So there was this big brainstorming I was in. The topic was to try and think about “free” games, and what makes it okay versus what feels wrong. (This is starting to become a running theme on this blog…)

We discusses the differences between Asian and American markets. Americans really like to own things they buy. Asians seem okay with paying $5 for a gun they can only use for a week. I now know how to deliver that same mechanic to Americans without them realizing they are doing it.

Point is: Felt evil.

So we are trying to figure out what American consumers are okay with and we get on the topic of sponsorship. This is a fuzzy area for me. I don’t mind if Dr Pepper want to give me a T-shirt at their own expense. I think advert-games can be cool if they do it right. Like when Old Spice worked directly with the XBOX Live indie community and asked them to make games for a competition. I assume prize money was involved. Or the Doritos Unlock XBOX Contest, where the community submits ideas and they make your game and pay you 50k or something if you win. It’s a little lame but it’s all so transparent I don’t mind it. And some indie kid somewhere probably goes out and buys (googling a $50,000 car, one second…) two DeLoreans off eBay!

Which brings me to and idea I had

The Doritos Wizard
So say your playing a game like WoW. You are in a raid going up against some large boss your guild has yet to defeat. You fight for 6 hours, mostly with the rest of the group’s eccentricities, bathroom breaks and your crying children. You get to the final boss of the dungeon. You’ve read all the expect advice and watched it a dozen times on YouTube. You all form up, there’s a tightness in your chest but your fingers stand ready at the appropriated hotkeys. You know your role and you can almost taste those new epic boots you’ve been waiting for. The word comes down. Everyone moves like a perfectly oiled machine (of Death!)

Except Gary.

Gary’s wife just called. You’ve lost your tank. Everything crumbles.

You’ve just wiped.

And this is where the story should end… But wait! What’s that golden cheesy glistening in the sky? It’s the goddamn Doritos Wizard.

He floats down in front of your defeated group, as would an angel, trailing delicious cheese dust. Without word, he raises his Doritos wand and with a flick of his wrist, you are blinded by a flurry of Doritos. When your vision returns, your party stands tall amongst you. You have been returned to a time before your mistake. Ready, once again, to attempt the challenge you once failed. A tear comes to your eye, and you think you hear your Paladin over Ventrillo, whisper to himself, “Thank you Doritos Wizard.”

So the idea was: If some company wants to buy a cool bonus for players, why not let them? Work with them of course to make sure it’s cool but I saw it like handing out free beer at an event. Or selling ad space that actually gives you something, like a coupon you can scan with your phone. I figured that if it wasn’t balance changing or usable in versus or derailing in any way, it would fly. Also the ridiculousness of it, I think, excuses the corporate nature of it.

Later that evening, Ben and I were on our way home after work.

Ben tells me that my idea is really, REALLY evil.

He punctuated it with one of those little laughs of disbelief in the middle of the sentence. That drove it home for me. Ever since then, I’ve been paranoid that any money making plan pushes me one step closer to the dark side. If only you could make indie games for free.