In the simpler times of Halo 3 — 2007 — we could participate in a videogameic system that had a beginning, middle, and end. This was known as a ‘story’. We would then, following this, perhaps on a night with friends, with beer, attempt to master the competitive implications of the mechanical themes established previously, culminating in (1) high fives or (2) thrown controllers. After a while, we would stop playing the videogame and go do something else.
A decade later it so falls, for financial reasons, that we should be incentivised to continue at the things beyond their natural death — enter the replicate wage.
I’ll briefly describe how it is formulated; how, especially in the hands of corporate interests, it conspires to devalue the gamer’s perception of their agency; and finally, what we should do about it (displacement).
In Destiny 2 — 2017 — we are given a box every so often for participating. If the box does not open instantly, we must visit a hub, in which resides a person (“cryptarch”) who exists to open boxes. When opened, we receive a random item the same colour as the box. Without these items, we cannot progress. These boxes have no capital value outside the system (other than they take time to acquire).
At the twenty hour mark, we are given a white box (“bright engram”), which we then continue to recieve every few hours.
To open a white box, we must visit Eververse Lady (not the cryptarch, though near the cryptarch). When opened, a white box gives us a random smattering of (extremely) unique and conspicuous items. Eververse Lady, in the same breath, and quite conspicuously, also offers us ‘silver‘, at the top right of the screen, in a flashing rectangle: [BUY SILVER]. ‘Silver’ can be exchanged for white boxes. With a (quite effortless) click, we see it costs just under five real pounds for five-hundred ‘silver’. Five-hundred silver buys three white boxes (one box alone costs two hundred silver).
Roughly, then, two hours of player effort is two hundred silver, which is two pounds. Or, in other words, we are compensated one nominal pound per hour for participation. To be clear: we save six hours, if we pay four pounds seventy nine for five hundred ‘silver’.
Bungie was caught decreasing (and then further decreasing) the frequency of white boxes. This is functionally — within the game’s economy — the same as increasing the value of capital, except in one crucial regard: the price of capital stays the same (in nominal terms, and in extra-videogame real terms). To make this clearer, for the same expenditure, we can now save more time.
That gamers are annoyed about this development, seems something of a paradox. Can’t they just play more? And if games are fun, isn’t that a good thing?
To “solve” this, I propose that (1) the gamer considers this theft of their time; (2) that compensating them for their time (through incentives) has a devaluing effect on their perception of the inherent value of the actions they perform; And (3) it’s not fair that, considering they all had the same start in the videogame (paid fifty pounds), for some players, through external capital supply, to be able to “spend” less time and yet have nicer things than others.
(That a libertarian or conservative gamer might adopt the third position re: his idealised videogameic system is something of a testament to the lived dissonance of his ideology.)
And, consider that the majority — perhaps all — of gamers, when made conscious of the decreased value of their time, are outraged, and oppose the system doggedly. (There may be hope for socialism yet.)
On December 5th, 2017, Bungie will release Destiny 2’s first expansion. To gain access to the continued relevance of their now spent time, the consumer will need to pay. I suggest not doing that.
Instead, perhaps it’s time to unionise. Not really. I suggest doing literally anything else. Which might include displacing the anger at your replicate struggle against big business with an understanding of the real and actual struggle of those who have no choice, for survival, but to engage with the theft of their value and time.
Anyway, it is certainly interesting to see in a microcosm what happens when big business (capital) is in competition with the gamer for the value of their time — it acts in secret to take it away.
The rest of the game is largely Halo 3, by the way.