One Cliff Harris recently wrote a post about piracy. I know, I know there are about a zillion articles on the world wide web about piracy. Loud bombastic ones promoting it, loud angry voices defending/promoting it, and timid little voices saying "can't we all just be know, get around a campfire and sing kumbaya?" Cliff Harris, apparently (I had never heard of him until running into this on reddit), runs a small indie-style game studio and posted a call for emails from pirates. The article above is his report on his findings. The real question he asked was why do pirates pirate? On the face, the question sounds like asking why a bird is a bird. On the other hand, even questions rooted in pedantry can be of interest. :) The list in the article itself is nothing that you probably haven't heard before if you have been following the issue even vaguely. I don't follow it much anymore; I haven't heard anything new in quite some time and it gets rather old reading the exact same flamewar again and again. If I want to read a good flamewar, I go back and read some archives of the Torvalds vs. Tannenbaum flamewar of the century. Despite being an old list, a few things stood out to me on a reread:

  • No DRM. Of all the reasons presented, this is the one that I sympathize with the most. It is absolutely not a good reason to take something without paying the creator, but I could understand buying a copy then pirating it. That way, the creator gets paid and you get a DRM free game. In my experience, it is not the hardcore pirates that get hurt the most out of DRM. It is the honest, I bougth this and I want to use it type that gets burnt. I have written before about the effort it took to get around a bit of DRM for use with a legitmate copy of the game. In that example, I had a legal copy of Windows running legally in a VM on which I was trying to run a game that I bought in a store. Nothing shady about it. But it was a major pain.
  • Demos are too short. This one is absurd. Someone may prefer a longer demo, but really: you need to pirate a game to try it out? My gaming budget is pretty small. I have been buying games once ever few months, I'd estimate. I could buy more, but I'd rather have a new book on my nightstand than another game for my PC or the Xbox. I seldom load demos of any kind. I usually look for a specific kind of game (action or strategy), then read the reviews on the latest and greatest. If something sounds good, I buy it. Otherwise, I don't. Somtimes I load a demo, but it has been a while. Usually, other people's impressions mean a lot more.
  • Price. Irrelevant. I think gas costs too much. Does that give me the right to fill up my car and drive off without paying? Of course not. Why should games be any different? Many games are overpriced when they come out (the article quotes people complaining about "$60 games"). However, if you wait a few months something amazing happens: the prices drop. Far and fast. It isn't long until they run at $20. A little longer and they are at $10.
  • Quality. I agree with the criticisms of the state of modern game development. Most games do lack originality, most are poor knockoffs of other games, and so on. But if the game's quality is too low to be worth paying for, then why play the stinking game at all? I have seen a lot of rotten games that I wouldn't buy--but then again, I wouldn't play them, either.

Really, I think the sticking point is #3: price. DRM is a hassle that afflicts the innocent, but I think for the most part, the people who claim this as a reason (that is, if they even know what the heck DRM is) probably are not those most affected by it. Even in my example above, I was able to work around the issues I had. Whether people simply don't think the quality is worth it (the paradox of which I have already pointed out; if the quality isn't worth it, why use it?) and others unabashedly don't want to pay for it. All in all, it seems rather indicative of our society. Attitudes of entitlement, if you can get away with it, it's fine, and so on.