94: Playground Piracy

"One person I talked to only passed his GCSE French because of a pirated game. Because he couldn't stand the rote memorization required to learn a language, he was trailing in the subject, before acquiring a copy of the legendary action-game Flashback. He was obsessed with its rotoscoped glory, but there was one, small problem: It was only in French. He played through the entire game with a French-to-English dictionary beside him and somehow ended up with a functional enough vocabulary to scrape through. Saving the world and his education. That's some doing."

Playground Piracy

I have to admit, this article brought up some nice memories; writing this from Croatia, where (sixteen years ago) you couldn't buy an original copy of a game even if you had the money. Back then I thought Razor 1911 was a game developer LOL
And, yeah, I owe my good (in Croatian terms) knowledge of the English language to computer games, especially Lucas Arts and their fabulous adventures. I made some very good friends (up to this day) back then; we played all games together... We even played platform games like Commander Keen or adventure platforms Another World in turns.
I remember my best friend calling me in about 23:00h just to suggest a new possible solution to a puzzle in The Dig.
But originals were nowhere to find, and to my surprise - it was the publishers who refused to go to our market. They feared piracy :-)
And now me and the likes of me are credited as terrorists by a person who's company's game was several times the main theme of my dreams (Doom)...

What a fantastic article!

In the Netherlands there's an organisation called BIG (Ban Illegal Games & software) that aired a commercial with a high tech FBI-like team that searched out illegal gamers! With sirens and in black suits with black sunglasses and high tech red lasers (why?) they would find all illegal gamers.

They resorted to scare tactics, spewing various lies (they don't search out illegal gamers, they just try to prevent it with... well there's no better word for it than propaganda). It is very much aimed at this 'playground piracy', as can be seen from their various posters in schools.

And as helpless as developers are as each of their copy protection mechanisms get swatted away like flies, I can understand the desperation of their side. I can understand the reaction to resort to fear tactics, but I don't think it's an effective solution.

As Kieron Gillen said, essentially playground piracy is an act of love, while lying to get people to pay for games is an act of fear (which is an interesting duality as the one is a crime, while the second is born of a sense of justice).

The solution for developers, is to accept reality as it is and either produce games for free with a paypal link or bank account to allow contributions or go the other way and make sure your game can't be played without being connected to your server (with unique key of course).

Capo Taco:
The solution for developers, is to accept reality as it is and either produce games for free with a paypal link or bank account to allow contributions or go the other way and make sure your game can't be played without being connected to your server (with unique key of course).

The other solution is to forget about copy protection, servers, keys and all the related admin and just get on with making and selling games. Whilst this viewpoint does not prevent piracy, this doesn't necessarily matter.

That article really made me remember how much we were trading floppies back in my childhood...

And that today's games are better played hacked than legit...
It's much more easier to mount an ISO file than finding those CDs that are scattered on the desk... otherwise you'll need 4 CD readers so that you can keep 3 of them for the games you play every day then one for the casual games you play once in a while...

Those copy-protections that installs itself without your consentment isn't something that you really want... Hacked games removed those, they are fairly easy to find for a computer-literate gamer, and they usually have a help file to take you by the hand to install the game itself...

I used to get pirated copies of games i wanted to try out... Now i get pirated copies for games that i want to buy, then buy the game but keep in still in the wrapping because i know it's much more of a hassle to install and play the legit version than keep the Hacked version... Downloading games is now something that i do because it's better for the health of my computer system and it's a lot less stressful for me as i don't have much to worry after installing it...

You know DRM is bad when people are more concerned about the damage from DRM than the viruses they might get while searching for pirated content.

This brought back memories for me, also.
All those games I played on a monochrome PC (a lot of which, I learned later, were Amiga ports)... when I was in second grade, I didn't even know you COULD buy games.
In Israel games were very rare (not to mention expensive) in those days, and sitting with friends in front of a computer, playing together, or telling the tales of yesterdays sessions are some of the best times I had.

These days I have the money (but not necessarily the time) to play original games, but I still see a lot of piracy around me, sadly, even among grown-ups. However, I still think that's the main way for kids to get access to lots of games (with all the benefits such exposure brings).

Kieron, you must be a long lost brother of mine, because that article could just as well been written about me. The memories it brought back. I'm still smiling after finishing reading it.

I remember the arms race between copy protection schemes and the copy software on the C64. The copy software was actually more difficult to get ahold of than the games. I used to have an arsenal of different copy software, because there was always that one game you couldn't copy but with one particular version of a particular copy software.

The friends of friends of friends who always used to get the latest games faster than anyone else were admired and almost feared, because if you offended them, the trickle of new games to you would suddenly come to a halt. The whole scene at the "amateur" pirate level was most certainly social to the core. It was all about who knew whom and how well. The social network of computer game pirates would extend into the entire city, loosely aligned within school districts. The kids who knew other kids from other schools were very valuable indeed to the "network". Not that we saw it that way back then. The whole social networking phenomenom was still more than a decade away.

I had a friend (kind of) who was a writer with the biggest computer games magazine in my home country. We used to do anything to get into his good graces. He was much older than any of us, of course, and I can't imagine how annoyed he must have been about all of us runts hanging into him and the games he would occassionally drop our way.

Almost all of my friends who blatantly copied anything they could get their hands on now work with computers, just like me. If we hadn't had access to all these pirated games in our youth, I strongly believe far fewer us would now be involved with computer related work.

Good times...

Pretty interesting article. I find myself on the piracy side of the spectrum a lot with PC, though not necessarily out of lack of money, but rather because of several other factors.

1. I want to know if a game will work correctly on my computer. Demos don't help, since the full games can be much larger. If a demo works for me, empirically, the full game might not. This helps me weed out games that don't work.

2. Demos are always insufficient of the experience. A demo will give you one level most of the time, cut out all sorts of features and try to give you the 'basic experience'. A lot of the time, I find that a game might shift focus, or become more complex later on from the full games and whether this sinks or swims for me determines how much I enjoy the game.

3. I don't feel like leaving the house, or I don't have time to go buy the game, so I download the game to give it a spin. This is a pretty flimsy argument, but still, it also coincides with the above two points.

As an example, a friend of mine who is an incorrigible pirate downloads almost every game he plays and doesn't think twice about it. Lately, he's told me about the original Condemned, prior to last weeks Zero Punctuation review. I actually downloaded the game as well and played it through in one sitting from Tuesday-Wednesday the morning of the Condemned 2 review. I loved it, and even though I had some problems with it running, these problems are actually something common that's developed recently. It works fine, it's a great game and even though I beat it and have no real desire to play through it (though I might load it up to bludgeon people silly), I am going to find someplace I can pick up a copy of the game anyway solely to show my appreciation for the entertainment.

Almost every PC game I own, about 60 of them, I pirated before I bought them. The only two exceptions are Hitman: Blood Money and Oblivion, because I know the series' by both experience and reputation to be worth it. It also helps my current computer was built specifically to play Oblivion on the best settings.

 

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