I had hoped to spend today talking about the recent releases of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II for the iPhone, but alas, events in the Gamingverse have dictated that once again I take up my cape and scepter and descend my onyx throne to do battle with evil denizens of the depths.
It may be that, at the late hour in which this column graces the cheeto-dust encrusted screens of my readers, that the problem has been resolved, that computers sit forlorn and abandoned as the sweet, digital, pixellated lifeblood seeps back into our veins through the severed artery that is/was the Great PS3 Outage of 2010.
More cynical parts of my nature wonder that, given that the disease seems to infect only the older PS3 models, this is not Sony’s nefarious way of prodding us to CONSUME ever more of their streamlined goods. Another part wonders with incredulity at a gaffe of this magnitude with no apparent explanation of just how we were caught unawares by this insectoid invader.
What are the facts? First, the outage is global. Second, it is merciless, and all new games that require the “trophy” system or some sort of call-home style DRM are affected. A proper analogy might be that our automatic keyless entry to our cars, now smart enough to recognize when thieves are attempting to pull a Vice City on our pimpmobiles, has gone into full lockdown mode. That is, security has turned against the secured.
Piracy is a problem that needs to be addressed within the gaming community: veneers of “information wants to be free!” and “freeeeedom!” (say in a Braveheart voice) only gloss over the very real fact that, as in the Sixteenth Century, piracy is a form of crime we are wont to romanticize but never really own up to.
Speaking now as one who works in law enforcement, I understand the desire to prevent malfeasance before it occurs, as if by doing so we become the moral guardians of the public. There is a point, however, where law enforcement must simply become reactive. This seems counterintuitive: after all, it is more efficient and efficacious to stop crime from happening than it is to clean up afterward. However, the cost of such directness is often collateral, and otherwise law-abiding people (such as this author, who wishes only to virtually kill the Templar scum of Renaissance Italy) are forbidden from engaging in otherwise lawful activity not by the misdeeds of the miscreants, but through the too-heavy hand of proactive enforcement.
The answer, to both crime and piracy, is that in most cases, we cannot hold ourselves responsible for the moral failings of others. Sony, while cognizant of their duty to protect publishers and developers from lost revenue, is neither responsible for the actions of pirates nor responsible (primarily) for the enforcement of otherís property rights. Sony is, however, responsible for the experience of consumers that buy and use their consoles, and as such, the balance of loyalties ought to have favored the consumer here.
Piracy will exist as long as there are people that see breaking the law as an acceptable and cheaper alternative to paying for content. Remember, ye pirates, that the workers that made that code spent long hours in doing so to provide for themselves and their families. While some nascent populist romanticism might lead us to believe that by pirating a work we are thumbing our nose at a profit-driven establishment that cares only for profits, and not for workers and consumers, ultimately piracyís costs are borne by the workers and not by those who should feel the pinch. At some point, the never-ending escalation of draconian DRM versus self-destructing pirate must end; and as long as money is there to be made, I despair of publishers ever abandoning ever more complicated and hassling DRM schema. In a show of solidarity, let us then decide that we will not pay or utilize content that comes burdened with DRM that leads to upsetting consequences like the PS3 outage. But we gain nothing by feeding in to the system by pirating content that we would pay for but-for the existence of the DRM. At some point, we must decide that the sacrifice of playing a game we want is worth it to send a message to the companies that, financially, DRM is not a smart investment.
In other news of actual tragedies, please donate whatever you can to helping those people whose lives were devastated in the Chilean earthquake. Better our dollars spent there than on another DRM-ridden game system that breaks with the slightest provocation.