To pirate or not to pirate

I’m a member of the PCG chat, and a topic of discussion which gets talked about more often than a flying dog is piracy. It’s been a while since it was brought up, but it suddenly started again today (Blame was apportioned to whoever mentioned Ubisoft and how they couldn’t play their game). An interesting quote I’ll bring in is from someone who said this: ‘To pirate, or to support evil DRM?’. That’s a good question. Which should we choose?

It seems a no brainer right? The pirating option is obviously the more attractive one, because you get an awesome game plus no DRM. Why the hell would you buy that game with extra crapware* attached? Surely we buy a game for the experience of the game, not for the experience of this or similar:

Now, I’m not altogether sure that a crudely drawn image in paint (Full marks to Tom Francis. I think full marks anyway…) shows what I mean, but the experience of seeing a message telling you that you can’t play your game is one that I know I wouldn’t pay for. I could go on and on about DRM and it’s horrible manifestations, but that’s not the point of this.

The point is that I was wondering how best to respond to that question: ‘To pirate, or to support evil DRM?’ (Of course, because the chat moves pretty quickly I didn’t get a chance to respond, but that’s by the by). What’s interesting is that it’s similar to the current political idea that I notice, where people think that not ever voting Labour means you must vote Conservative**.

Here’s the cruncher. Either of those choices won’t actually solve the DRM problem, so you shouldn’t do either. If you plan on pirating, the DRM people will look at the trackers and say “Look! We were right to put DRM in, but it hasn’t worked so we should make it harder to crack!”. The other end of the spectrum is them saying “Oh, all that backlash didn’t really mean anything. It’s just gamers being gamers, so you know they don’t actually mind this DRM, so let’s keep it in”.

Neither of those situations appeal to me. I don’t like DRM as much as the next man, but it’s taken some time for me to realise what the solution here is. Boycotting a game is a brilliant idea, but not many people realise how much of a pain it actually is. So they change the meaning of boycotting to “Not buying” from “Not getting hold of at all”. That’s a big change. As I just stated above, pirating the game will cause more problems than you think.

So how can we solve this? I think it is a case of understanding that not buying a game actually means not getting hold of the game at all. But that isn’t just it. They can still pull the piracy excuse on you (Oh they will. They always do), so you need to tell them that you won’t play their game because you refuse to touch something with such horrific DRM.

Piracy isn’t a solution to the DRM problem: It is a cause. It’s been overplayed, sure, but I think they have called it with good reasons. I won’t ever say that piracy is killing the industry, or even harming it fatally. I will say it’s not on my list of brilliant things. Using evil DRM as an excuse for piracy is like using cigarettes to clear your lungs of tar: You won’t make the problem go away, but will make it worse. Follow my solution: Actually don’t buy the game, encourage friends not to and tell the developers what you’re doing and why. Maybe then developers will understand what our issues are.

*Its a technical term. That’s in wide usage. And I definitely didn’t just make it up. On the subject of crapware, I should briefly mention something about DRM occasionally breaking people’s machines. I believe Starforce was the main problem, but I’ve never had that happen to me so I can’t comment fully except to check what the internet says. Which is almost always a bad idea. Return to reading.

**I’ll try to keep this mini-rant brief: If you don’t think that Labour are going to do a good job, but you think that the Conservatives will do a slightly less worse job, you still don’t have to vote either. You do have other choices even if they are less likely to get in (Liberal Democrats and such). Rant over. Return to reading.

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