Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Excuses on the High Seas

Shamus Young | 20 Feb 2009 21:00
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It's easy, it's free, and you don't get caught. The rise in piracy over the last few years has obvious roots in the fact that technology has created a system where the only thing preventing someone from pirating software is his own conscience. Human nature being what it is, there is quite a lot of piracy.

In most cases, the pirate has some kind of awareness that they're doing wrong. There is an inescapable sense that they're playing a game, and that the people who made that game wanted people to pay for it. The conscience is a lot more effective than other forms of DRM, but it's still easily bypassed with the right excuse. Pirates have developed an array of justifications for their behavior, which they employ to fend off the chiding of more honest gamers and their own nagging doubts.

Let us examine some of the classic excuses:

Piracy isn't really stealing.

This is true. If you pirate a game, you haven't taken anything tangible from the publisher. If you download Crysis from the internet, a legal copy of Crysis does not vanish from the shelves somewhere. Piracy is not stealing in the same way that blowing up cars is not murder. The fact that you're not stealing something doesn't change the fact that it's wrong.

You have not stolen a thing, you have gained access to a thing against the wishes of its creator. In the case of a theater, an art gallery, a concert, or a strip club, someone has spent their sweat and treasure to make something that you clearly want to see. They are then attempting to make a living by charging you for access. If you sneak in, you're still ripping them off, and the fact that you didn't steal the painting or kidnap the stripper does not absolve your shenanigans.

I'd like to pay for games, but I can't afford them.

Luckily, you do not need games to survive and you can go without if you're really in dire straits. But you don't need to. If you're strapped for cash, there are a huge number of quality indie titles out there for cheap or free. The world of freeware, abandonware, indie, open source, mods, and retro gaming is large enough to keep you entertained for years. And all of that fun can be had for free or cheap.

But if you're saying you're too poor to buy videogames but insist on playing brand new big-budget AAA titles on your top-of-the-line PC, then may I suggest that your piracy has less to do with lack of money and more to do with a lack of honesty.

I won't pay for games, because, "Information wants to be free!"

There are indeed people who believe that software should always be free, and take a principled stance by not buying proprietary software. Note that these people either stick to open source or go without, because they refuse to use the software of anyone who refuses to share the source code. Often, these types of people will go to all the trouble of writing new software and giving it away if they find they need something that isn't already available as open source.

But claiming to be one of these people and then turning around and running a proprietary videogame on top of a proprietary operating system completely undermines this position, particularly when there are so many free alternatives available.

Publishers are jerks and they don't deserve my money.

I know! Believe me, I know.

But it's not okay to rip someone off, even if they're a jerk. You're not allowed to kill them, either. I'm lobbying to have this changed, but until then you still have to pay for things.

I'm just as disappointed with this as you are.

I just want to try it out, and if I like the game I pay for it.

I can imagine that if people got into the movie theater for free, and were charged on the way out if they liked the film, it would suddenly become very difficult to find anyone who liked any movie, ever. It's pretty easy to sit and play a game for a few days and then make some excuses at the end about how the game had some flaw and isn't worth your money, even though it was worth your time. As someone who nitpicks games for a living, I can tell you that there is no game so great that you couldn't find a reason to not pay $60 for it.

But we're not working on the barter system here, and people pay for terrible movies and books all the time. The publisher is charging you for access, not enjoyment. If they charged you for enjoyment, then Epic would owe me money for playing Unreal Tournament III.

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