Much of the conversation around in-game microtransactions in recent months has moved toward whether something is “pay-to-win” or not, or dissolves into a defense of the unfortunate gam-er with too little time who just wants a chance to keep up with his friends. I think those arguments fail an important litmus test of whether these systems make a given game experience better or worse. Imagine going to a movie theater, watching part of a film, and then having the film paused to ask if you’d like to pay an addition-al three dollars to see the main characters in their coolest outfits. Would you like to shell out some cash to see Luke Skywalker level up his Jedi skills a little faster? What if Wonder Woman could add a cool new flourish to her sword attacks for the low price of a cup of coffee? For most of us, entertainment is an opportunity to escape connect into a world that immerses us in its wonders, and it’s only when that experience is over that we step back into the real world. In-game stores break that immersion, and remind us that our fantasy only carries us to another trip into our wallets. The more subtle, and more significant problem, is the way mi-crotransactions subvert smart design and progression dynamics. Whether you consider it on a conscious level or not, most games are built on reward loops inherent to our psychology. The best game designers capitalize on that human desire for improvement and the benefits of success. Beat a boss? Receive a powerful new toy that excites you, but also often helps to carry you forward to subsequent victories. The desire for mastery and recompense for mastery is deeply coded into us, and games do a better job than any other entertainment medium of providing that structure.