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The field of persuasive design, also known as coercive design, appears to have emerged from the free-to-play (F2P) games industry, where the object (from the game designer’s point of view) is getting you hooked to the point where you are willing to fork over money in order to continue to play. I learned about this from a couple of amazing posts in 2013 by game developer Ramin Shokrizade, one on systems of control in F2P and another very provocative post on coercive monetization. And now it’s not just ad-supported websites that are competing for your attention: It’s apps and operating systems too. It’s pretty much the same setup as Apple Arcade for Android phones, with a big difference: The selection is wider, and it has a lot fewer exclusive games.


Game Pass now includes free streaming games to Android phones and tablets, too. Play Pass includes a few good titles, especially if you’re looking for something for kids to play. PlayStation Plus includes a couple of free premium games every month that you can associate with your account. This month’s free games for PS Plus members are Street Fighter V and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). For example, this month’s free Games With Gold are The Division, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, De Blob 2, and Armed and Dangerous. Microsoft’s subscription offering is getting better all the time, and it’s now bundled in with Xbox Live Gold (the multiplayer component of the Xbox One) for a very reasonable $15 a month. So much better than my trip - conference, avalon81 getting lost in mazes of slot machines I had no interest in playing. But as the tech world started going mobile, from 2008 on, the battle for your attention started getting baked into the very interfaces of the software we use. “Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it,” writes Tristan Harris, a magician and former “design ethicist” at Google, in an essay that lays out some of the ways software design makes use of attentional weaknesses.


I’ve amassed over 60 free games-games that would have cost anywhere from a few bucks to $60 normally-just by checking out the new offerings every Thursday. At the moment, the Switch is definitely the odd man out in terms of free games. Note that, while the service is set up kind of like a streaming movie service, it’s still downloading games directly to your PC and playing them locally. While the options from EA and Ubisoft are pretty solid, Microsoft’s has a single-minded dedication towards offering a variety of games from different publishers and developers, and new high-profile games as soon as they’re released. Because there are literally hundreds of thousands of games available on the iOS App Store, it’s almost more valuable as a curation service than anything else: The games in Apple Arcade are all premium, featuring none of the ads or in-app purchases that are so common in mobile games. Assuming you’re interested in playing paid games (as opposed to freebies like Fortnite), there are two ways to go about it: paying for a subscription for lots of games at once or paying to get a few permanently free games at a slower rate.

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