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Böhmermann in ZDF Magazin: "The game is free, just like my first injection of heroin"

Created: 09/17/2022 7:24 am

Im ZDF Magazin Royale geht Jan Böhmermann den „fiesen, manipulativen Tricks“ der Gaming-Industrie auf die Spur.
Jan Böhmermann in the double role: As a moderator, he criticizes “nasty, manipulative tricks” in the gaming industry, as a streamer (bottom left) he downplays the problem. © ZDF

In the ZDF Magazin Royale, Jan Böhmermann devotes himself to the billion dollar gaming industry and its manipulative tricks. The TV review.

Gaming, i.e. computer and mobile games of all kinds, is a booming business in Germany. For Jan Böhmermann and his team, that’s reason enough to dedicate themselves to the subject in the ZDF Magazin Royale. Anyone who has been involved with the games industry for a long time knows that computer games have a difficult time in the public debate and that gamers are burdened with prejudices: The killer game debate and the cliché of the socially isolated couch potato send their regards. Even public broadcasting has not always covered itself in glory.

So when Jan Böhmermann deals with computer games on ZDF, players will sit up and take notice. Especially when it comes to the dangers of the games. The subject of the ZDF Magazin Royale episode are nasty tricks used by companies to generate maximum profit from microtransactions in the games.

ZDF Magazin Royale: Jan Böhmermann is dedicated to in-game purchases in video games

Böhmermann identifies these microtransactions, also known as in-game purchases, as an important source of revenue in the games industry. The companies earned 4.2 billion euros in Germany alone in 2021 – more than four times as much as from the sale of the games themselves. The principle of in-game purchases and their importance for the developers is not really new : Anyone who has ever downloaded a game on their mobile phone will find that they are often free, but everything can be bought within the games themselves.

Broadcast ZDF Magazine Royale
moderator Jan Böhmermann
title In-Game Purchases – Fake currency, real dispo
date September 16, 2022
time 23 o’clock
Available online until September 15, 2023

Anything but subtle, Böhmermann explains the logic behind it: “The game is free, just like my first shot of heroin.” Comparing games with heroin is hard, but it makes it clear to everyone where things are headed: on the subject of addiction.

That’s why it’s all the more important that Petra Schmitz, editor at the industry magazine Gamestar, classifies the method of the game developers: In the beginning there is a “glut of rewards” that are replaced by hurdles over time, explains the expert. The games then offer a quick fix – in the form of in-game purchases.

Jan Böhmermann’s ZDF Magazin: Gambling in a football simulation

After the mobile phone games, Böhmermann is turning to another popular series of games: the FIFA series. This in itself is an impertinence; after all, EA Sports keeps releasing the same game at full price. That’s not what the ZDF magazine is about at all, it’s about the game mode “FIFA Ultimate Team” (FUT). Gamers put together their own football teams and can buy packages, also known as loot boxes, worth up to almost 23 euros to get new player cards.

EA Sports is always releasing new maps. This means gamers can theoretically buy new loot boxes an infinite number of times. However, the chance of really good player cards is small – and according to a calculation by Norwegian consumer protection cited by Böhmermann, it can really cost an average of 13,500 euros for a card from French superstar Kylian Mbappé.

ZDF Magazin: Böhmermann is self-critical, but uses outdated clichés

Aside from the financial aspect, loot boxes are addictive. ZDF Magazin cites an article about a “Gamble Aware” study according to which the purchase of loot boxes is linked to gambling addiction. However, it must also be mentioned at this point, and Böhmermann does not do that, that the study establishes a correlation, but no causal connection.

ZDF Magazine Royale

“In-game purchases – wrong currency, real dispo”, on Friday, September 16th, 2022, on ZDF – and in the media library.

So Böhmermann actually represents possible dangers. For some players, this probably corresponds to the well-known black painting of video games. The position is represented by Böhmermann himself, who, in addition to his usual role as moderator, also appears as a caricature of a gamer and streamer and provides counterarguments. However, this character is heavily exaggerated and is ultimately just a reproduction of the cliché of a gamer.

In ZDF Magazin, Böhmermann points out the lack of self-criticism among gaming giants EA

Parts of the games industry itself prove that these critical voices, especially in such a prominent position on ZDF, absolutely have to be heard. EA Sports, for example, apparently lacks any awareness of the dangers posed by their strategy of profit maximization. At least that’s what a 2019 statement by Karry Hopkins, EA’s vice president of legal affairs, suggests: “We think the way we’ve implemented these kinds of mechanisms […] is actually quite ethical and fun. “

Many game developers are also increasingly implementing gambling elements in video games where they don’t belong, says Jan Böhmermann. In the end, this leads him to a very culturally pessimistic conclusion: “Microtransactions have turned games into games of chance. Video games as a cultural asset have become blunt paddle machines.”

ZDF Magazin Royale: Critical but differentiated approach to the topic of gaming

Ultimately, Böhmermann’s pessimism is partially justified. This is also evident from looking at the entertainment software self-control (USK), which is responsible for testing the games and classifying the games by their age. However, games with gambling elements like in FIFA or with in-game purchases often have no limit. Instead, the USK only wants to counteract this with additional information.

Ultimately, however, it must not be forgotten that only a part of the gaming industry relies on microtransactions. Böhmermann himself does not point to this. The moderator leaves that to the gamer veteran Erik Range, better known as Gronkh. Ultimately, the ZDF Magazin edition is proof that public service formats can also deal with the topic of gaming.

In the previous episode, Böhmermann hardly shone in ZDF Magazin, but he did come to an important realization. (Max Schaefer)

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