EA Is Evil, Actually (The Jimquisition)
[James Stephanie Sterling] I thought I'd start today's episode by talking about evil. The nature of evil. Our relationship with the concept of pure unbridled wickedness, both as a culture, and as a species. But then I remembered that I'm not smart. And you should probably watch
better videos for that. And, in general. Curio Vids if you want some smart shit. If however you'd rather someone just show you old nostalgic SHIT, in an increasingly failed bid to mentally stave off middle age, well, I'm your trashgirl. Do you remember
Werebears? Hmmmm? Hmmmm? Do you remember them? They're ordinary bears, or are they? Haha. They're. Ha. You see, back in the eight-tees, and for most of all of the time, toys have to be very very gendered, so you had care bears, which of course was "JUST for the GIRLS", and then they tried to make this happen, for boys. Er, Werebears, ohhh, look, look, oh god, its face turned inside out. And then it's a monster. And, uhhhh, oh my god, its hands turn inside out. GLOOOOVE. GLOOOOVE. And it's a monster. And it's a monster.
Anyway, that's a Werebear. Oh, christ, hahaha. Oh god, let's just shit on EA. You know… I’m starting to think that Electronic Arts might be evil. Now I know that will make some eyes roll. Calling a corporation evil is classic hyperbole, right? It’s just a videogame publisher at the end of the day, how on Earth could it perpetuate such profound wickedness as to deserve the ultimate impugnment of moral character? The word “evil” is particularly weighted in the English language, commonly reserved for the very worst among us or used to refer to wickedness on a supernatural natural. To call
something as mundane as a videogame publisher “evil” is perhaps pushing the rhetoric too far, and makes one sound overly dramatic or even spoiled and entitled in the eyes of some. Y’know, a bit whiny. A bit “Mass Effect 3’s ending sucked so I’m gonna threaten to kill your kids.” Here’s the problem though with EA and the nature of evil. EA's Evil. And not
just in the way the Gamers say it, I mean it's... it's not coloquial, it's evil. Electronic Arts is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to swindling money out of unsuspecting families. By smuggling gambling mechanics into games for children, EA has made money to such an extreme degree that it’s been prepared to fight international laws in the past to keep putting loot boxes into its FIFA series. Now, we’ve long since lititagated the status of loot boxes here - they’re gambling. Governments around the world agree with this sentiment, a sentiment I’ve been doggedly arguing in favor of since the middle of the last decade. Even game journalist publications have stopped
posting hot takes in favor of them, it’s become so fucking clear they’re gambling. I mean, there was the "Fun Presents" article which Pllllrghb. Now, none of this means they’re going away anytime soon. Many publishers will happily crow about
loot boxes not being in their latest “AAA” game while knowingly putting them into other games. Electronic Arts is an exemplar of this - boasting that there won’t be any microtransactions in Jedi: Fallen Order for easy applause, while continuing to sell loot boxes to kids in its FIFA series. You gotta love it when companies do that - it’s like they know what they’re doing is bad, because they're promoting not doing it as good, but they won’t stop doing it overall. It's kind of like when evil people do stuff. You know "Oh, I'm sorry I did the bad thing, look, I'm not doing the bad thing now, do you forgive me? PSYCHE I'M DOING THE BAD THING AGAIN!" What makes EA particularly notable, however, is in its methodology, which according to reports going around this year, is so manipulative as to be truly remarkable. A leaked report - which EA hasn’t challenged the validity of - did the rounds a little while ago, and it revealed that EA likes to spend its time, and I quote, “funneling” its players into one single mode of its FIFA games - Ultimate Team, the mode which runs on loot boxes. The document, titled Run Up To Fifa 21, is part of an internal presentation from 2020 that came to light after CBC News obtained and released it. In it,
Electronic Arts proudly boasts “All Roads Lead to FUT” and it highlights exactly how obsessed publishers are with herding players towards microtransactions and in-game gambling. In-game, FIFA is designed to use targeted content and messages to, and I quote, “drive excitement and funnel players toward FUT from other modes.” In addition, new players will be given all the tools they need to “hit the ground running” with FIFA Ultimate Team thanks to “welcome pack” content. And I've said this bit before, I will say it again, in real life Drug Dealers don't do that whole "the first hit's free" thing because drugs are expensive. In fact, if any of them do do it, I wanna know where they are, I mean, obviously don't say it in the comment section, hit me up in private and let me know where they are because I want free drugs. And me, or no one I know,
is aware of a drug dealer that cool. But I love how the idea of cartoon drug dealer is inspiration for game publishers, who do do things like Log In Bonuses, or Welcome Packs, or In Game Dribbles of Premium Currency, just something to give you that first hit. For free. Like a cartoon drug dealer. Electronic Arts is Evil. Literally as evil as a fictional villain in an anti-drug PSA. No seriously, that's what these games with these free to play style economies are, that's what a free to play style economy is, it's give you a hit for free, get you hooked, get the money out of you. And as this monetisation's only gotten more extreme, its only gotten more and more downright super fucking villainous. The report talks of “converting” players away from whatever mode they actually buy FIFA for, turning them into Ultimate Team players, stating that it’s “Exploring cross-platform deep discount aligned with SUMMER HEAT content + assets to drive consistent player journey from POS through FUT conversion.”
It’s sickeningly written corpo-speak that roughly translates to psychologically shepherding players into the mode filled with opportunities to spend more money on a $60-70 game. “PLAYERS WILL BE ACTIVELY MESSAGED + INCENTIVIZED TO CONVERT THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER.” Incentivized to convert… Like, Jesus Christ, this is how they fucking speak when they think we’re not listening. This is how they see you, the player. Something to be straight up fucking indoctrinated. EA’s response to the leak was, quite frankly, fucking pathetic. According to CBC: “An EA spokesperson declined an interview request and wouldn’t comment on the document, which, he noted, was “marked privileged and confidential”. Pffft,
fuckin' little pricks. Other than to say it is being “viewed without context” and that interpretations of what it says “are misinformed.” When asked to clarify, he did not respond.” Yeah, well of course he didn't respond, this is the old “out of context” excuse. It’s up there with “do your research” in the league of things people just yell to imply you’re wrong without backing the implication up. Something you can just toss out there to pretend there’s more
to a story than there really is. Well let me tell you, there’s nothing more nuanced to the story than this - Electronic Arts is an evil fucking company run by evil pieces of shit. Most of them are, but EA is the one with the Evil But Fun Powerpoint Presentation.
And they're not Evil just because they're funneling people, FIFA has caused irrevocable harm to individuals and families across the world for years. Microtransactions in general have. Microtransactions are immoral, and they're harmful. Let’s cut the fucking bullshit and actually focus on this for a moment. I am not interested in talks of personal responsibility today. You can argue all day long that it’s a customer’s fault if they’ve had thousands of dollars hoodwinked out of them, but that’s victim blaming as far as I’m concerned, and it lets hoodwinkers off of the hook that they're winking hoods on. What matters is there's a vunerable class of people, and Electronic Arts is praying on it.
If you’ve not watched out video about how predatory monetization actually impacts peoples’ lives, then I urge you to. I don’t think you’ll find a more humanizing look at the actual customer side of these predatory economies. And they *are* predatory. Microtransactions are inherently designed to single out and toy with neurodivergent people, those with addictive habits, or even just lonely and isolated. There are dozens upon dozens of psychological tricks
used to target these different people, from time limited events that spur anxiety, to haves and have nots economies, to grinding progression that tests patience and attention, to glorified casinos that create addictive behaviors practically indistinguishable, and scientifically linked, to problem gambling habits. Game publishers know these tricks, they love these tricks, they employ these tricks all the time. Since the very beginning of the 2010s, I’ve used the phrase “psychologically manipulative” to describe in-game economies. They are *unquestionably* exploitative economies and the results are indisputable - people in debt, having been tricked by small insignificant purchases that added up over time until they were thousands in the hole without ever knowing it. The very nature of a Microtransaction is predatory and manipulative, they're meant to be little little spends that you don't notice, that seem reasonable on their own, but soon tot the fuck up. You get families waking up to find that the football game they bought for their kids tricked that kid into clearing the bank account out because they wanted their favorite footballer in a mode they were funneled toward and CONVERTED into playing, and they didn't even get the fucking footballer they wanted. That's a true story.
In 2019, the BBC published multiple articles highlighting the financial harm loot boxes did to families. Parents simply do not expect that a game rated as suitable for kids aged 3 would contain randomized premium purchases that can be so easily and so numerously bought that you’ve run out of money before you know it’s even happened. But EA simply continues to “disagree” that loot boxes are gambling, like their opinion means jack fuck, and hide behind the same pitiful and disgusting excuses it always has. In a further statement, EA trotted out all the same old crap that we’ve debunked on this show countless times - “We provide a choice,” “We’re just supporting engaaaaagement,” “We don’t engouage kids to spend in our games” and, the most classic of all - “The majority of players don’t spend.” Which, when you consider how much money Fifa Ultimate Team makes, is a case of EA really tipping its hand and showing us exactly HOW evil it is. If the majority of players don’t spend, that means the game industry makes billions and billions of dollars off of a handful of people.
These are the “whales” that companies love to talk about - the tiny percentage of people who spend the most amount of money - now game pulishers love to present whales as a few really rich people who are happy to be milked of cash, no harm, no foul. Well, I've spoken to some of these whales. In reality, they can be neurodivergent, addicted to gambling, or simply susceptible to the manipulation involved in any in-game economy. And here's the thing, excessive
amounts of free spending money is an element that distinctly does not unite these people. The fact of the matter is, EA actively and openly admits to extracting millions and millions and millions of dollars away from a tiny minority of its audience and frankly that’s more disgusting to me than if most players spent a *bit* of money. Like, they’re really just admitting their business model hinges on a few targets. I frankly think it’s sick. I think EA is sick, and I think every game publisher using these economies is equally fucking perverse. And yes, I think the victimization, the way in which people with particular mental issues, including my ADHD-addled self, are preyed upon, is outright and downright evil.
Pure fucking evil. We know the maniptulation involved in microtransactions. We know the human cost of it, and we know how they cause material harm to their victims. And yet EA knowingly, happily continues to do it. If that’s not evil, I don’t know what is. The idea of the “Evil Corporation” feels like a work of fiction, and that's because so many works of fiction have evil corporations. We’ve seen evil corporations AS the stuff of fiction all our lives. From Weyland-Yutani of Alien to Oscorp in Spider-Man, we’ve had the notion of the villanous corpo thrown in our face so many times that the very idea feels like fantasy.
After growing up watching the vile machinations of Lawrence Limburger and Looten Plunder, the idea of a REAL executive being that cruel and callous seems like a, well, like a kids show. I’m not going to outright say it’s by design, but I do sometimes wonder if these fictional evil corporations are there to make the real evil these corporations do seem less believable. I mean, so much of media is corporate owned and distributed and greenlit, I dunno, maybe movie executives just Get Off on rubbing all this bullshit in our face under the guise of entertainment. Never the less, there's a lot of corporate owned media that tells us corporations are evil...
in science fiction of course. Not in real life. Whether by design or not, the result is the same - people think you’re being a conspiracy nut when you call any corporation evil, even though, let’s face it, they are. They are, they just are. They’re *actually* polluting Earth for money like they did in Captain Planet. They’re *actually* treating their crews as expendable like Weyland-Yutani in Alien. They’re
*actually* greedily hoarding all their wealth like Montana fucking Max. I cannot confidently say that they're making Goblin Serum. That might still be fiction. But, except for Goblin Serum, and only Goblin Serum, everything that has been presented as fictional evil in science fiction does appear, in actual fact, to be actual fact. Hell, they might actually be WORSE in actuality. I mean, did any single Captain Planet episode predict the sheer damage to the environment done by NFTs? 'Course not. I mean, Verminous Skumm putting poison in a well is cute and all,
but he never burned a rainforest down to sell a jpg of a dog. Captin Planet Villains, step up your game. Come on, step up your game. Chop Chop. And so it is that my calling Electronic Arts “evil, actually,” will come across like overblown hyperbole when I fucking mean it to my core. I truly mean EA is evil. And it has the Powerpoint to prove it. It’s not as evil as Amazon, of course, but it is a game publisher that openly admits it funnels its players into an exploitative economy that carries a significant risk of harm to vulnerable people and children, who have been deliberately targetted. It tries to dress it all up as “Surprise Mechanics” rather than gambling, but they know damn well what they’re doing.
It is said that evil happens when the good do nothing. When the bad do bad, what the fuck is that? I'll tell you what it is, it's in the game. RAAAAWR. Ahhhhh. Anyway, rumours abound that the next Dragon Age, Dragon Age 4, will have Live Service Elements, or is that confirmed now? Anyway, it's quite clear to me and well anyone looking at this shit that fully realised "Triple A" games like Resident Evil Village are increasingly an exception, rather than the norm. Electronic Arts only recently talked about how much money
it was making from Microtransactions. Massive amounts. A predominant amount of money. Millions and millions and billions and billions of dollars flow into this industry, in torrents, I've mentioned this before. It's all I talk about for fuck's sake. And we had Ubisoft who, by the way, spent years and years and years protecting sexual abusers. Ubisoft's saying that it's less interested now in releasing these big AAA games, and they wanna focus on free to play games, because that's where the money is. Because that's all they're in it for. Because like I said back in the early 2010's, they're in it for all the money. They don't just
want a bit, they want ALL of it. Otherwise it's not worth it to them. Do you think, if they could just churn out a shitty asset flip and make billions of dollars off that, that they'd continue to do your Assassin's Creed games, fuck no. That's actually absurd. That is like when they used to say "Oh, these big AAA games will fuel the smaller games". Nah, it didn't. It never does. This money
never goes back into the industry, it goes into the offshore accounts of executive fuckwits. [Sound of gong plays] Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, that's getting close to the capitalism talk, and I promised myself none this week. None this week. I've had my pudding, it's time to eat the diner. The diner of just saying EA Bad. And I hope you enjoyed it because EA is bad. EA is Evil. Actually. I dunno, I don't know why I went and picked it back up again, I've, I've done all I'm gonna do with this as far as bits go. So, FUCK! Thank god for me. Is basically where these episodes always leave isn't it? So, there, I've said it, now we can roll the credits with that awesome music.