Instigator / Pro

Fallen London is the best free to play game released in 2009


Waiting for the next argument from the contender.

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Publication date
Last updated date
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One week
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
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Multiple criterions
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Contender / Con

Free to play: currently costs no money to play the game

We will debate what makes a game good. Con must name at least one free game from 2009 and why it is better than Fallen London.

Round 1
1. They Care about Users Rather than addictive Profit

A lot of Mobile free Gacha games have good design, but prey on users with their incredibly addictive game play, and most game designers want to focus on making money. Wired had a big article on how This is prevalent in the vast majority or well known of Free to play: 

The study found 35 different techniques over eight domains: “game dynamics designed to drive spending, product not meeting expectations, monetization of basic quality of life, predatory advertising, in-game currency, pay to win, general presence of microtransactions and other.” The examples, several of which run afoul of UK consumer protection regulations, are numerous: Gamers cited aggressive advertising in Candy Crush that targets them when they cannot quite complete a level, or inventory space limits in Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online that make it difficult to enjoy the game.
However, even though Fallen London uses an energy system, it's clear to see just from the playing page that it doesn't have the same level of monetization: There aren't ads bothering you every second, and the ones on the sidebar are merely advertising their other games. Fallen London also says

We try to keep the monetisation very polite, and to stay clear of addictive or exploitative design patterns. Whether despite or because of that, more players than usual ultimately spend money on the game. Last time we checked, it was around 6%. We’ve heard anything over 5% is considered excellent. 

In fact, Fallen London has even banned users for playing into overly addictive or toxic behavior, encouraging them to support the game but not at the cost of the user's health. As you can see, unless Con can name a *free game* where the developers care more about the users than earning a profit, Fallen London would reign supreme.

2. The Sheer Depth of Content

Now con might be complaining about the long waits and how most people might not be patient enough to keep up with the energy system that Fallen London offers. However, I would say that ties into what kind of game Fallen London tries to be. It's slow, it's slightly grindy, but it rewards you with immense lore and has a very mysterious mood overall. Fallen London back in 2015 already stated it had nearly 1.5 million words of material, and has only been expanding its content. Since there's no way for Con to really prove just how many people have lost patience with Fallen London, it would be difficult for them to show that the energy system is a severe downside. In addition, as long as you keep expending actions to gain resources, it's inevitable to progress the story forward. With up to years worth of playing, it's plain to see that Fallen London is a monster of a Free to Play game. There's four main routes, an "anti-route" (Seeking Mr Eaten), the big "Evolution" story line, and all of them are really quite well written. It was already awarded the best browser game of 2009 - So Con would either have to contest that award or choose a non-browser based game to battle Fallen London.

3. The Best Writing

It's difficult to prove that Fallen London is extremely hard to match in writing, however, a few short excerpts provide very interesting insight. They have good tonal consistency, imagery, and the overall strangeness of Fallen London. I trust that Con will have a very hard time finding a F2P game from 2009 to match these excerpts [Source].

The vigilant Constables and numberless neddy men. The endless flocks of wheeling bats. The smooth towers carved with symbols that make your eyes bleed and hair smoulder. Do these things mean nothing to you?
Merely in a short passage fallen London manages to show the scene around you, the strange dangerous effects that the world is causing you. 

"There was kind of a sun...and the light that flooded the vineyard was thick as honey and red as port wine. We waited for the sun to speak, but it only watched us in sorrow. I knew then that it was waiting for us. As I woke, I thought that its light lingered somehow in my eyes..."
The personification of the sun, the ambiguity of whether the sun is actually alive or not (it could be!), and the ideas of the vineyard... they're all very intriguing and make you want more. 

This is the last time. The walls of the well are studded with chunks of glass-sharp obsidian. You knew it must be so. But if you bleed to death before you drown, it will be for nothing.
Your flesh rips as you fall. Both your arms and one thigh are ragged tatters. You scream with pain and fury into the water. Too much blood! You won't have time to drown. You won't have time to drown.
You arranged your own betrayal. You made yourself a target. The venal and the vicious could not resist it. But they didn't chain you. They beat you and robbed you. Why can they not understand?
Mr. Eaten is one of the most harrowing storylines and this excerpt tells of just how dreary things could be. Although simple, the passage gives a good lure to learn more about Mr. Eaten.

To seal the nail in the coffin, I guess I might have to divulge one of the game endings, I find those parts are the most powerful of the game. Contains spoilers for Light Fingers below, you are warned!

[I'll use my own user account as the source, but the text itself cannot be manipulated, if Con is suspecting of foul play - there are many others who have this message available to view]


As the zeppelin ascends, the Hybrid raises its voice in solemn song. A thrill runs down your spine. For a moment, swept up by the song, you experience a vision: a blazing-bright king of Moon-Misers leading its glimmering subjects on a pilgrimage across the roof and through a door far to the North. Below, in a city that is not London, the citizens point and murmur in fear as their false-stars crawl into the distance and blink out one by one, leaving only darkness behind.

And then the vision is gone. Was it a promise? A daydream? An augury? You cannot know.

After that, life in London settles back into its customary rhythm. The only notable incident, to begin with, is that Mr Fires locks itself in its chambers for a week. Those who live near the Bazaar hear enraged shrieks and sounds of destruction all through the night, and see sullen fires glare in the windows of one of the spires.
As the months pass, the star brightens. A dozen times brighter than its fellows. Now, when it passes occasionally over London, it paints the city in a velvety twilight. Every few months, when the star is overhead, the gaslamps dim and the city explodes with joyous activity as light-starved citizens take advantage of the slight ease in the gloom.
Even at other times, when the star is most distant from London, it's still faintly visible. No matter where you are, you can look up and take comfort in the knowledge that someone up there likes you.
You imagine the Hybrid, with its clever alien mind and watchful human eyes, looking likewise down at the deep, dark, marvellous city below and thinking of you. And you bless your lucky star that you still live in a city that beats and burns and bleeds with love that is true.


As you can see, the ending is especially powerful. First beginning with the "blazing bright king" and the sudden darkness. The resolution of Mr. Fires, your enemy angry. And finally, the happy and resolute ending where the knowledge that you've succeeded in your mission.

The game is completely free to play start to now and is one of the single inspirations of freemium gaming. When I say freemium, it is very important to understand over time the only part of it relevant to gameplay that you can pay to speed up earning are characters. Everything else you can pay for is entirely cosmetic and there are 0 character you can't grind the free currency to earn over time (or get lucky along the way and have in a Hextech chest).

When I say it inspired freemium, it really did. It didn't inspire 5v5 MOBA gaming but it was early in that genre too (Dota was the first). Unlike Dota, Riot's LoL got everything right, it's time to drop the mask that Dota is superior just because it's more complex and harder to play. LoL is not at all simple to master but is far easier to begin to play, making it brilliant as a freemium model because by the time you're actually properly good enough to play a champ it's going to be long after you buy it unless you're smurfing with a new account.

LoL was so successful, groundbreaking and whatever other term you want to use that its Lore and prestige led to Riot creating an entire Netflix Series Arcane of it in 2021. Some will laugh and say 'that's the game dying, they have nothing better to do' but during Covid the game spiked again in popularity, not the other way around. There are multiple games based on the intricate Lore that LoL inspired which is so intricate that character that aren't in LoL itself fit into other games well as individual character of their respective regions, connected to Champions ('main characters' you play in LoL) and their journeys:

  • Legends of Runeterra (Fantasy Card superior to Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering, destroyed it with a better game and much fairer easier to grind-for-free freemium model)
  • 'League of Legends: ' Wild Rift (a phone version of the PC game, since they realised the PC version was too complex to make work as a phone app)
  • Valorant (FPS alternative that is freemium and annihilates Overwatch that is pay-to-play)
  • Teamfight Tactics (autochess genre, not necessarily superior to autochess but the best for PC for sure, while the phone version is arguably equal).
There are a 3 more even if not 4 including a Netflix-only minigame Hextech Mayhem.

  • In February 2023, Twitch streams of League of Legends content racked up a staggering 112 million viewing hours.
  • League of Legends continues to have an engaged player base, with over 2.4 million active users as of late April 2023.
  • One popular League streamer on Twitch amassed over 3 million views in just 30 days last November, showing the game’s power to attract audiences.
  • League cemented its place as the most-watched game on Twitch as of December 2022, beating out all competition.
  • The highly anticipated 2022 League of Legends World Championship Finals shattered records with over 5 million concurrent viewers tuning in live.
  • Since its launch in 2020, the mobile version of Wild Rift has proven extremely popular, surpassing 55 million downloads.
  • In 2021, Wild Rift topped the charts as the most popular game among Chinese gamers, highlighting its international appeal.
  • With over 150 million registered players globally, League of Legends continues to be one of the most-played online games worldwide as of 2023.
  • The league attracts gamers of all ages, but data shows most active players are between the age of 21-24 as of late 2023.
  • Male gamers dominate League’s player base, making up 87% of users.
  • By September 2022, Wild Rift had smashed through the $750 million mark in total revenue since launch.

Before my opponent pushes hard on the 'exploitative' aspect, LoL being exploitative in that it's addictive is inherent to being a really fun game to play. You cant have one without the other, not truly. Riot puts more effort into its visuals and sounds than a significant amount of pay-to-play games that you can find clips of others playing on YT without needing to play yourself. It's true it keeps the visuals more of a 'see the character this good looking and in-game they're not as good' but that's because it's not a story. Its series Arcane shows you how good its graphics could look if it were just an animated series and not an interactive game. Plus unlike Smite (not to be confused with the summoner spell in LoL, Smite is a competitor, the only first-person MOBA) LoL isn't in first-person it's overhead-at-an-angle so it can't make the characters look exactly like their art or justify this being a good investment over putting effort into the map and environment that stay still a lot more than the complex moving characters.

Its in-game characters are still very high level compared to many free games.

Freemium is free. LoL/Riot literally inspired free gaming to be profitable. If you are exploitative for being successful as fuck with world championship viewership unparallelled by your competitors then so be it. Riot never, not ever, changed to a pay-to-play model at all. It mastered Freemium like other companies could only mimic and dream of equalling.
Round 2
Con has an interesting argument, he says LOL's beginning inevitably caused the spread of incredible series and spin offs, including four other games, and a very powerful hit series. However, I would say cause does not mean you can inevitably attribute every other series' success to League of Legends. That would be like saying, oh one of the first games ever was Pong, every other game is built upon those principles and ideas (I mean, all the basic movements and everything are part of the other games). Therefore Pong is the greatest game ever made. Or maybe let's do the reverse, Megamind 2 was caused by Megamind and Megamind 2 has horrible reviews, therefore Megamind is a horrible movie. You surely can't attribute "this inspired greatness/horribleness" as an argument. Therefore, I ask voters to vote League of Legends based off of its own rights and ideas. 

Now I will admit that League of Legends has incredibly popular userbase and amount of viewers, however he seems to be implying best game based off of profit. I see no reason to judge a game's greatness by how much money it has earned. I would say enjoyment is the best way to judge a game - Free to Play Games with no Payment abilities would have no way to earn money, thus being impossible to compare to League of Legends in that aspect. On the other hand, games' primary purpose is just to be enjoyed by the consumer. Think about the reason why we are spending money in the first place. We buy goods. Food has to be good when we eat it. If Mcdonalds earned billions and tricked its customers to eating poison somehow, that would still be utterly atrocious. Now then, League of Legends isn't physically poisoning you, but it is mentally debilitating.

Game Tree noted LOL as one of the most toxic communities ever - and a simple video explains why. It's extremely hard for players to work together in the team if they're strangers. There's overwhelming amount of info as a newbie, and whenever you die you create boosts and buffs for the enemies. So if I have four good players and one poor player who keeps dying, the enemy is going to win even more than having four good players and one guy standing still in the back doing nothing. It actually makes newbies scared and not want to play more. And the strategy is also quite difficult since people have to compel themselves to lead the team and go for the big boost in the beginning together, since the NPC's are tricky to solo even if you're very good. The lack of voice chat only makes the game more frustrating, since you'd have to type at godlike speed in order to organize everyone together. The game shoots itself in the foot. 

Dropped arguments: Caring about the users is more important than profit - I don't see why we should allow the standard to be set where preying on addictive ideas is better than actually enjoying the game without ads every five minutes, or in this case bashing your head on the keyboard just to win one more game. Fallen London's slow grind actually encourages to step away from the computer, which might seem counter intuitive, but that's probably better than skipping school and playing for 16 hours like some insane video game addicted folks do.

the large amount of world building *inside* Fallen London. Con can say as much about Arcane as he likes, how much of that can you actually learn by playing through the game? It's not like each character has their entire thousand word backstory printed somewhere. 
Dropped arguments: Caring about the users is more important than profit
Neither are important to judging the best free game but the problem if you totally lack profit and have no freemium or donation type progress is that your game stagnates and stays crap. This is a time, effort and resource issue.

- I don't see why we should allow the standard to be set where preying on addictive ideas is better than actually enjoying the game without ads every five minutes
League of Legends doesn't advertise inside the game. Not even a tiny bit the only thing it does is sometimes it does campaigns such as for supporting Ukraine during the war it gave some of the Freemium proceeds for cosmetics towards a Ukraine charity etc. It even let users vote on it.

, or in this case bashing your head on the keyboard just to win one more game.
Aside from the fact you will lose if that's what you do as in literally bash your head on it, you have failed to explain what your game even is, it's just a text adventure.

Fallen London's slow grind actually encourages to step away from the computer, which might seem counter intuitive, but that's probably better than skipping school and playing for 16 hours like some insane video game addicted folks do.
League of Legends isn't an roleplaying game, while you do 'roleplay' as a character temporarily in the game, you don't really play as them and games tend to last maximum for 50 mins. It's true there are extreme cases where it lasted longer but they involve the team that can win directly pausing and taunting the other team. That's extremely rare. I guess it can genuinely without that, last to sort of an hour but that's if there's seriously some brutal mutual killing going on.

There is no case of getting you addicted to it in the sense you describe. They don't punish you for not logging in daily but as a very, very new player there probably is a bonus of sorts during your first week or 2 for regular logins, I'd predict. That's to help you gain certain stats and in-game currency to help you unlock the characters which I told you is the only gameplay relevant thing you can even pay money to speed up the process of getting.

the large amount of world building *inside* Fallen London. Con can say as much about Arcane as he likes, how much of that can you actually learn by playing through the game? It's not like each character has their entire thousand word backstory printed somewhere. 
Okay, however if I 'dropped' that point, you dropped your Lore point. LoL has fantastic Lore and inspired other games and a series from it.

Game Tree noted LOL as one of the most toxic communities ever - and a simple video explains why. It's extremely hard for players to work together in the team if they're strangers. 
All that website did was name any popular game it could name. Popular games get all types of people and what does a troll who wants to rile the most people up in X amount of time do? Play a popular free-to-play game. It's the combination of being popular and free that attracts trolls to it more than most other games ever will. Those trolls can return again, though it's gotten better at banning VPN IPs and thus is harder for them to evade via VPN. 

The problem with toxicity in LoL is very complex. They even hired professional psychologists to help them make a reward vs punishment system and I honestly have to say it's great. Over time they worked out exactly how to combine harshness with leniency but it's taken them a long, long time. This is about what is the best game, not was.

They really have tried very hard to refine their system:

Riot began with a concept called priming. Past psychology studies have shown that exposing people to certain stimuli, such as particular words, images or colors, can subconsciously influence their later behavior. Lin and his Riot colleagues wanted to see if they could use color to influence League of Legends gamers to act more cooperatively within their five-person teams and display less rude or toxic behavior toward other players.
In one study, called the “Optimus Experiment,” they tested five categories of messages displayed to players in red and blue, with white serving as a baseline for comparison. Among Western gamers, they found that a red message warning about the counterproductive results of negative behavior — such as, “Teammates perform worse if you harass them after a mistake” — led to a bigger drop in players having a bad attitude toward their teammates or insulting other players than the same message displayed in white. A blue message highlighting the benefits of positive behavior also helped reduce toxic behavior.
The experiment turned up some surprising results, too. Lin got some laughs from an audience at the 2013 Game Developers Conference when he revealed data showing how a positive message highlighted in red — “Who will be the most sportsmanlike?” — actually led to an increase in negative behavior.

In another set of experiments, Lin and the Riot team wanted to better understand the spread of both good and bad behavior within the League of Legends community. An early investigation turned up surprising results that flew in the face of expectations based on the “negative bias” concept in psychology; the idea that negative stimuli or incidents linger in people’s memories more strongly than positive ones.

“When we investigated the spread of behaviors in online communities, we did notice toxicity spreads and spreads quickly, so it stands out in player memories,” Lin says. “What was surprising to us is we found a little evidence that positivity might spread faster than negativity. We’ll be devoting a few resources to studying that this year.”

Though Riot’s experiments lack the pristine conditions of a traditional academic psychology experiment, the sheer volume of behavioral data channeling through Riot’s game servers every day — chat messages and in-game actions from an estimated 27 million daily players — allows the Riot team to collect vast amounts of data very quickly. “It’s not about precision in any data point; it’s all about quantity,” Lin explains. They can test many different experimental conditions simultaneously. For instance, the Optimus Experiment tested 217 unique conditions across more than 10 million games worth of data, with 10 percent of all games acting as controls.

Riot began as 2 guys that loved Dota back when you had to pay to play WoW to get access to it and within WoW it was still a niche, tiny group into it (DotA 2 is not DotA, it's 2 for a reason).

They were semi-wealthy for college students in debt and began as a tiny indie company with those willing to help them make a 5v5 Moba accessible to the masses. It wasn't predatory and still isn't. If it wasn't for Riot's approach, DotA would still be pay to play which is something many who worship Dota ignore, since it was a minigame realm within WoW universe that WoW requires monthly pay-to-play predatory addiction stuff etc. Riot Games began as the free alternative to it. LoL was its baby project, the first. They put everything into it, really built from the ground up and made it successful.
Round 3
I'm not feeling well so I'll just extend and conclude the debate. 

Con has still failed to uphold why his game is so good. He keeps insisting the deep lore can all be attributed to the game, but is silent about the idea that the gameplay itself must show this deep lore. If I wrote a 10,000 word epic short novel but only included like 500 word paragraph for one of the Playable characters in the actual game, I wouldn't see how the regular players would be able to deduce Arcane's epic backstory just from playing a ton of shooting and killing people. Or even occasionally glancing at the characters' rather short descriptions.

Anyways, I can see LOL is making an effort to try to combat the toxic nature of the game, but since his news mentioned 2013 attempts to improve, we are still not sure if the actual toxicity has been resolved. In 2020 seven years since the psychology lab in the news, they're still studying the toxic behavior in LOL endlessly. And it's vague just how much improvement there is since the top 7 hateful vs friendly still doesn't feel great - they show a quarter of the messages are saying noob and followed by almost 15% saying the F word. Only after six years of study had they concluded that the trying self-moderation can try to reduce the hate speech. I would say this is miserably slow progress and seems terrible, especially in contrast Fallen London's very design makes it difficult to get mad at other players. And they managed to finish all four of their main storylines too! Now that's progress...

Anyways, Fallen London still has the best in-game writing and Con has not shown a single epic paragraph from LOL worth to contest. And also, FL still cares way more about its user since LOL still seems to be immensely struggling to make progress. I'm not even sure all the researchers on the Toxic Behavior are related to the Riot company or hired to help improve the game. Con has not even stated what attempts the game has tried to actually, you know, help moderate, especially with the 2019 study being six years after his Wired article and still coming up with a belated conclusion. 

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