Videogames hold a very dear place in my heart. They allow me a reprieve from the daily problems of my life. They give me a space to share with friends I wouldn’t have otherwise. Every so often, a videogame will say something that touches me deeply. I’ve cried at least a couple times at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4. Maybe your experience with videogames is not quite the same, but I bet what I say rings somewhat true for anyone who’s picked up the hobby.
I’d argue that, as a piece of media, they’re works of art. They connect us and allow us to express ourselves. I’ve met some very special people to me, just by playing games online. And I’ve been able to play with them, in sandboxes and zombie infested lands and truly bonded over the time we’ve shared.
But games are also the product of hard work. They still are a piece of media to be distributed. At the end of the day, a game must be sold to keep the lights on: there’s developers to be paid, assets to be invested in, and stakeholders to answer to. So game companies adopt DRM policies, to thwart piracy and defend their product. They research new ways to reach broader audiences, and to hold their attention over the competition.
But I fear that, throughout the years, we’ve gotten it twisted. Game companies don’t talk in terms of “fun” but engagement nowadays. They don’t even call games as such anymore: platforms, live services – games as a service. But a service to who? I brought this question to a buddy who goes by the nickname EndlesNights, he replied with this:
“It's clear they only care about their bottom lines… For instance, how can we be in a time with simultaneously both record setting high profits and yet people are being let go from these corporations?” “You can go into further details about the negative implications and implementations of always online DRM. For instance on launch day & during big events, the severs are almost always overstrained which prevents everyone from accessing the server. It creates an arbitrary expiry date for the game, where the severs will no longer be cost effective to maintain and no one will be able to launch the game anymore. It provides no benefits to the end users, and the general ficklety of the services has only turned potential customers away to acquire pirated & cracked copies.”
A lot of these AAA companies CEOs don’t really care for the games they make. To them, it’s just another product. Bobby Kotick is infamous for many things. Among these, one that has stuck to the back of my mind was his belief that videogames should be sold like detergent. Back in 2005 he hired a couple of Proctor & Gambler ex-employees for his publishing division. When interviewed, this was his reply:
"Processes that have worked well in packaged goods industry -- bringing goods to market, the process of market research and internalizing the business -- have all added the most value to our company…"Source
Fast-forward a bit: it’s 2009, and Activison just merged with Blizzard. A bunch of their IPs were dropped, and amongst these was Brutal Legend, which seemed like it would never be published under Activision. So Double Fine negotiated with EA, who would end up publishing the game. So, of course, Activison sues EA trying to block the release of the game.Source: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009-jun-05-fi-ct-lawsuit5-story.html
This is what Tim Schafer (Founder of Double Fine Productions) had to say regarding Mr. Kotick, after Double Fine got sued by Activision over the release of Brutal Legend by EA, back in 2010:
"His obligation is to his shareholders… Well, he doesn't have to be as much of a dick about it, does he? I think there is a way he can do it without being a total prick… He [Kotick] makes a big deal about not liking games, and I just don't think that attitude is good for games in general. I just don't think we're an industry of widgets...” "We can approach it like we approach bars of soap, where you're just trying to make the cheapest bar of soap. He definitely has that that kind of widget-maker attitude. I don't think he's great for the industry, overall. You can't just latch onto something when it's popular and then squeeze the life out of it and then move on to the next one. You have to at some point create something, build something… Hopefully he'll go back to another industry soon.”Source
The lawsuit was settled outside of court, btw. But the judge said he was “… strongly inclined to rule against Activision’s motion to stop the game’s release.”
You draw your own conclusions.Source: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009-aug-07-fi-activision7-story.html
So, it’s pretty clear that, at least for Activision’s CEO, games don’t hold value beyond the revenue they can bring into the company. The outcome? After the success of CoD 4, Modern Warfare, CoD became a franchise that released games yearly. The games weren’t that different from each other, and each came with it’s own new monetization scheme: microtransactions, map-packs, lootboxes, etc. This is bad. And what’s worse, the quality of the games isn’t always up to par. It can’t be, if you’re expected to pump out a product year after year, using a cookie cutter formula. And CoD isn’t the worst example of this kind of thing, it’s just the most popular and polished.
The lead up question is, are we getting the short end of the stick as consumers? And I’m hoping to build a solid case of proof and evidence to say “Yes, we are!” This attitude is not localized to Activision, but widespread across the industry. It’s not the exception, is the rule. And, somehow throughout the years, we’ve just accepted this as the way things are.
I feel that we, as gamers, make tons of excuses for game companies when they mess up in the pursuit of money, out of misplaced loyalty. Because the games they put out mean more to us than just entertainment. But AAA game companies abuse our demand for games. They wring us for all our worth with a smile and then heckle us in subtle, and not so subtle ways (Yes, I have a phone Blizzard, your game is still a free PoS for the Chinese market.)
So, the real question is, what can we do about it? All we can do is try to rally together and vote with our wallets: the only language they understand
I'm here to tell you the current state of the market isn't fine. We’ve gotten to this point, not because games started out as 60 dollar products with a real cost of upwards 100 dollars and spendings on the side - we let it get to this point. I’m here to put forward the motion that, sometimes, we just have to let games we love die and move on. Another one will come to take it's place. It won't be the same, but it always does anyways. It is something regrettable, but when game companies predate on consumers this hard. Below, I’ve put together a list of companies I'm personally boycotting, along with videos and articles that back up the reasons I have for this boycott. IDK if anyone will care to go through this, I certainly hope at least one other person takes me seriously and at least reads through it, just to be informed. That’s all I can ask for.
- Lays off 350 people, while hiring a new CEO and giving him multimillion dollar bonus
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RZ1zfEe0W8
- Article: https://www.businessinsider.com/electronic-arts-laying-off-350-employees-2019-3
- FIFA 2020 was basically a copy paste of FIFA 2019 with no Quality Assurance. This is the best example of what yearly franchises actually are. You can tell here since it's unpolished: they just forces gamers to reset their progress to 0 and spend more money trying to play catch up with their last year's progress, all the while including very minor updates to the game itself.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9duLp9PZtWM
- Article: https://www.imore.com/why-you-shouldnt-buy-fifa-20-nintendo-switch
- List of dead studios at the hands of EA (They ran the companies and their IPs to the ground)
- Maxis Studios
- Westwood Studios
- Visceral Games
- Many more (List)... https://heavy.com/games/2017/10/studios-ea-has-killed-visceral-games/
- They introduced microtransactions into a single player game, allowing you to prepurchase this, along with some day 1 dlc. Maybe it's to be expected now, and they’d done it before with Mass Effect 3 (And Ubisoft did it with Assassin’s Creed), but they did it with reckless abandon.
- Dead Space 3 will have microtransactions, to massive public uproar:
- Video: https://youtu.be/6Myy5Khm12A?t=161
- Article: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-01-22-dead-space-3-includes-micro-transactions-for-buying-better-weapons
- Oh and then they used that as a platform to shove microtransactions into EVERY GAME
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra113_O9R4E
- Always online DRM for a Single Player game! (Simcity 2013) This was one of the building blocks for games as a service, as this form of DRM is widely tolerated nowadays. They argued it was needed back then. They wouldn’t really say why.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maU7vPrNRDI
- Article: https://kotaku.com/simcity-is-online-only-but-it-promises-not-to-repeat-d-5915377
- Then they backed down on that once it flopped, because they couldn’t sustain it:
- Article: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/13/simcity_offline_turnaround/
- Did I talk about the Sims online and how they only care about PR? Here's a BOOK on MMOs (just read the abstract), Second Life, and how messed up Sims online was: they never policed it, banned users if they gave them negative PR, not if they were hacking scumbags.
- Book: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/second-life-herald
- How can we forget Battlefront 2 lootboxes, gating characters and skills behind "randomized", definitely overpriced, booster packs.
- Lootboxes, a rundown of the issue Article: https://mashable.com/2017/11/13/star-wars-battlefront-2-loot-box-controversy/
- Lootboxes get noticed (Yongyea): Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ndi8D2eRu4
- Lootboxes get noticed (Jim Sterling) Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUfkGSbabSo
- EA's reply Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qfo1Bv91ws
- The turning point (Belgium defines lootboxes as gambling): Video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28K6GkkaTik
- Some dood flexing his lootboxes online. This is what it all amounts to Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj9xrUolKb4
- NEVER FORGET FIFA LOOTBOXES AND HOW EA REFUSES TO TAKE RESPONSIBLITY
- Kid empties parent's bank account trying to get a FIFA player card Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHy7XueW6dc
- Article: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/9475199/kids-parents-bank-messi-fifa-19/
- The addictive cost of Predatory Videogame Monetization (The Jimquisition) Video: https://youtu.be/7S-DGTBZU14
- Full UK parliament hearing Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPkyERMbKU8
- Bioware devs getting overworked to the point of breaking down (Stress Casualities!). This came out in an article by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier about Anthem.
- Bioware working staff to tears and calling it "Magic" Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN1uV57hE_w
- What went wrong with anthem? (Story by Kotaku's Jason Schreier) Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYDJNf4LyBsArticle: https://kotaku.com/how-biowares-anthem-went-wrong-1833731964
- Mass Effect Andromeda was a rushed piece of crap, just riding the popularity of Mass Effect 3
- Mass Effect Andromeda Troubled development history Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYDJNf4LyBs
- Bug makes Anthem more FUN. Bioware fixes regardless of playerbase's protests
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYDJNf4LyBs
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/11/18260057/anthem-loot-update-bug-boycott
- Record revenue of the quarter after massive layoffs (770 people)
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmK43DV_wVY
- Article: https://kotaku.com/activision-blizzard-begins-massive-layoffs-1832571288
- Made Diablo 3 online only, added auction house while reducing drop rates to non-existence. On a loot-based dungeon crawler. They didn't even prepare for the amount of players who wanted to play their game at launch! They also backpedalled the AH by the expansion, upping the drop rates, prohibiting trading "because it's not in the spirit" (BTW they just wanted to stop players selling items on the side), but THE PROFIT by then. And we praised 'em for "fixing” the game after years. Ugh.
- Error 37, couldn't login at launch: A light read: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/error-37
- Article about Action house: https://blog.hoard.exchange/diablo-iiis-failed-auction-house-why-true-ownership-won-t-save-your-game-c6d692b9de1
- Bans player for freedom of speech. Players are on uproar. Congress gets in on the action. Blizzard backpedals publicly with the most NOTHING apology I've ever seen. Player (Blitzchung) is still banned.
- Article Talking about issue and the ensued apology: https://www.businessinsider.com/blizzard-apology-blizzcon-blitzchung-hong-kong-china-2019-11
- Video explaining issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdCNGszoP0U
- Blizzard CEO emits “nothing” apology at Blizzcon, play by play Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T2_PU8rHtk
- Break down, of nothing apology, if you had doubts:Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDAcrhfQDqI
- COD opening lootboxes in front of other players gives watcher rewards to pressure them into buying lootboxes
- Short 1-minute video showing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Nra1UG4_1c
- Video explaining (By Yongyea): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkkpHVjVyFQ
- COD Modern Warfare Remastered did not include map-pack, then resold as dlc at a HIGHER price than the original game
- Article: https://kotaku.com/for-some-reason-modern-warfare-remastereds-map-pack-is-1794563753
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY9vBu0z8NQNotice how the guy, almost by reflex, makes a disclaimer to defend his PoV after pointing out this clearly predatory practice (which it is, if you think of what a remaster should be and the actual cost in production compared to the OG release, but I digress). This is what we do to each other by defending the companies. We attack each other to see who’s right and wrong, instead of just letting people voice their opinion freely (likewise you could voice support in the company’s social media “keep doing you” and the such, but it takes all kinds. Again, I digress).
- COD Black Ops 4 sneaks lootboxes into the game
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJYjvFsF-U8
- Article: https://www.destructoid.com/loot-boxes-sneak-into-call-of-duty-black-ops-4-under-a-new-name-543584.phtml
- Cornering the Market via Exclusivity Deals, instead of making a good storefront. Here's some games that signed an exclusivity deal with EPIC Games:
- Metro Exodus
- Borderlands 3
- Outer Worlds
- Detroit: Become Human
- Many more! Full List: https://www.gamewatcher.com/news/Epic-games-store-exclusives
- Spyware, stealing your Steam Data
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8xi69sBbwo
- Apologist Article (So you can read both Sides): https://www.usgamer.net/articles/the-epic-games-store-is-spyware-how-a-toxic-accusation-was-started-by-anti-chinese-sentiment
- Reddit Thread that fired the controversy: https://www.reddit.com/PhoenixPoint/comments/b0rxdq/epic_game_store_spyware_tracking_and_you/
- Introduced Battle Passes cuz, who cares as long as "cosmetics only"
- Forbes Article – The Psychology of Fortnite’s Battle Pass: Explains how Battle Passes hook players by making them work for their reward. The sucky bit is that they also charge an entry fee, so to speak, to unlock your hard earned rewards. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiemadigan/2019/07/06/the-psychology-of-fortnites-battle-pass/#7f7f45015e61
- Cosmetics matter: Video by Jim Sterling exemplifying why, and how games as a service are killing videogames. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyUutk1xDew
- Here’s an example of a good game with cosmetic customization.Code Vein Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUtLrzHctKU
- Honestly, maybe I'm a dinasour that's been around for a while but I remember when cosmetics were unlockables and not DLC (as late as 2009, just look at Resident Evil 5, and that game GOT chopped up into DLC). Remember the uproar surrounding Oblivion Horse armor?Video about Horse Armor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uopSzlYo7sg
- Fallout 76 promising "No game-affecting dlc" and "no Season pass"
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR28-3lPcZA
- Breaks promise repeatedly
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otT6w0-jGI0
- Article: Added Repair Kits https://www.criticalhit.net/gaming/bethesda-breaks-promise-on-cosmetics-only-atom-store-adds-repair-kits/
- News Post: Bethesda justifies adding non-cosmetics to store by saying, “We’ve looked at all the data” - platforms off that to break promise further https://fallout.bethesda.net/en/article/6eNqXDms6VbtrHubE26y4new-wastelanders-release-date-private-worlds-the-atomic-shop-and-more?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app
- Fallout 1st and private server bugs (Stash disappearing, private worlds not private)
- Announcement Video: https://youtu.be/CMF5wSmQkDY
- Service is broken (SURPRISE) Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMF5wSmQkDY
- Article: https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/10/bethesda-pledges-to-fix-early-fallout-1st-bugs-and-complaints/
- Reportedly Banning a user for reporting a bug
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPabZ3vcqmc
- Article: https://boundingintocomics.com/2019/11/12/bethesda-reportedly-bans-creator-of-fallout-76-interactive-map-for-finding-and-reporting-an-exploit/
- Canvas bag debacle (buyers got a crappy nylon one, then after months of complains, actually got promised bags)
- Video with a nice parody song intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvGdhzDMy4I
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/bethesda-is-finally-gonna-ship-those-damn-fallout-76-canvas-bags/
- One of the special edition helmets turned MOULDY and became a health hazard
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhA1NmRJPDQ
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/fallout-76-collectable-helmets-are-being-recalled-due-to-mould-risk/
- Nuka Rum (Terrible rum, horrible material for bottle, overpriced as all hell)
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9naBulH2e9s
- Article: https://theradlands.com/2018/09/10/nuka-dark-rum-is-insulting/
- Stupid overpriced jacket for game they are not fixing
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cReHb8xwmsI
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/twitter-reacts-to-dollar276-fallout-76-jacket-with-a-bunch-of-bag-jokes/
- Refuses to refund 76, forced by Australian government, but even that had caveats.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw3fl3wsyJ4
- Forum thread discussing refunds: https://www.giantbomb.com/fallout-76/3030-68742/forums/bethesda-refusing-refunds-for-fallout-76-1859009/ (This is bad. The consumer itself is going “you can’t demand a refund just because the end-product is bad) MY DUDE.
- Elder Scrolls Blades being a piece of crap.
- (Chest unlock timers in my RPG are awful)Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJHjtFx_STI
- Horse armor! (First time cosmetic DLCs were introduced by anyone! It was Bethesda and it was Horse Armor! We laughed at this back in the day.)
- It’s even a meme!: https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/horse-armor
- Rereleased Doom on the Switch with new DRM for the 20 year old titles!
- Article: https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/26/8932026/doom-library-switch-drm-log-in-online-connection-bethesda-quakecon
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh7nZ9t2eJA (DISCLAIMER) They removed the DRM after uproar. They even fixed the buggy music.
- Most egregious example of greedy microtransactions, with their "Time savers"
- Ghost Reckon Breakpoint time savers include skill points and more: Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM9JLr5KZJs
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2019/10/4/20899162/ghost-recon-breakpoint-microtransactions-ubisoft-time-savers-ps4-xbox-one-pc
- Then they backpedalled on it and acted like those getting into the storefront in the first place Was a mistake
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIPUILFl0eo
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/ubisoft-removes-ghost-recon-breakpoints-booster-and-skill-point-microtransactions/
- Lootboxes in Shadow of War (which has some multiplayer, and is mostly single player, making it P2W on top of scummy. Double Scummy.)
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TXWdyrqFP8
- Removes Shadow of War lootboxes over half a year later. Backpedals like it's their sudden realization. What about all the players that already paid for lootboxes? What about the people that were upset about this for months?
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_XEMAVTxqE
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/middle-earth-shadow-of-war-is-ditching-loot-boxes/
- MKX Devs Burnout after getting worked up to 100 hours a week.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_f_qe1-75w
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/former-devs-speak-out-about-severe-crunch-at-mortal-kombat-studio/
Telltale (It's dead now, but it's getting "revived" so worth remembering)
- Massive layoffs, got sued even after closing down.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq6iX1htl28
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2018/9/25/17901106/telltale-layoffs-lawsuit-warn-act
- Getting bought out by another company and "revived"
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2019/8/28/20835854/telltale-games-return-walking-dead-lcg-entertainment
- NBA 2K20 promoting gambling to children LIKE IT'S FINE
- Article: https://www.pcgamesn.com/nba-2k20/microtransactions (Video in Article has been taken down, here’s some more vids).
- MyTeam actual trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwN4VYzD02g
- Yongyea analyzes trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-junD46e9Iw
- PEGI defends NBA2k Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roddqD3Xqs0
- Randy Pitchford assaults employees and denies due revenue.
- Article: https://www.pcgamer.com/former-claptrap-voice-actor-details-randy-pitchford-assault-allegations/
- Video by Yongyea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7bEjCG_D8s
- Video by Jim Sterling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhXXpGFU2-s
- Alien Colonial Marines was a lie. The Demo didn't match the final product.
- NSFW Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG1q3X3HxeA
- Photos for Comparison in this Article: https://www.ign.com/articles/2013/02/14/did-aliens-colonial-marines-screenshots-lie-to-you
- Article: Sega outs Gearbox for lying: https://www.destructoid.com/sega-outs-gearbox-for-lying-in-aliens-colonial-marines-case-280655.phtml
- BIG day 1 dlc offender. They chopped up some characters OFF their fighting game, then added them later as DLC. The reason how we know the characters were ready at launch is because the character's data CAME WITH THE DISC and the DLC just unlocked them. They sold you a full 60 dollar game and then wanted some more, by hiding the actual cost of the FULL game through sketchy means.
- Article: https://www.cinemablend.com/games/Capcom-Gets-Busted-Disc-DLC-Discovered-Street-Fighter-X-Tekken-40114.html
- Killed P.T.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRTwUShPFN0
- Full disclosure, personal grudge: Messed up MGS5. Had a fallout with Kojima, fired him, tried to remove him from the credits like he never was a part of it.
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2015/3/19/8257283/metal-gear-solid-konami-branding
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYLC0rLBCtI
- Most messed up, internal, corporate policies I've EVER seen or heard of.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okNtRgMGNmc
- Konami blacklisting ex-employee, messing with their health insurance and future employment opportunities
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJawlLSkj7E
- Game franchise PACHINKO (Turning beloved franchises into gambling machines)
- Silent hill pachinko trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ht4dbyPIcM
- Metal gear Pachinko trailer (LOOK AT THOSE GRAPHICS GODDAMNIT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVSRjJL1bv8
- Castlevania Pachinko trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN0Te7uTi7o
Nintendo’s Mobile Division
- Pads out Mario Kart Mobile with bots, WHILE not being upfront about it.
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiOCyTsg-yoIt makes you believe you’re playing with real players
- Animal Crossing Pocket Camp has 2 subscription models
- Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDaGQ-vQC8k
- Article: https://www.polygon.com/2019/11/20/20974027/animal-crossing-pocket-camp-subscription-plans-price-features-nintendoAnd of course the game gets crippled to incentivize you to pay for a sub.
If it wasn't clear by now, the companies that come out with the game's ratings, like ESRB and PEGI, that should be watching out for consumers, just cover corporate interests! Parent’s get the short end of the stick and companies just reply with empty PR statements, like “You can check the Parental Controls for your system,” which is corporate lingo for “you’re not getting your money back, we don’t care, sorry not sorry.”
Most of the money doesn't even go to the devs, if that wasn't obvious by now. They get overworked (sometimes forced to do up to 100 hours a week!), then they get laid off anyways. The money goes to executives and stakeholders, who give each other multi-million dollar bonuses and shares. These execs act like they are nice and care about the consumer, and they even do self-deprecating jokes like they are self-aware. It's just a facade to placate us, to stay on our good side while they suck more money away from us.
Game companies don’t validate their users’ grievances. They act like nothing is wrong, shut up complainers until the noise gets too loud (which not always happens) and then just do the thing they’ve been told to do for months while pretending they came up with on their own, or act like it’s some sudden realization and they’ve always had our best interests in mind...
If that isn't obvious scumbag behavior IDK what is.
I believe it is time that we as consumers put our foot down. Not because everyone else is gonna do it too and we’re gonna enforce some major change, but just because we, as individuals, refuse to be abused so. It’s up to each of us. And if enough people follow suit the market WILL change. Even if it doesn’t, that’s not a good enough reason to keep meekly paying the abusive corporations.
So, this is a list of practices I believe should be stopped, by not supporting games that enforce them:
Why support any of this anymore? Disclaimer:
- Always online DRM.
- Microtransactions on full 60 dollar games.
- Microtransactions on exclusively Singleplayer games.
- Time saving microtransactions. (If you have to save my time on a game I played for entertainment, then you’re crippling it by design, instead of focusing on making it fun… just so I have to spend money to MAKE it fun. Just give me back cheat codes.)
- Pre-ordering (stop throwing your money at incomplete products and empty promises out of hype and misplaced loyalty).
- Season passes
- Justifying gating all good cosmetics behind microtransactions “because they don’t affect gameplay anyway”.I want to touch on this one.Cosmetics affect my gameplay experience. Growing up, a favorite part of a bunch of games was customizing my character, making it feel my own. It matters, that’s why game companies charge 10 dollars for a bunch of pixels; because enough players pay for those. Just look to Minecraft and Terraria and all those sandboxes, for crying out loud, and tell me it would be the same without the creative freedom to mod in your own skins. Why are we defending them taking that away and gating it behind MORE money? I’m not saying “DLC that comes afterwards should be free”. I’m saying, when I pay for a full priced game, I expect the full content they got, not a maimed version of it. I’m not buying a game in installments, that’s what episodic games are for.Seriously, there’s even a sense of elitism between paying players and “base skin” players in many games (Fortnite comes to mind prominently). Here, check out this talk that explains the psychology behind it in brutally honest terms by the very corporate execs that don’t really care about their consumers. Infamous Video - Let’s go whaling: Tricks for monetizing mobile game players with free-to-play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNjI03CGkb4
- With that said, Battle Passes also get on the list. On top of wanting you to spend money on cosmetics, they make you grind for them. You’re no longer buying the cosmetic, you’re buying the option to get the cosmetic by investing ungodly amount of hours on their product, on top of whatever price the Battle Pass has. This is just psychological manipulation on top of unfair content gating.
- Gambling in video games: from lootboxes, to NBA’s predatory attempt on children. All of it. Gambling in videogames should receive an “Adult Only” rating, but if you can’t trust the ratings companies, why would you even risk being exposed to this BS?
This is my take on the matter. I’ve tried to be impartial and back-up my arguments and provide as much info as I can. Truth be told, I’m quite bitter, and I’m aware. This list hurts me. I'd rather not support companies that make their living off the blood and sweat of hardworking people, and then spit in their faces. Who abuse the consumer and e-sport players and then try to take it back with lies. Who apologize like a manipulator trying to keep you nice and subdued, but do nothing about it.
We get a choice of which business practices we support and which we don't. It's up to each of us. I don’t fully expect many people to actively boycott these companies: they do provide us with valued entertainment. But I urge anyone who reads this to not be so quick to forgive, and to never forget what it used to be like, how we got here today, and what it’s cost us.
I leave you with this: These videos are a more in-depth look behind these scummy practices, and break it down pretty neatly, top to bottom.
CAAApitalism: The Successful Failure of Videogames (The Jimquisition). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmW0GhdDOvw
The Trouble with the Video Game Industry | Philosphy Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYkLVU5UGM8
Despite Belgium, and particularly Flanders, being a cycling-crazed nation, Brussels isn’t really a big cyclist’s city in itself. The terrain of Brussels isn’t very well suited for recreational bike riding and there is a tragic lack of bike infrastructure. But this year, the Tour starts in Brussels and as a local I wanted to do a good write-up on how you can make the most out of a visit to the Grand Depart, what to do when not watching the race and basically give you some suggestions on what to do to make the best out of a visit to Brussels during the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.
I’ve spent most of my adult life in Brussels, either studying, drinking, living, working or having fun in general. I’m very proud of the city as it has a lot of great qualities, but I’m also very much aware that it’s got it’s challenges and downsides, like most capital cities. I’ll be responding to questions in the thread too.
The Brussels bid for the Grand Depart was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’ first Tour de France victory. Eddy Merckx is widely regarded as one of the best cyclists ever worldwide, and is considered Belgium’s most accomplished athlete. Despite being alive and kicking, he’s even got a metrostation named after him in Brussels. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Merckx’ first Tour victory, the 100th anniversary of the maillot jaune is also celebrated. It was first awarded to the leader of the general classification in 1919. The current record holder of most won Maillot Jaunes also happens to be....Eddy Merckx.
Saturday 6th of July kicks off the Tour de France with a city centre départ
at Place Royale, which is within walking distance from the city center and Brussels-Central train station. Stage 1 loops around the west of Brussels over the Muur van Geraardsbergen
and Bosberg (known from the old Ronde van Vlaanderen final), with the only mountainsprint points to be won on the Muur. It then follows the soft rolling hills of the Pajottenland region towards the industrial zone of Charleroi, including a passage next to the Sloping Shiplock of Ronquières
.The route circles counterclockwise towards Brussels, going past Waterloo and Overijse (where the Brabantse Pijl is contested) to re-enter Brussels from the eastern side. The finish is at the Royal Palace in Laeken, which will likely be contested as an uphill sprint that might be more suited to Sagan or Matthews than Viviani.
My advice for stage 1: Go catch the start at the Place Royale around 10am. After the riders have left, you can explore the neighbourhood. The ‘BOZAR’ museum
or one of the galleries of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts
(especially the Magritte Expo) are a fine place to spend a few hours and are located within 5 minutes walking of Place Royale. Another option is the Comic Book museum
, which is a bit more of a walk away but not more than 15 minutes on foot. If you want to view the rest of the race, you should go looking for a pub which broadcasts the stage. One of my favourites is Les Brasseurs
, which is in the heart of the city center, which has an awesome range of correctly-priced beers and a lovely serving staff, and some TVs which will probably show the race as it’s unfolding. Between Place Royale and the city center are also some other tourist hotspots like the Grand Place
, Manneken Pis
(PEEBOY) and the Mont Des Arts
which merit a visit.
If you’re less concerned about viewing the race live or if you want to find a good spot near the finish line, you can use public transport to go to Laeken and visit the Atomium
to mention you’ve stepped on 9 balls. A small getaway from the busy TDF circus could be to spend the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens of Meise
, which is not far from the finish and which is a wonderfully relaxing place. A short warning: the finish line is a bit outside of what I’d consider ‘regular life’ in Brussels. There aren’t any cafés, restaurants or anything nearby (mainly because it’s on the Royal Domain where the Belgian Royal Family lives) so I think any food and drinks will only be easily found at overpriced local stands.
The second stage of the TDF is a Team Time Trial held entirely in the Brussels Capital Region. The depart is planned on the cobbled street at the Royal Palace
(not to be confused with the Place Royale, which is where Stage 1 starts and which is 150m around the corner, the other Royal Palace, which is in Laeken and where Stage 1 ends) and then takes off towards the western Rue de la Loi, including a passage through the underground tunnels usually blocked by commuting cars
. It then makes a clockwise loop around the towns of Woluwe, Ouderghem, Watermael-Boisfoort and will take a cut through the green lung of Brussels, the Bois de la Chambre
. It then cuts back into the large boulevards of Ixelles and crosses under the first part of the parcours
at Montgomery before heading easterly towards the same Royal Domain where the finish of stage 1 is. The last 4km features a mild incline, just harsh enough to wreck a good flow for any team that has spent too much in the straights towards the finish. It also features the weird and out of place Japanese Tower
for some surreal sights.
This parcours shows off the topography of Brussels: far from flat, and the weaving in and out of tunnels will give a bit of that Champs Elysees feel. The finish might be a brutal challenge for some of the heavier riders, and teams will have to conserve and dose their energy to make sure they don’t drop a rider too much in the last few kms. Also: lots of tram rails will be crossed, so I’m expecting at least 1 rider to catch their wheel in one and crash out of the TTT.
My advice for stage 2: Make a pick between the depart at Palace Royale (Caravan leaves at 13h, first team at 14h30, last team at 16h30) or the finish at the Atomium (same times, but half an hour later). An alternative option might be to go to Montgomery (which has a metro station and is easily accessible) and where you might catch the teams passing twice. If you're in the neighbourhood of Montgomery, you can visit the Cinquantenaire parc & monuments, including the Art and History Museum
. If you want to see suffering, I’d suggest hanging out at the Avenue Van Praet, where I’m sure the heavier riders will be dropped and where speeds will be lower, so taking pictures will be easy. Only problem: It’s slightly less reachable by public transport because the nearby tram follows the parcours. Otherwise my advice for stage 1 is an easy repeat for a good day out. Since both the start and finish are basically in the same place, you can catch up on suggestions you missed on day 1.
Cycling-related events during the Grand Depart
At the Place de la Brouckère, there will be a fan village in the days leading up to the TDF and during the first days. Very few additional details are available as far as I can see. It sounds not very worth it, but I’ll probably go and have a look once it’s actually installed.
The team presentation will be held on Thursday 4th of July between 16h and 20h, with the teams starting at the Place Royal and them arriving on a podium on the Grand Place. I think sticking around on the Grand Place for this might be a worthwhile bit if you’re in town for the Tour.
More information: https://www.brusselsgranddepart.com/letouen/event/the-week-of-the-grand-depart/
How to get around town
Brussels is a relatively compact city. It’s got a great network of public transport called STIB-MIVB, which combines metros, trams and busses in the region of Brussels Capital. Depending on how long you plan to stay, I’d suggest going to one of the MIVB booths and buying a 48h (€19) or 72h (€23) pass. These give unlimited rides on the network, including to and from Brussels Airport by bus. STIB-MIVB is very punctual and reliable for getting around, even during busy times, and most locations are within walking distance of metro stations. Only between midnight and 5AM, public transport is limited to about 10 buslines spawling out from the city center. These are the Noctis lines
which drive on friday- and saturday night. FIFIBLACK
pointed out that MIVB-STIB network will be free on saturday and sunday 7/8th of July
. So you might just need a ticket if you plan on staying longer!
You’ll probably arrive into Brussels by airplane at Brussels Airport (Zaventem) or at Brussels-South (Charleroi, usually Ryanair). It’s a short trainride from both those airports to Brussels. From Zaventem there’s also a busline to Brussels. Other options to reach Brussels are by international trains, which usually arrive at Brussels-Midi train station which connects to the city center by tram and metro. Lastly, you can also opt to take a long distance bus. Both Flixbus and Eurolines offer regular connections to the Brussels North trainstation, which has a tram connection to the city center.
Bike fans will most likely be disappointed to hear Brussels isn’t very bike-accessible. Due to poor bike infrastructure and the topography of the city, very few people actually ride their bikes in Brussels. There is a major bikeshare called Villo (for which a €150 deposit is asked) with fixed stations, and there are some smaller bikeshare initiatives of which I don’t know all the details. If you plan to bring your own bike, I would invest in about 12 locks and a hired toughman to guard it at all times. Bike theft is a bit of a problem, especially when it comes to expensive bikes like mountainbikes or road bikes. My tip: don’t bother unless you’re fitting it with a longer bike vacation.
Both regular taxis (indicated with a taxi sign on the roof) and Uber are available in the city center and most major locations of Brussels, but are very rare outside major cities. Taking them to get to your hotel or hostel late at night is a good plan and will set you back 15 to 20 euros.
If you’re planning to make an excursion outside of Brussels, you will most likely buy a train ticket. These can be bought at any train station and differ in price range depending on your destination.
If you’re making the trip by car, I’d look into renting a guarded long-term parking spot for your stay. Traffic in Brussels is pretty terrible, and the closed roads during the race will not improve circulation. The city center is also relatively car-free, and the bits that aren’t are very congested. Hedone
added: "On Saturday there's also a free shuttle by train between Brussels North and Bockstael, to get to the finish in Laken, they run every 20 minutes between 14h and 20h. The ride takes about five minutes, and it's a small walk from Bockstael station."
TL,DR: Use the STIB-MIVB network, it gives the most bang for your buck.
Where to stay
Brussels takes in its fair share of tourists all year-round, ranging from backpackers to family vacations to the most wealthy eurocrats and businessmen. The offer of hotels and hostels follows this trend: you have very cheap, bare-bones hostels and you can probably spend the Team Ineos yearly budget on a weekend in the best suites.
AirBnB is not super popular in Brussels for two reasons: the company doesn’t want to comply too much with local legislation, and it’s causing a surge in rent prices in the city center. I would recommend sticking to actual hostels or hotels, but that’s my principles.
Hostel & Hotel comparison services might be your best bet to find what kind of space you are looking for compared to your budget.. For work-related lodging I’ve hosted people in both locations of the LADJ hostel chain
in Brussels, which is cheap and qualitative, being close to the city center.
Where to hang out to drink.
I’ve grown up as a young adult frequenting bars, pubs, cafés, dive bars, squats, and all the other places you can have a drink at in Brussels. In general, I’d follow 3 rules for any bar in Brussels: 1) If a draft pils (Jupiler, Stella or Maes) from the tap is more than €2,20 for 25cl , the place is overpriced and should be avoided. 2) If there’s a brightly lit gambling machine in the bar, the place is probably a bit dodgy and should be avoided. 3) If you enter somewhere and the people there stare at you with death glares, order a Coca Cola and leave again after paying.
The city center has a rich collection of bars and pubs, some of them typically ‘brown’ bars with a lot of history, others more focused on the recognizable factor that all Irish Pubs have in all cities all over the world. Finding a good one is down to looking out for the warnings I pointed out but I’d say 80% of bars in the city center are just fine places to have a beer, coffee, wine or soft drinks.
To name some of my favourites bars to sit down and have a drink, both inside and outside ,all in the city center: Les Brasseurs
, Le Coq
, Via Via
, Moeder Lambik
,... Most of these stay open quite late during the weekend, usually until 5 to 6am so you can catch public transport to get back to a hotel or hostel. A famous one is the Delirium bar
, which has the largest beer menu in the world, but it’s a bit of a tourist trap. If you want to visit it, go for the experience, not for the quality. The_411
added a worthy addition in terms of a classic 'beer hall' which is a bit hidden away in an alleyway: A la Becasse
which is a medieval-style beer hall. Just across the street is L'Imaige Nostre Dame
hidden in a similar alleyway. You won't have a TV to watch the Tour, but they're worth a visit and a Lambic-style beer!
If you want to go partying or have a bit of a wilder night out on friday or saturday, I can recommend the O’Reillys Nua
(which also hosts karaoke), the Archiduc
(which is a great fancy jazz bar), the Fuse
(worldrenowned Techno/EDM/IDM club) and any concert in the Ancienne Belgique
concert hall. For people looking for LGTBQ+ places, the city center has a small neighbourhood around the Marché des Charbons which is very welcoming to everyone.
These are all within walking distance of the city center. There’s probably also a ton of parties going on in the city during the weekend. Too many to list and I won’t even begin filtering out the good and the bad. There’s always something going on!
What to eat & drink
Food and drinks are our pride. If you don’t eat and drink your heart out in Brussels, you’re doing something wrong.
One thing you should try is good Belgian fries. Not the McDonalds bullshit ones, oversalted and too thin, but good ones from a Fritkot, our local street food equivalent. In the city center I recommend Fritland
or Friterie Tabora
in the city center. There’s probably gonna be a bunch of pop-up frietkoten around the Grand Depart locations too, and those tend to be professionals and thus quite good. You want to order your fries with a sauce. Mayonaise is a classic, but give those fries a shot with Tartare, Belgian Pickles or Andalouse as well! Often you accompany your order with a vlezeke or petite viande which is some processed yet delicious leftover meat shaped in simple geometric shapes. A frikandel, boulette or hamburger can really hit the spot! Special shoutout to the Mitraillette
, which is a baguette filled with some sauce, a hamburger patty and as many fries as can fit. It’s decadent and delicious.
If you’re going for a Belgian restaurant experience, try the Mussels (yes, we stole that from the Dutch), the Stoofvlees/Carbonades (a beerbased gravy-beefstew), the Vol-au-vent (a chicken stew), Tomates-crevettes (mayo, small prawns and tomato), Stoemp-saucisse (a potato-vegetable mash with sausage), or any recommendations they offer.
The city center has a whole lot of different places to eat, in a wide variety of cuisines. Because of our high demands in terms of quality, I would only recommend avoiding restaurants around the Grand Place or the Rue des Bouchers (which are overpriced because of the tourist factor) or multinational fast food places like McDonalds or Subways.
My personal favourites? Italian restaurant Mirante
, Asian restaurant Yaki
, Tapas Locas
, Belgian/burger-style restaurant Houtsiplou
,... eh, I could keep going. A good meal should be between €10 and €20 for a main course, anything over that is overpriced.
In terms of beers, I’d say: give them all a shot. Between the trappist beers (like Chimay, Orval, Westmalle,...), the Abbey beers (Leffe, Maredsou, Affligem, Grimbergen,...), Pils (Maes, Stella, Jupiler), White beers (Hoegaarden, Blanche de Bruges,...) and IPA-style beers (Delta IPA is a local Brussels one), most bars have a longer list than you can finish in one day without dying. My personal recommendation is to have at least one Geuze-style beer (Boon is my favourite), which is typical for the Brussels region and based on wild yeast fermentation, and to try some different styles between the dubbel (brown beers), tripel (blonde beers) and other sorts. Look at what the bar’s got on tap, that’s usually gonna be what you want to order. (Geuze only come in bottles because it’s fermented on the bottle, so that’s the exception). If you stick to the rules above when it comes to bars, a night’s worth of beers should be about 25-30 euros and you’ll be quite drunk at the end of it.
If you’re interested in buying Belgian products like beer, chocolate or sweets, just go to a supermarket like Delhaize, Carrefour or Colruyt and buy them off the shelves like anyone else. You’ll save a lot of money compared to the tourist shops and you’ll probably get stuff that hasn’t been sitting in a stuffy souvenir shop for weeks. Check with your airline how much you can legally export of everything.
How to behave and how to stay safe.
Brussels is a year-round tourist destination and you can in general expect to be hosted as a tourist in any other European town. Tourist hotspots deal with the same issues as all over the world: Pickpockets, scam artists and overpriced foods & drinks. Stay sensible like in any other situation: don’t flash valuables, keep an eye on your belongings and try to avoid interaction with people who might not have your best intentions at heart.
The city center of Brussels, referred to as the Pentagone/Vijfhoek
for its shape in between the main avenues built on the old city walls, has a mix of tourist spots, shopping areas like the Rue Neuve
, rich neighbourhoods and impoverished neighbourhoods which can quite suddenly flow into eachother. You can walk or use public transport to discover the city at your own pace really. Police is quite visible in the city center and usually backed up by their colleagues dressed as civilians, in particular during large events. There is still some presence of the military, especially in the train stations, to patrol and assist the police. It can be a bit of a shock to round a corner and to walk into a fully armed soldier. They’re there as a show of safety, and we’re frankly bored of them.
In most places in the city center, you will be served in French initially. English is usually spoken by any staff in hotels, bars and restaurants but it’s not guaranteed to be effortless or accentless. A lot of people you meet will be able to talk in English with you, and locals tend to be quite helpful as long as you are polite. Besides English and French, a lot of locals speak Dutch as their second or third language and a smaller portion has it as their native tongue, like me. People might also be able to help you in Spanish, Arab, Portuguese, German, Italian, Turkish or Greek if you’re lucky, due to the multicultural nature of the city. They also might be able to understand you if you chat in those languages, don’t assume noone understands you :)
Belgium and Brussels are a rather cash-based economy, especially when it comes to bars and restaurants. Over the last years more businesses have transitioned towards accepting credit and debit cards, but often you’re paying by cash. Most metro- and trainstations will have ATM machines for cash withdrawal, as well as some banks in the city center. I’d suggest always having some cash on hand.
Tipping in bars is not expected but welcomed as appreciation for good service, but not more than 5 euros over a night. In restaurants, it’s common courtesy to leave a bit of change for the waiting staff, but again, nothing more than 10 euros.
An oddity is that Belgian bars and restaurants are not required to serve tap water. Going out for a meal means also buying drinks, even if that means buying bottled water. Usually, people drink a beer, soft drink or wine during their meals because of this. During a night out, you can always ask a bartender for a glass of tap water and you’ll get one if you’ve been drinking there all night without much questions.
Public toilets are a rare sight in Brussels. With the notable exception of the St. Catherine Church, which has a legal, functional urinal on it’s side wall
, there are very little public toilets and I expect this to be a problem during an event like the Grand Depart. I’m expecting long queues especially where there’s already less facilities...like at the Place Royale or around the Atomium. The best thing to do is to go to a bar and have a drink and to use the toilet there. This is common practice for a lot of people.
It’s perfectly fine to be publicly intoxicated in Brussels, as long as you don’t cause a disturbance. There’s no issue with buying a beer in a nightshop and drinking it out in the streets, as long as you don’t bother anyone with it. There’s plenty of parks dotted around Brussels where people hang out in the weekends and evenings when it’s sunny, with a couple of cans of beer and a bag of crisps. Throw your empty stuff in the trashcans and leave the spot like you found them! There’s no recycling fee on cans, only on bottles (but not very much, so meh, into the trashcan it goes).
After the March 22nd 2016 bombings, Brussels has picked up somewhat of a reputation about being a “terrorist hellhole” (thanks Trump). Truth is: these isolated lunatics don’t represent a micropercentage of the population of Brussels. However, that doesn’t mean Brussels doesn’t have bad neighbourhoods where you don’t want to hang out at night without some locals, but the risk is more about being mugged than about being forcefully converted to salafism.
A small sidenote is that there’s a vocal part of the population that isn’t quite on board with the “Disneyfication” of Brussels and it’s inner city. I am inclined to agree because the focus on expensive events like the Grand Depart takes away means and time from resolving other issues such as poverty, education or mobility. There might be some protests or small actions aimed at the Tour de France circus, but so far I haven’t noticed anything that’s remarkable enough to cause a disturbance.
Things to visit while in Brussels
I mentioned some things to visit already in the earlier part of this post, because for me it makes sense to weave it into the Grand Depart experience. Brussels has a lot of great (and sometimes weird) museums, has some lovely views and boasts some impressive restaurants, bars and other evening spots. There’s probably some good resources online about ‘must-visits’ but I’ve based my post on my own experiences and what I think is worthwhile in Brussels.
Should you stay longer than a few days? Not really. You can visit the European Parliament maybe, and have a day excursion to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp or Liege to add on, but I think that should be enough time to see the most important bits of the city.
Hope to catch you all in Brussels for the Grand Depart, I’ll definitely be in town and maybe I’m up for meeting some people.
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