Clash of Clans
Players can construct a village, set up different defenses for protection from NPCs as well as other players, gather resources in the form of gold and elixir, and create a powerful army. The object of the game is to build defenses that protect the players' village and resources from other players' attacks, as well as to train and upgrade troops for offensive maneuvers. Players must earn resources in order to build and upgrade buildings which can be used for a variety of purposes such as storage, training new troops, carrying out research in the laboratory, and defending a player's village. Once they reach a certain level, players can join clans, which are groups of players that pool their resources in order to compete and fight against other clans in battles. While the game revolves around playing with and against other people, the Clash of Clans also features a single player campaign mode in which the player battles against a number of computer-generated goblin villages.
Clans are groups of players who join together to support each other and fight against other clans. Players can join clans once they rebuild the special Clan Castle building. Players can request and donate a certain amount of troops once they have built the Clan Castle building. Clans have four different ranks within them: leader, co-leader, elder, and member. Clan leads and co-leaders can begin wars against other clans, change clan settings, and kick lower tier members from the clan, which can potentially lead to bullying and discrimination. During a war against another clan, each clan is given a "preparation day" and a "war day." Each player is limited to two attacks per war, and can earn up to three stars based on the amount of destruction caused to the opposing clan player's village in each attack. At the end of the war, the clan with the higher amount of stars wins, with players receiving bonus war loot and the clan receiving one more war win in their record. Clans are seen as a status symbol and are ranked based on a weighted percentage of clan players' trophies.
Supercell, the creator of Clash of Clans, has released numerous television and Internet advertisements for the game, including an ad for the Super Bowl XLIX, featuring Liam Neeson parodying his character from Taken. This ad, titled Revenge, has over 100 million views on Youtube, and was the most viewed Super Bowl Ad in 2015. Clash of Clans also has a Youtube channel with over 4 million subscribers and over 650 million total views on their channel.
In November of 2013, Supercell released Boom Beach on iOS and Android worldwide. Boom Beach is also a freemium strategy video game for mobile devices in which players can build and upgrade their base to attack other players's bases or computer-generated bases. The game has received generally positive ratings. Similar to Clash of Clans, the game offers premium purchasable currency in the form of diamonds. While the two games share many of the same strategy aspects, Boom Beach has a more attack oriented nature and offers more control over troops. The other aspect of these games that is completely different is the matchmaking process for attacks. Clash of Clans offers a completely random matchmaking model, while Boom Beach gives you five to ten possible opponents to choose from.
In January 2016, Supercell released Clash Royale on iOS and Android. Although it is not a strategy game about building a base or attacking other player's bases, Supercell uses many familiar units that are used in Clash of Clans. In this strategy game, players collect cards that represent units they can place down on a battlefield. The objective of each battle is to destroy the other player's castle in order to win. Besides the tutorial, the entirety of the fights are against other players to gain "trophies". The more "trophies" a player procures through battling, the higher "arena" they are bumped up to. Clash Royale also offers plenty of opportunities for players to make purchases in order to better prepare themselves for battle, utilizing the same freemium strategy model.
In December of 2015, Supercell released a much anticipated update to Clash of Clans, infamously known as the "Town Hall 11" update. This update allowed players to upgrade their town hall, the central building of each village, to a higher level. Additionally, Supercell promised a new hero, new long range artillery, an increased map size, increased storage units, and other troop and building upgrades. However, new rules in the update regarding shield timers, farming, and personal breaks generated a lot of controversy, especially among the most invested and elite players. This update gave incentive for players to use real-world currency to purchase protection that used to be accessible to players for free in the previous version of the game. In response, thousands of players took to Reddit and the Apple and Android app stores to voice their opinions and concerns. In just three days after the game's update, Clash of Clans received twenty-one thousand ratings which averaged out to 3 stars, compared to its average 4.5 star rating before the update out of a total of 1.7 million reviews.
While there is no blood or any intense violence or graphic content, Clash of Clans contains frequent battles with cartoon-style weapons, explosions, and cries of defeated soldiers. The game's core component is attacking and raiding other villages in order to pillage the resources of other players. Thus, there are some ethical concerns with young children playing the game and being exposed to such violence. Commonsense Media, a website that provides information on family-friendly and safe media and games, states that Clash of Clans is appropriate for those 13+. Both the violence rating and the inappropriate language rating of the game are 2/5. There is no explicit language or sexual references in the game.
Bullying & Cyberbullying
In 2014, a group of students at Ogden International School in Chicago created a clan called the "Jew Incinerator Clan" to bully another student because he was Jewish. The students wrote, “Heil! Throw Jews into ovens for a cause. We are a friendly group of racists with one goal – put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of. Sieg! Heil!” New York Times released an article in 2015 on how Clash of Clans provokes bullying on the playground as a result of the exclusionary nature of the game. Middle school students who played the game formed cliques to exclude certain classmates, and the power structures that were created were cast even further than in the game itself. This scenario reveals the negative consequences that can occur when Clash of Clans players form and enforce hierarchical bullying both online and in real life.
Video Game Addiction
Due to its addictive nature, Clash of Clans raises ethical issues concerning time-wasting and distraction. The game follows a model that enables players to make quick upgrades at low costs when they are on the lower level of the game. As a player increases in levels, the upgrades become much more expensive and take a great deal of time to complete, but at this point many players are already hooked to the improved success of their home base in comparison to their fellow clan-mates. The game also ensures that the home base is under protection from enemy raids while a player is logged on, raising incentive for the game's top players to stay logged on for hours at a time. These design choices all encourage game addiction, which is then abused through in app purchases. The game creates an expectation in the player's mind that upgrades will complete quickly, then offers deals on gems to speed up construction when build times increase.
One Clash of Clans addiction that received very much attention in the media was when the professional baseball team, the Kansas City Royals, reportedly attributed their poor athletic performance to the game. This was not the first case of video game addiction in baseball, as players often seek ways to pass idle time in the clubhouse. Royals player Lorenzo Cain was the most notorious for his Clash of Clans obsession and many other players followed suit. Their on-field performance ultimately worsened, and several coaches saw the game as a detrimental obstacle. It got to the point when a coach entered the locker room after a particularly bad loss, and most of the team was checking their progress on their iPads. Coaches later called a meeting regarding their obsessive play time and how it was damaging the team. While this may not be causation for poor performance, it proved to serve as a distraction towards their careers. The situation with the Royals provides an example as to how multiplayer video game addiction can cause a snowball effect consequence where there is a potential for many players to become consumed with a game as its popularity increases amongst a group.
FreemiumThere are many options that players can make purchases in order to advance in the game. It gives the notion of being a "pay-to-win" game which is highly frowned upon by the general population. The temptation to purchase more in-game currency in order to speed up build times increases once players reach higher town hall levels in Clash of Clans particularly because build times can reach up to 14 days. Players have the opportunity to use actual currency in exchange for gems, Clash of Clan's premium currency. Gems can be earned through different milestones in the game, but the primary way to acquire gems is through purchasing them with real world currency. Players can speed up the construction time of a building or boost other resources for only a small amount of gems, creating low-cost yet addictive in-app purchasing behavior. Furthermore, the low build times at the beginning of the game get players addicted to leveling up fast, which encourages spending when build times sharply increase. Players spend a considerable amount of money and time into the game in order to get an edge over other players.
The accessibility to make these purchases also raises ethical concerns. For example, in 2013 a pair of 7-year-old twins spent $3,000 iTunes unknowingly playing Clash of Clans without their parents' knowledge and consent. It is important to note that this is not an issue solely on Clash of Clans, but across many different apps, to which Apple ended up refunding $32.5 million due to this issue. However, these ethical concerns are directed towards the platforms which these in-app purchases take place on. After receiving backlash about the ease-of-access to in-app purchases, Apple made some adjustment to their phones adding better security options surrounding purchases using the app store (which includes in-app purchases). As of iOS 8, Apple introduced the ability to lock any sort of purchases through the app store using the fingerprint scanner, introduced by Apple with the iPhone 5S and known as Touch ID). By adding better security options for app store purchases, Apple has received less complaints surrounding ease-of-purchase using their app store.