Reaching mobile gaming’s “zone of zero spending” is a wonderful feeling

I won’t mince words: Mobile gaming is a gross, darkest timeline culmination.

This cesspool of micro-transactions, health packs on cool down timers, and $100 “best value” bundle packages must be the result of some dark voodoo within the gaming industry, cast long ago. It may even be a Life Is Strange scenario where a new, terrible timeline was created in the wake of one terrible decision. 

                Please send help. Or a credit card number.

Regardless, it’s our reality. Mobile gaming generates obscene amounts of revenue. For good reason: Free-to-play gaming is psychologically designed to ruin and press the buttons of unsuspecting gamers.

I wish I could say that I’m strong enough to avoid the FTP malaise. I’m sad to report that I lack the constitution and willpower to resist the siren song of random number generator booster packs, “match three” style puzzle games, and anything remotely associated with Disney.

There are a few titles in the mobile gaming rat race that have — for the most part — done right by their customers, creating a genuine and fair gaming experience. It’s cases like these where I view micro-transactions as a digital tip jar, throwing the game a few bucks here and there as a reward for treating me more like a human and less like Pavlov’s schmuck of a drooling hound.

Those dollars add up over time, but there is a proverbial pot of gold at the end of that nickel and dime rainbow. There comes a point in every mobile game worth it’s salt where spending money isn’t a necessity. If you’re the type of player who is willing to stick with a game through the good times and bad, there is a zen-like nirvana to be found in the zone of zero spending.

You think I just got this Luke Cage overnight? This -- sadly -- is months of dedication.
        You think I just got this Luke Cage overnight? This — sadly — is months of dedication.

For example: I have been played Marvel Puzzle Quest since it’s beta period over two years ago. I knew immediately that MPQ would be my jam, given that I adore the Puzzle Quest series and will give almost any Marvel mobile title a try. Thus, I began a journey through trials, tribulations, multiple character nerfs, and even a few periods where I swore the game off for good.

Then, one day and as if from a gaming angel on high, a realization: My roster of characters was pretty damn good. I was able to clear daily objectives such as Deadpool’s Daily with ease, generating even more premium resources. As if someone flipped a switch, I hit a point where I ceased spending money on the game, thanks in part to creating a baseline level of quality characters and power.

I ascended many stairs, into the holy grounds of the zone of no spending.

In comparing rosters with friends who only recently began their Marvel Puzzle Quest journey, I saw just how easy I had things. Where I was able to overpower events and clear enemies with ease, others lacked the ability to do the same. With some luck here and there, I’m able to keep my account alive and well. Just this week, I completed an event that gave a token for a random prize, resulting in 1000 Hero Points, the premium currency of MPQ.

                            Mine. All mine. Not yours.

I didn’t need it, but I certainly wasn’t going to look a digital gift horse in the mouth. For I am a hero among men in this FTP world. Surely songs with lutes and ancient mandolins with be sang in my honor.

Is this more a sad diatribe, revealing the insane amounts of time and energy I’ve placed into a mobile game? Perhaps this only reveals that I’ve made poor spending decisions and could have been buying “real” games.  Quite possibly. I realize that the reaction of many gamers these days is to immediately spit at the mere mention of FTP gaming. That’s fine.

Those worries are in the past. I’m in a place of serene calmness. A warm, glowing light of fulfillment sustains my gaming spirit. I am one with the tablet.

While you’re over there, complaining about being screwed over by the random number generator yet again, I’ll be over here; enjoying the fruits of my labor and smugly posting about how great my roster tru–

Crap. Five characters have been released and suddenly my roster is out of date? A new premium currency was introduced? The Hulk has a hot dog cart attack?

Sigh. There goes my zone. It was nice while it lasted.

Be right back. I have grinding to do.

Will Harrison is a gaming critic from Toledo, Ohio who appears in The Toledo Blade. Find him on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison


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