Every so often, I come across a post on Facebook or an Internet forum about a free video game giveaway; just today, I saw numerous gaming journalism articles on free copies of The Witcher 2 given to Gwent beta test participants. Each of these posts and articles overflows with comments from people who love they are getting a free game. But that got me thinking: why do people like free games?
To many gamers, the answer is obvious: because they’re free. But why does something being free elicit such a response? Why are people not as overjoyed when they receive money as a birthday gift and spend that money on a game? Well, I have two possible theories, the first is that getting games for free makes people feel like smart, savvy consumers who know how to manage and budget their money. Video games are, at the end of the day, entertainment and not as important as necessities such as food and electricity. Money should always be spent first on necessities, and the rest should be deposited in a savings fund. Money in such an account can be spent on anything but ideally used for emergencies. For most people, every penny spent on video games is one penny less in savings, which is bound to gnaw at most subconsciouses. People who get a game for free don’t have to worry that they should have bought groceries with the money. Even if people received the money as a birthday gift, a small part of them realizes that the money would be best put in a retirement fund. However, a free game doesn’t require people to make even the tiniest of sacrifices to their economic well-being; they feel like that smart, savvy consumer. Their happiness does not just revolve around “getting something for free;” they feel as though they were able to easily budget their money. Of course, that is only one theory. The other one is a little more…psychoanalytical.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t get something for nothing,” or have you heard of the law of the conservation of matter/mass (or for you anime fans out there, the law of equivalent exchange)? Basically, the phrase and laws state everything has a price, even if it isn’t a monetary one. In order to live, humans need to eat, which means something else (either a plant or an animal — or both) has to die. That’s the rule of nature, but humans hate rules; there’s a reason why a lot of people (mis)remember Douglas MacArthur’s famous quote, “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.” It’s basically human nature to find new ways to bend the rules or flat out ignore them. It’s a rule of nature that humans can’t fly or breath underwater, so airplanes and scuba gear were invented to circumvent that rule. Perhaps, our love of free games is driven by a belief that getting games for free is a way to defeat another system or universal rule. Before we even can pay for a video game, let alone play it, we need to pay for a video game console, a television, electricity, and so on. We perceive the action of getting a free game as having to take one less step in the payment system, thereby beating it and fulfilling mankind’s nature of not playing by the rules.
Of course, these are all just my theories, formed from my own personal opinions. Do you agree with me or disagree with me? What are your own theories on why people like free games? Comment down below.