Reviewing free-to-play games is turning me into a nervous wreck

The Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera on free-to-play games:

The economy of free-to-play games are always designed to be unsatisfying in some way, that’s how the business works. For-pay games feature a kind of brute honesty: If you don’t pay the asking price, you don’t get to play. Free-to-play games hide their hooks in the game play itself, like sharp bones inside a nice piece of meat. It’s hard to feel like you can dig in when you know any bite may bring pain, so we’re stuck ripping the meal apart with our knife and fork to try to figure out where the bones may be hiding.

This is pretty much exactly the problem I’ve had with the popular mobile free-to-play game Real Racing 3. To get to more advanced races I felt the need to grind races over and over for more coins to buy. Was the game putting up a wall and telling me to fork up a few bucks? How much would I feel obliged to spend to get some of the later stage, more powerful cars? I’ve decreased my play time significantly since I had to start asking these questions.