I was very bad at the video game Curse of the Dead Gods at first because "curses" were, in my mind, something to be avoided at all costs. I thought of them as punishments for doing poorly, and I didn't want to be punished.
You can't avoid them, though, and once you've played a few times, you realize curses aren't all that bad. In fact, the rewards you get by making blood offerings generally outweigh the problems the curses introduce. The curses usually even have a tiny upside.
Corruption (or lack of corruption really), a meter that grows as you play and ultimately leads to being cursed, is just another currency, not that much different from the game's money. When you spend the money, the downside is just an opportunity cost: you can no longer spend the money you just spent on anything else you might want to spend it on. When you make a blood offering, increasing your corruption and inching closer to a curse in exchange for some reward, it's a little bit different. Yes, there's an opportunity cost – the corruption you're incurring now can only be incurred once – but the real cost is that you're creeping toward obtaining a curse, which will have some adverse affect on your character, making the game more difficult. So, four aspects of "spending" corruption that make it different from the game's money:
- The consequences are usually delayed
- They entail more than just an opportunity cost
- They are unclear until you are already suffering them
- The name of the consequences – "curses" – is stigmatized
For me, this had the effect of discouraging me from using this valuable resource for a while.
Real life has stigmatized currencies too. Some of them are stigmatized for good reason, like your health so that you can live a long happy life. We could all be drugging ourselves 24/7 in exchange for feeling euphoric all the time, but it would decrease the overall satisfaction of our lives by shortening them and eroding our relationships. Others are stigmatized for reasons that may or may not be justified.
- comfort- We can give away our comfort for all sorts of benefits. Johnny Knoxville built a career trading his comfort (and his well-being) for money. You can spend my comfort to have an experience I've never had before, like trying a new food or traveling somewhere I've never been. You can trade some comfort to learn a new skill or work out instead of watching Netflix every night.
- credit- We're told to get out of debt and stay out of it when it's actually extremely valuable if used responsibly. If you can borrow money at an interest rate less than what you can earn by borrowing it, that might be a good idea.
- social capital- We spend time and effort building relationships, and sometimes it can be useful to "cash in" some of that trust we've built to tell a close friend they're wrong about something, to try to convince them to stop behaving in a certain way, or maybe to ask for their help.
- sex- I'm not equipped to make a judgment on whether or not this is a good or bad stigma. I think it can probably be either depending on the context. I generally think that, if you keep yourself safe and go into it with eyes wide open and without any coercion, it probably doesn't deserve the stigma it gets. It can be a way for people to get what they want and need when they don't have many other levers to pull on.
Back in the game world, once I embraced curses and started making blood offerings, I was able to build my character's strength much more effectively. I went from dying early and often to clearing tombs and reaping those sweet digital rewards.
There's a lesson for life in there too: don't be afraid to use the resources you have, in some cases, even if using them is stigmatized. Look at those stigmas through a critical lens and try to figure out if that stigma is making it harder for you to fail or harder for you to succeed.