I love arguing, it’s probably the one thing I do better than anyone else; particularly because I’m not opposed to completely changing my opinion, at a moment’s notice, to start arguing from a different perspective, as and when it suits me.
Recently, I’ve been arguing with a lot of people about video game piracy. If you own a computer then you know what piracy is and, let’s not beat about the bush, you’ve almost certainly done it. That’s cool, I mean, it’s not legal, but I’m not here to judge you. That’s what actual judges are for.
Truth be told, I don’t really care what other people choose to do, so long as it doesn’t affect me, personally, but what I do take issue with is people attempting to justify actions that aren’t actually justifiable; the same way an alcoholic will convince you it’s absolutely alright to be drinking at 8am because some arbitrary pre-requisites have been met, such as ‘it’s Tuesday’ or, ‘I’m wearing a hat’.
In the on-going war against piracy, which is going about as well as the war on drugs for anyone keeping score, these are the arguments I see trotted out most often by those who believe it is absolutely acceptable to take stuff without paying for it, because reasons.
(Note: For most of this article, I’ll be sampling quotes from my favourite internet warzone, The Escapist forums, and my replies to said quotes.)
5. I wasn’t going to buy it anyway!
And all the pirates say:
“Many people pirate things they have no intention of paying money for in any case, so it hardly seems like the term “lost sale” is applicable to such instances.”
This was in response to what I thought was a reasonable stance on the issue of internet piracy: that millions of people pirating video games probably resulted in more lost sales than if nobody pirated video games. I know what you’re thinking: I’d have to be pretty bold to make a claim like that, I better have the minerals to back it up.
Anyway, this is the go-to defence for absolutely anyone trying to rationalise why it’s acceptable for them to download a game for free instead of paying for it, as they’re expected to. The basic reasoning is that if you were never going to pay money for a product, anyway, then what difference does it make if you have it or not?
In case you’re still on the fence over that question, let me explain to you why it’s not okay:
Playing a game without paying the developer money has a direct effect on them because they are not receiving payment for the product that often costs large sums of time and money to create. If this wasn’t the system that most developers expected people to go through, then all games would be free to play.
There are so many easy, legal ways to try before you buy these days –download a demo, rent, borrow from a friend, watch Let’s Plays– that the ‘I wasn’t going to buy it anyway’ argument holds less water than ever; it is now purely a false justification to take something without paying for it.
But even if you disagree with all that, it’s not your choice to make: the content creator is the one who should decide how people access their content; otherwise I’d be well within my rights to walk into the Louvre tomorrow with a Stanley knife and cut the Mona Lisa out her frame, because, ‘this’ll look much better in my front room.’
Still not compelled by my argument? Maybe that’s because…
4. It’s not stealing if it’s digital!
And all the pirates say:
“Your mistake is that you keep using the word “take” while it is not at all applicable to the digital world. Digital products are not material objects, they are, essentially, just bunches of information for you to process. When you copy data, you don’t physically TAKE anything, you LEARN something. So what you’re saying is, it’s immoral to get access to new information unless you pay someone, and I call bullshit on that one, bro.”
Ah, here we go with the semantics again. Honest to God, what is it with piracy advocates and trying to use wordplay to create logical loopholes that will justify their bullshit?
Digital products are still goods and services that cost money to create and make available, their physicality is not an issue. Furthermore, you don’t learn a god damn thing playing games, you experience them.
Operating under this moon logic, I can walk into a cinema and watch a movie without paying. I’m not physically taking the film reel home with me, I’m just sitting in the cinema experiencing the film that everyone else there has paid good money to see.
Basically, broheim, what I’m saying is it’s immoral to access content for free when everyone else is pretty much agreed we should be paying for it; even if we can’t all agree on the amount (more on that later). I really don’t get why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.
(Note: this dipshit actually came back with a reply somewhere along the lines of it’s absolutely okay for me to walk into a cinema without paying, so long as I’m not too tall for people to see past me in my seat.)
So, now that we’ve established that piracy is, in fact, the theft of intellectual property, perhaps you’re wondering if there actually are situations where such theft is acceptable? I mean, what if…
3. I can’t get the game any other way!
And the pirates say:
“What if you are NOT able to legally purchase the product you want? Let’s say that for whatever reason it’s not available in your country or not being sold anymore… stuff like that.”
This one is tricky for me.
If there is absolutely no other way to obtain a product, then I would say it is justified, but with gaming in particular that is almost never the case, anymore, what with virtual stores constantly updating their catalogue of retro titles, (I never thought I’d get the chance to play Klonoa or Tombi before the PSN was a thing.)
This argument, like so many others, has no place in 2013: now that modern technology has completely moved the goalposts, almost every pro-piracy argument that used to stand up is little more than a hollow platitude to help the dishonest sleep better at night.
Ten years ago, the only way to play Secret of Mana was to either already own a copy, –as well as a working SNES– buy one for obscene amounts of money off of eBay, or download the ROM and emulate it. Assuming the first option is a bust, the latter obviously seems far more appealing than paying some dickhead ninety bangers for a copy that isn’t even in good condition.
Today, however, you can play Secret of Mana on your iPhone, for £6. Put that together with the ever-increasing list of remasters on websites like Good Old Games and the staggering number of hidden gems available through the aforementioned Playstation Store, there is really no weight behind the ‘I can’t get it anywhere else’ argument, anymore. What you’re really saying is, ‘I can’t be bothered waiting/paying for a port.’
In conclusion: It’s one thing to pirate something you literally cannot access in any other way, but an entirely different kettle of fish if you choose to pirate something just because you don’t believe you should have to pay for it.
Speaking of which…
2. Nothing Should Cost Money!
Okay, I just included this one so I could use this quote, because I think it’s fucking hilarious.
And the pirates say…
“I look forward to a day when all information is free and people create products for the joy of creating and distributing them, and not because it’s a way to generate wealth.”
Uh huh, that’s a nice idea, in theory, unfortunately we are living in the real world, not some hippy commune, and therefore we have to consider this thing called the economy. People need money to survive –that is the world we live in– and by pirating, whether you would have bought it or not, you are contributing to the problem of these people not getting paid much more than you are if you actually paid for the damn things you want to use.
So now that we’ve established that paying for things shouldn’t be a problem, what is the problem? Well, you see…
1. Games Are Just Too Expensive!
Another quality you will often come across amongst pirates is this Robin Hood mentality that, by not paying for a game, they are somehow sticking it to the man; or in this case the several hundred men and women who ultimately have their studio shut down and lose their jobs after game sales don’t meet expectations.
There is no two ways about it: Games are pretty fucking expensive to buy. That’s why it’s a good thing they aren’t food, accommodation, or anything else you need to actually stay alive. The crux of this argument falls apart at the realisation that, holy shit, you don’t actually need video games…some would even go so far as to call them a luxury. But balls to that, we’re in the pirate mindset here, so let’s do this: Games are far too expensive; the only logical course of action is to pirate them.
…Or you could always exercise a bit of patience and wait for them to go on sale. I probably buy about one game a year at full RRP, when I’m absolutely certain it will be worth it, but other than that I have no issue with waiting five or six months for the games to drop down to fifteen or twenty quid; hell, I still feel guilty for getting Deus Ex: Human Revolution for a tenner when it was worth so much more.
Someone on the Escapist who was also fighting my corner put this much better than I ever could:
“Why are we entitled to play games beyond our means? If we can’t afford more than the games we have, why is it suddenly okay for us to pirate the ones we don’t? What is to stop us from “responsibly limiting” our disposable income to the point where we can no longer buy any games at all… and then gaining guilt-free access to all games through suddenly legitimate piracy? If I’m the creator in this situation, I know what I’m thinking: if you want my game but you can’t afford it, makes changes in your own life to enable you to properly purchase my product/service. Get a better job or divert those funds from other interests.”
This again stems from the, ‘I think I should get whatever I want when and how I want it,’ mentality that fuels most of the modern pirate philosophy. While the rest of us move forward and embrace new, legal technologies and use them to our advantage, the pirates are stuck in limbo; beating the same old drums with skins weathered to breaking point, parroting maxims that ceased to have meaning years ago.
Or, to put it another way: In an age where Steam Sales can see amazing games like Saints Row The Third retail for five dollars, you are full of shit if you still say games are too expensive.
Right, that’ll do, I’d just like to close by saying I’m not, personally, saying people shouldn’t pirate stuff. I’m not a policeman, or any authority figure for that matter: it’s not my place to tell you how you live your life.
All I’m saying is if you’re going to do it, at least have the common fucking decency to be honest about why you’re doing it: because it’s easy and free. I’ll respect you much more for that admission than for all the pseudo-philosophical ‘free exchange of ideas’ horseshit.
And at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that my respect is one commodity you absolutely cannot put a price on.