but before long turns very scarce unless you pony up with the cash money dollas.
These games want to find themselves a few big whales to be their sugar parents, and at times it seems that they are the true audiences that they chase, with us ordinary plebs left to soak our heads. It’s a lucre-seeking design style that has become synonymous with an entire genre, and it could be argued has done real harm to the whole field of mobile gaming.
Everyone needs to earn a living, but it rankles to be used as the bricks on their road to their pot of gold, especially when the necessity of that premium currency is obscured at the start of the game. DarkPattern.games lays out how these games try to get their fingers into your wallet, and points an accusing finger at those titles that rely on these tricks.
It also points the way to games that don’t. They may cost a bit more up-front, but at least you won’t be nagged repeatedly during your time with them to give them just a little more cash, just a little more, that’s all they need, just a little more cash man, they can stop any time, any time they want….
* “Microtransaction” is one of those terms that causes my blood pressure to rise. Who now remembers that the term was originally coined to mean payments of a dime or less, maybe even less than a penny, such as to pay for access to a news article? Now we’re beset with paywalls, the things microtransactions were supposed to save us from, while the term has been appropriated by all these sharks? I mean to tell you, it makes all my neurons sparkle with a communist glimmer.