What are some ways that the gaming community might make game piracy seem uncool? As you've often said, Shamus, it's a social problem more than a technological one (or at least, all attempts at technological *solutions* are worse than useless). […]
I'm inclined to think that things like Tycho's off-hand dismissal of pirates' self-justifications here are potentially quite powerful:
“For my part, I'm aware that people copy games â€" I was twelve once, after all â€" but the extent to which piracy is accepted as a valid ethos is absurd. It's considered the appropriate response to so many scenarios that the notion of it as an outgrowth of any coherent ethical framework is hilarious. It's so, so rad when people tart up their nihilism.”
That seems like a shot in a culture war where one side asserts that there's something uncool about pretending to be not paying for games out of some sort of principled stand. But what else can be done? […]
The short version, this:
That’s the end credits to System Shock 2, showing the team as a series of corpses. (Which is an ongoing theme in the game. By the end, the game mechanics will have cultivated an irresistible compulsion to investigate the bodies you encounter.) I watch this and walk away with the impression that these people busted their butts to bring me this game, and that they took great pride in their work.
This sort of thing used to be pretty common. Games would have credits or hidden screens that would show us the game designers. It reminds us that the game is the product of hardworking human beings with lives of their own. In the 90’s there was a certain intimacy that developers had with their fanbase. Yes, some of that was due to the smaller audience. But some of it was simply because they could. If you stole the game (or pirated, what whatever nomenclature works for you) then there was a decent chance you’d end up seeing the face of someone who worked very hard to create the game you didn’t pay for.
Now games are known primarily by publisher. (A few studios are exceptions to this. Bethesda. BioWare. Blizzard. Possibly even other studios that don’t start with B.) If you listen to pirate rhetoric you’ll hear a common theme of plucky users trying to outmaneuver the huge evil faceless corporate juggernaut. I’ve never heard a pirate brag about stealing from Ken Levine, Sid Meier, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, American McGee, John Carmack, or Tim Cain. They brag about taking on Activision, 2kGames, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. Those names are a negative currency, particularly among those of us who pay for games. The enemy of my enemy stole from my enemy? This is not a crime which engenders outrage. There’s no stigma, because it’s viewed as a crime against a villain.
The relationship that enriches the hobby is the one between gamers who buy games and the developers who make them. This is a conduit of love, or at least of mutual appreciation. But the entire conflict is framed as a battle between pirates and the publishers. And nobody likes either of those guys.
I’m not suggesting that putting the pictures of the game designers in the end credits will be this panacea. I’m saying the thinking and attitude that prevents those pictures from showing up is the antithesis of the sort of environment that publishers should be cultivating. Just like beer companies want to pretend that their product is make by wise old blue-collar men on a small scale, in an environment that contains a lot of wood and warm lighting, possibly near a field of hops. They certainly don’t want you thinking about how the stuff is pumped out of a rumbling industrial plant that looks like a Quake 2 level. Publishers should be hiding behind the developers, not the other way around.
You will never stop piracy, but it is possible to stigmatize it to some degree. I can’t prove that this would reduce piracy, but I’d at least give this idea a try before I licensed another version of SecuROM. Even if it didn’t impact piracy, I think it would be a healthy move for the industry in general.
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