Steam has trading cards now, as all my gaming readers will probably know. The whole thing is a profoundly vacuous capitalist enterprise of the kind that cynics gobble up for breakfast. You can get the cardies for free just by playing your games, but that’s because they don’t have any substance apart from a database entry somewhere. Sure, games are just a bunch of bytes too, but at least some creative people have spent their browsweat designing the things, whereas the cards are just cropped bits of art from those actually usually pretty substantial games. You can’t even play with the damn things!
So while the cards aren’t really much in and of themselves, like any capitalist’s dream item you can imbue them with value simply by making them sort of scarce, tradable, and collectible. The going rate for the average of these beauties is about ten to twenty euro cents last time I checked, and obviously, whenever you sell one to another player, our friends at Steam get a slice of the cake to the tune of a few cents of actual money. For virtual cards that you can’t even play a virtual game with. Well, except for market speculation and the game of trading for trading’s sake.
While of course people are free to spend their money as they see fit, I can’t help but feel that I’d be cheating someone if I were to sell them one of my hard-earned cards for a quarter. They get what amounts to a trivial picture from a game while I and our buddies over at Steam get real cash — as represented by a number in an account somewhere, obviously. Real money doesn’t actually exist.
Anyway, is there any way can turn this extortion scheme on its head and do something slightly more ethical with it? Here are two of my lightning-quick thoughts. Share yours here or on Twitter with the hashtag #ethicalsteamtradingcards.
- Don’t sell any of your cards; keep them for yourself and make those shiny badges, or trade them away for other cards. That way you won’t be taking anyone’s money for nothing except to line Steam’s pockets.
- Do sell all of those cards, and use the money you earn to buy games for other people that have less money than you, are having a rough time, or whatever other reason you can think of that makes you want to give them a gift. In this way, on average, we take money from people who (apparently) don’t need it, and transfer it into gifts for people who do.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Steam as a company most of the time, but we all knew that this trading card thing was going to be iffy, right?