The Needles

The Needles: The Gamers' Bill of Nice Ideas

Andy Chalk | 9 Sep 2008 21:00
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And then there's my personal favorite: "Gamers shall have the right not to be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers." I don't even know where to begin with this one. Circuit City treats its customers as potential criminals by installing anti-theft devices in the products on its shelves. Banks treat their customers as potential criminals by demanding collateral for loans. Home owners treat the entire world as potential criminals by installing alarm systems. Any business or individual that takes steps to protect its products or property is treating someone like a potential criminal. Suggesting that the industry is somehow making gamers wear a scarlet "WAREZ" on their chests is nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric that serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

Many of the remaining demands in the "Gamers' Bill of Rights" are just refinements of that basic point. The right to re-download the latest version of owned games at any time, for instance, or the right to not be forced to connect to the internet to play a single-player game are variations on a theme: Demands that the industry bring an end to draconian DRM schemes. I completely sympathize with this sentiment; most of the latest and greatest methods of copy protection are unnecessarily intrusive, do nothing to prevent serious piracy, and sometimes penalize gamers who have legitimately purchased a company's product. It's not just a futile effort, it's actually damaging to the industry.

Which is an interesting little twist, because that's the one and only real right that gamers have, and also the only one they really need: The right to not buy this stuff. The right to say, this is bullshit and I'm not going for it. We have a right to exercise our freedom as consumers to punish companies whose excesses we can no longer tolerate by refusing to give them our money. It's a very simply principle, and it's also the only one by which we can reliably force change: By depriving publishers of the one thing that really matters to them.

The "Gamers' Bill of Rights" is obviously far more a populist rally cry than a serious political statement, and has to be taken as such. It's not something to get too wound up about. The proposal may have some merit as a jumping-off point for discussions about the videogame industry and maybe the development of serious ideas for the future; there's no doubt that things could be better than they are, and I'd be thrilled to see game publishers lining up behind some of the more salient points made by Stardock and GPG. But implying that gamers somehow have a right to expect these behaviors, particularly when they're so ill-defined, is misleading and unfair. Nice ideas? Step in the right direction? Helpful suggestions to keep the industry from shooting itself in the foot? Absolutely. But let's not kid ourselves that there's anything more to it than that.

As a Canadian citizen, Andy Chalk is well-versed in the concept of universal human rights, and he doesn't think this shit's gonna hold water.

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