Capitalism is exploitative by nature, but I have long thought there was a particularly sinister undercurrent in those manifestations that seek to make money on hobbies.
When I was growing up, a lot of tech-savvy nerds dreamed of making video games. “How cool would it be to make and play video games for a living,” thought many a naïve adolescent. The reality is far less glamorous, of course, but I remember towards the end of my tenure at RIT that there was a growing push for a “Game Design” major - which is ludicrous because “Game Designer” isn’t really a single role, but passionate nerds wanted it so the college was happy to throw together a curriculum to take their money.
You can get away with a lot if you dangle someone’s passion in front of them. You can hold their dream hostage and dole it out little by little, promising that if they just keep pushing through the suck, they will be rewarded. It’s an entire industry that takes goodwill and inspiration and throws it into a furnace because it can. And since people will endlessly chase the carrot, they’ll overlook all the potholes in the road along the way.
Creative fields everywhere suffer from “hustle” culture - crunch time and working for “exposure” and getting away with bullshit because people love what they do. And then some soulless business owner sees that passion and thinks “I can exploit this to make a buck.”
That’s the root I see. It’s a common problem, certainly, but I think the video game industry in particular has developed an entire culture devoted to exploiting its own fanbase with dreams and opportunities.