Why Can’t I Just Buy Feelings Directly?

A study on iOS In-App Purchase behavior shows that most money spent on IAP is for things of fleeting value, like the eagle that skips you over a level in Angry Birds:

While the consumer is indeed purchasing virtual items that are most often consumable, what’s most important to understand is the psychology behind these games. In freemium games, consumers are experiencing compelling, immersive entertainment. They feel gratified when they progress, accomplish goals, create a unique world, and in some cases, show off to their friends. In exchange for this gratification, they are willing to spend real money, and lots of it.
And in the blue corner, we have Tarn Adams from Dwarf Fortress:
Tarn sees his work in stridently ethical terms. He calls games like Angry Birds or Bejeweled, which ensnare players in addictive loops of frustration and gratification under the pretense that skill is required to win, “abusive” — a common diagnosis among those who get hooked on the games, but a surprising one from a game designer, ostensibly charged with doing the hooking. “Many popular games tap into something in a person that is compulsive, like hoarding,” he said, “the need to make progress with points or collect things. You sit there saying yeah-yeah-yeah and then you wake up and say, What the hell was I doing? You can call that kind of game fun, but only if you call compulsive gambling fun.” He added: “I used to value the ability to turn the user into your slave. I don’t anymore.”

What I want to know is, when game designers get good enough that they are really playing chords on the same neurochemical brainstrings as drugs and gambling are, well, what happens next? I don’t understand why people are so hung up on the violent content of games, which seems totally and utterly harmless to me, and why the moral panic brigade seems to ignore the increasingly skillful way in which game designers manipulate the risk/anticipation/reward loop in people’s brains.

Jody examined the deer hide. It was large and handsome, red with spring. The game seemed to him to be two different animals. On the chase, it was the quarry. He wanted only to see it fall. When it lay dead and bleeding, he was sickened and sorry. His heart ached over the mangled death. Then when it was cut into portions, and dried and salted and smoked; or boiled or baked or fried in the savory kitchen or roasted over the camp-fire, it was only meat, like bacon, and his mouth watered at its goodness. He wondered by what alchemy it was changed, so that what sickened him one hour, maddened him with hunger, the next. It seemed as though there were either two different animals or two different boys.

The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings