As you get older, you may find yourself falling into a trap where you become proud of your ignorance or lack of understanding of certain things. For a real-world example of this, tune into your Facebook and Twitter feed during the next big sports game. In between status updates consisting solely of repeated caps-locked player names, you'll definitely notice that one or more of your friends has suddenly turned into C. Montgomery Burns:
Is there some type of sports ball event happening today? Ah yes, the local baseball squadron appears to be delivering a sound thrashing. I think I'll go read a book under a tree.Not to be cynical, but those people probably spent the next two hours watching The Show with Vinny.*
What I'm saying is that ignorance is not to be celebrated. My conviction was tested when I opened up my Steam client the other day, and learned that Valve had implemented a Trading Card minigame into their...storefront? It took all of my self-righteousness to refrain from riding the giddy high of my uninformed state to the pure euphoria of snark. Sure, I'd love to just grab my ten dollar copy of Dishonored and retreat to the safe haven of my Library page, but I thought it would be fun for me to liveblog the process of me learning what this is and why I shouldn't be scared and confused by it.
- 9:00AM EST: The very top of the Steam Store page has a link that promises to explain what Steam Trading Cards have to do with the Steam Summer Sale. Better than nothing, I guess. I click on it and then get up to get a glass of water.
- 9:02AM: My wife looks over my shoulder and asks "What the fuck is up with those Steam trading cards, anyway? Are they like Cheevos?" I told her I was looking into it and she could read all about it on my blog. "Good," she said. "I'm interested in finding out what that's all about, although I guess it doesn't matter and I don't actually care." Dude. I know.
- 9:05AM: It's taking me longer to type this out than it would just to read the informative steam page. It's still open from when I clicked on it five...now six minutes ago.
- 9:06AM: I'm clicking back to the Steam window now.
- 9:07AM: Right at the top, the explanation page tells me to "Collect all 10 Summer Getaway Trading Cards to craft the Summer Getaway badge. And Summer Getaway emoticons and backgrounds!" Backgrounds for what? There are badges now? I'm crafting badges with cards? I guess if I were going to create a badge, I would probably use a card. Unless I were really into it, then I would try to get some plastic action going.
- 9:17AM: ...What the fuck is this?
- 9:20AM: So...like...you get Steam Cards by playing participating games...but...you can't get all the cards you need to make a badge that way. You have to...I don't know. Trade with other people? I'm glad Valve is promoting social interaction among its devotees. If I know anything about PC game nerds, it's that they won't immediately find a quick and impersonal way to automate this shit.
- 9:24AM: I have to eat something. I'm taking Prednisone since I had some weird allergic thing the other day that no one can explain. I have a Rite-Aid rewards-or-whatever card in my wallet. Whenever I buy things at Rite-Aid I give that to them so they don't ask about it. Sometimes I might get a dollar off something, I guess? That's the same kind of loyalty program at the Steam stuff, but...this just seems way more...I mean, right?
- 9:56AM: Oh god, am I still doing this?
- 9:58AM: So, they introduced the cards a while ago, but the Summer Sale is the big push to get people invested in the...ecosystem, I guess. Before, you could just ignore it, but now you're getting cards just for buying things you would be buying anyway, so there have to be SOME people who pick up the habit that way.
- 10:02AM: There's an eBay for this shit? People are buying and selling cards, along with other "items" from popular games like Team Fortress 2. Profits from these sales can go towards future Steam purchases. People are selling cards for, like, 18 cents.
- 10:07AM: I have two cards from purchasing things during the Summer Sale. I think I'll hold onto them and watch them become collector's items thankyouverymuch.
- 10:10AM: Dota 2 has treasure keys that unlock in-game items. People are selling these keys for like two bucks. You might pay two bucks for a Dota 2 item.
- 10:13AM: Back to the cards. You get Summer Sale cards by buying things, voting on flash sales, trading with buddies, or straight-up paying money for them. Once you have all ten cards, you get to "craft" the badge, which gives you "rewards" like special emoticons for your Steam chat client, or background images for your Steam profile page. I'm not even joking. That's the end game. You're "allowed" to craft the badge five times, which means collecting fifty of the cards. So you can paste a little pixelated Gordon Freeman face into your chats with Steam friends and they can be totally jealous that you got an emoticon that they can't use. You're literally advertising the loyalty program within the chat client.
- 10:26AM: YOU'RE PAYING MONEY TO ADVERTISE A LOYALTY PROGRAM. YOU ARE PAYING MONEY TO ADVERTISE A LOYALTY PROGRAM.
It's 10:30 now and my wife has fallen back asleep. In her gentle slumber, I see all the innocence I knew only 90 minutes ago before I took up this foul task. I see joy, and a little hope for the future. She doesn't understand what's out there. What we're up against. I have stared down the ickiness, and I know it's staring right back at me. Inky-black, cynical, smirking. It is the face of Yanis Varoufakis, who I'm sure is an amazingly wonderful person, and who is damn sure a brilliant guy for going from only knowing Space Invaders to being one of the most influential economic minds in the industry in about two years.
Thank you, Yanis and Valve, for forcing every other video game e-tailer to have regular sales and markdowns. Thank you for spinning me around half a dozen times and throwing me into a hamster maze with a handful of trading cards. Thank you Yanis especially for posting that funny picture of yourself so I could end with that instead of a picture of Gabe Newell.
*I totally went onto mtv.com and stared at the Shows page for like three minutes trying to decide the funniest show name to use in this sentence. I'm not proud that I don't know anything about reality TV but this footnote is still pretty hypocritical, don't you think?