Yes, these are real terms. Neologisms like these really tend to annoy me, but I won’t get into the world’s obsession with inventing buzzwords. I’m currently reading up on social media activities/games that arguably exploit player participation and creativity. Most recognizably, games like Farmville, Sims, or World of Warcraft all seem to contribute to the idea of combining a seemingly fun activity that promotes play with something that starts to feel more and more like work. Read more about what Cyborgology has to say about “playbor” and “weisure” in online gaming to get an idea.
There are loads of games that convince us that when we work, we’re actually playing, and mask the fact that while we play, we’re actually doing work. But, what happens when that work is productive, and benefits us? Is it exploitation, or is it doing exactly what we need it to do? There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding exploitation with reference to the commercial capitalism and popularity that some games have been generating based on fan creativity and hard (free) labor. A notable example of this is Little Big Planet 1 & 2 on the PS3, where the enjoyment of both heavily relies on playing through levels created by fans for fans. Another larger issue that often overlaps with this is the common tactic of game developers who entice players to purchase items and/or hints with real money. On Facebook, I’ve been testing out a beta version of the new Game of Thrones Ascent game and, surprise surprise, you need to purchase gold in order to buy certain weapons/armour for your sellswords. The game allows you to win pieces of silver now and again to purchase low-strength knives and the like, but so far I’ve not been able to get my hands on any gold without opening the wallet (which I’m not about to do for a game that automatically made me into a “Lady” when I’d clearly created a male character/avatar. Damn Facebook.)
In any case, there are a lot of questions to be asked here about exploitation in games and what exactly the game developers are exploiting, if you buy into the argument that they’re even doing something ethically questionable at all. To return to Little Big Planet, some will argue that the game gains popularity and revenue due to the thousands of levels created by fans who are unpaid for their work. With so much authorship at play, there is a risk of game developers and companies providing less and less in the actual game and expecting the players to build it themselves. Conversely, the game provides tools specifically for level creation, so the game is arguably selling the experience and opportunity for creativity based in a pre-established universe with limited (but provided) resources. The more levels are created, the more hours a player will get out of the game, and for no extra charge, at least in LBP’s case. So, is it worth the purchase and the time, even though the players modding the levels and creating them from scratch won’t garner revenue from PSN? More to come on this topic for sure.