South Park – “Freemium Isn’t Free”

I’m a Double Bastard deep so apologies if this review includes errors of any kind. But I’m not going to go back and change anything. I’m a man of integrity, thank you.

This episode was hilarious. I laughed a lot. Blame the Double Bastard, maybe, or the fact that I just love when South Park goes on a tear about something that a lot of people probably don’t care about. Go read the IGN and AV Club reviews of this episode to understand why I loved it so much. They both don’t get it.

“Freemium” games are time-wasters that give you a “game” (if you can call it that) wherein you have to do things to make money to do more things and level up and blah blah blah. They’re a racket, as this episodes goes to lengths to prove. What’s more disheartening is the whole model of the freemium games prays on people who become easily addicted to shit like this. The episode is not shy about pointing this out, either. In fact, the episode spends a considerable chunk of its time explaining the freemium game model, why it sucks, and why it’s detrimental to people who suffer from addictive personalities.

It’s not satire. It’s not a brilliant sendup. It is a direct address to the people who make these games. It basically says, “Hey, fuck you, guy” to freemium game makers, by comparing them to the Canadian Devil. Which, as we all know, is worse than the actual devil. He also poops fire. Because why not? The actual devil makes a FANTASTIC (without hyperbole) appearance here as a very, very down-to-Earth explainer of all things dopamine and addiction. He is the master of temptation after all. I could not stop laughing during any segment where the devil was onscreen. He was hysterical. He sounded like a guidance counselor mixed with a stoner with a BS in Psychology trying to explain why certain people are addicted to things. I can’t even do it justice. It’s amazing.

What’s also amazing is how the episode ties in the addictive nature of freemium games to other vices like drinking and gambling. See, Stan’s the one addicted, and naturally he gets it from his Grandpa, who’s a heavy gambler. Luckily, it passed over Randy, who is only a casual drinker (or so he says), engaging in wine tastings, beer tastings, and wearing a hat with beer cans on it. Don’t worry; it’s gluten-free beer. What this does is point out the denial of alcoholics, while in turn pointing out the denial of those addicted to these money-grabbing games. “It’s just fun. I only pay a little. It’s no different from the video games you guys play,” and so on. It’s not alcoholism if it’s wine. And so on. Most of the reviews I’ve read gloss over this fact, because they don’t know what a freemium game is. Or why it’s a problem.

And if you don’t, then good for you, you’re an ignorant son of a bitch. Why do we take pride in being unaware of things? “Oh, I don’t know that, because I rarely use my phone,” etc etc. Like anyone ever brags about not knowing what ISIS is. Freemium games, while nowhere near as pressing an issue as aforementioned ISIS, are still a plague. And it’s obvious Trey and Matt a) don’t like them and b) have been pressured to do them. Especially considering the other animation juggernauts, The Simpsons and Family Guy both have them. Meanwhile, South Park has a real, bona fide video game that is actually incredible. What’s that? Trey and Matt stand up for their beliefs? You don’t say!

But back to the episode. Many amazing one-liners and bits here, especially anything involving Canada. I’m hot and cold on the Canada stuff but here it was amazing. And great seeing Satan again. And continuing the continuity (redundant?) with Randy explaining that he has to write songs to keep paying off Stan’s phone bills. Plus, Jimmy being a drug peddler stand-in (substituting the Terrance and Phillip freemium game for, say, crack) was a nice nod to that DARE shit they kept peddling on us in elementary school. The rest of the gang doesn’t get much here, but their reaction to seeing Stan emerge from the ground (the actual devil having borrowed his body for a bit) and also chastising Stan for playing his crappy game are solid.

I really, really enjoyed this episode. I laughed a lot, I thought the topic was great, I thought the points brought up were more complex than people give credit for, and I loved the Canada, Satan and continuity aspects. I don’t give a shit if this was profound or controversial or whatever. It was just fun. Now, I’m off to engage in a smorgaswine, which is a beer and wine tasting in one. But I’m not an alcoholic. *looks longingly at the empty bottle of Double Bastard, wonders where the time went*

Review Grade: A

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