This essay was written by upper-sixth former Muhammed Hussain, and a finalist for the 2020 Independent Learning Assignment. The following provides a short abstract to the full essay, which can be found at the bottom.
Estimated read time of abstract: 4 minutes
Estimated read time of essay: 60 minutes
The following Preface is an extract from my ILA that serves as an overview of both what my ILA entails and of the process in writing it:
It was nearing the deadline for submitting the title for my ILA and I had still not given the project much thought. Forcing myself to choose a topic on the final day of the extended deadline, I was deliberating going down one of two routes; the easy yet laborious, or the difficult but enjoyable. After taming down my ambitions I went with the former and submitted that in thinking the route would be less bumpy.
Fast forward a couple of days and I am at my desk looking at my blank screen titled, “How Immigration affects the Local Economy.” Finally I come to the realization that this is going to be a reading fest, examining 30 odd articles and picking out what is relevant for me, only to come up with a conclusion that mirrors someone else’s with data that has been sourced from someone else. What would be my input? Besides, the title itself was bland and monotonous, exactly not what I wanted my ILA to encompass.
So, I had to start from scratch with Mr Bradford (our ILA director) thinking I was some labour economist. This time I decided I would go down the other route titled: “Are in-app purchases a scam?” Being a frequent app gamer and statistics enthusiast, I thought this was the perfect idea until I became aware of its potential downfall: the countless different app genres and in-game purchase functions. For example, in one game “gems” might be spent trying to summon a character from a pool, in another “stones” may merely speed up time. Trying to make comparisons of the value of in-game currency between two distinct games (whose currency served different functions) would be very difficult, let alone quantifying the value of speeding up game time itself.
With the help of Mr Xuan (my ILA supervisor), I managed to narrow down my appetite to a more specific genre, gacha: the controversial Japanese lootbox1 extraordinaire now common in western app stores and perhaps the biggest “socially approved” scam out there. Having played these games before and having previously meddled with statistics in the context of these games, I realized there was a much bigger section of this topic to be explored using more elements of statistics, I at the time did not know of.
I wanted my ILA to be truly independent, in other words, I wanted most of the research to be my own, using my own unique methods and coming up with my own conclusions about these games. That’s why choosing such a niche topic that had not been previously explored, bar the odd superficial statistical analysis by players in the games’ communities, was perfect for my goal.
However, there were two large problems that I immediately faced as I tried to change subject from in-app purchases as a whole to the specific genre of gacha. Firstly, gacha was too specific and foreign a genre that many people did not understand the complicated terminology associated with it. Being an avid gacha gamer myself did not help either, as it was difficult to gauge what a stranger to the game would not at first understand. In fact, after submitting my first draft for approval, those who had played such games prior to reading my draft had good things to say about it, as opposed to those who hadn’t who struggled to get past the first couple pages. To fix this, I decided to restructure my ILA so it was more easy to follow, add a definitions page for any foreign vocabulary, buff up the introductory explanation of gacha, and finally add footnotes to parts that may not be fully accessible to a lay reader. This came with a downside in that my essays’ word count ballooned to make up for the more detailed explanations.
The second problem was perhaps the bigger of the two. Having already written a large amount for my old topic of in-app purchases it was painful to cut out the now irrelevant sections. Changing topics immediately made the vast proportion of my then ILA redundant. My over attachment to what I had previously written made it difficult to cut stuff out on the basis of forcefully made reasons explaining their relevance. This resulted in an ILA which lacked a coherent structure and clearly looked as if someone had changed ideas halfway through writing it. In the end I managed to overcome this issue with the help of Mr Xuan (…again), by planning my new essay and ruthlessly extracting only the relevant parts from my old ILA, editing them slightly before inputting them into my new one.
The end product was an ILA dipped in statistical analysis, coated with behavioral analysis with a sprinkle of scorn on top. I understand some of this analysis does not apply to the whole gacha genre, indeed there are some games which are not so much of a scam but more a delight to play. This essay was mainly aimed at targeting the so-called gacha mechanism in popular gacha games that have, in some cases, been criticized as “scam-like” or close to “gambling” by many game critics.
To view Mo’s full article, follow this link below.