On Buying Videogames
Hey Miya, what do you think about buying videogames? Is it wrong to pirate?
If you think you’ve ever “purchased” any software, game, anime ost, anything, you’ve been lied to. If you ever asked someone to “buy” your shitty unity game or chiptunes album, you’re complicit in extortion.
You have never purchased a product, you have only paid for a service. Purchasing a game, for example, is (indefinite) rent for a license that gives you the legal right to access the software under the threat of being sued with the state’s enforcement. This is software released to the public such that you already have free and available access to. The only thing you’re paying for is the right to not get sued, not a product, not access to the software. This is extortion.
They have invented a service - not get sued - and forced you to pay for it under threat. This is no different than mafia forcing businesses to pay protection money from themselves. It’s extortion.
That the extortionists might or might not be the originators of the now freely available content is irrelevant. If they need financial motivation to build a valueless product, they operate on a donation scheme, incorporate ad revenue, or find some other ethical model. Extortion is never justified.
But Miya, what about releasing your games as Pay what you want?
"Pay what you want" is complicit in harmful language too. It’s donate what you want. You’re not paying for anything.
The ethical model is “Donate what you want,” not pay what you want. The only reason you would need to pay for anything is if they’re trying to extort you.
Miya, are you saying it's not wrong to pirate?
The opposite. It is a moral duty to pirate software. To share it, crack it and “steal” it. It is unethical to pay for any software, to buy your shitty games on Steam, because it funds and encourages their extortion industry, allowing it to continue and justifying the practice. It needs to be collapsed.
If you buy games, you’re a tool. If you expect people to buy your games, you’re an extortionist. This is unethical for two reasons. Obviously, extortion is a wrongful generation of income, using a threat of violence (by proxy via the state) to rob people of their money, a negative value rather a positive value; but it’s also holding information hostage. Information doesn’t just want to be free, it should be free. The widespread and highly accessible access to the world’s library of knowledge is the greatest good man has ever made for himself. It is an extreme crime to do anything to impede that good.
Okay, Miya, so Steam is bad. What about something like Good Old Games?
GOG is better by virtue of being DRM-free, and not doing all the other harmful things steam does but it’s fully part of the extortion industry, by selling games. They do make it easy to share them though. Inversely, some of GOG’s releases have been found to actually just be wrappers put around community cracked games, so go figure.
Selling software is just monetizing piracy with illusion, dishonest marketing and the weight of state backed threat to scare ppl into it. Even though many know a lawsuit is unlikely, it works, because it's not worth the risk. It's extortion.
But geez Miya, isn't extortion kind of exaggerating it?
Not at all, dear reader. In fact, a strong case can be made that that entitled indiebro expecting people should buy his shitty unity game - and even that they’re wrong not to - is one of the most unethical things an individual can do, much worse than most industry practices described as "unethical", for it is not only an act of extortion, but by working to strangle the free flow of information they violate TWO different universal human rights:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
- Article 19: “Everyone has the right to... seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.“
- Article 26: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”
Okay Miya, but what ethical alternative is there? Why would anyone make games if they can't make money?
There’s a lot of monetization models that could work, but the extortion model as it stands is too profitable to consider them except as an ethical alternative, and it always will be until it’s collapsed.
When you tell gamers games should be free they usually accuse you of communism. What they don’t understand is the entire industry exists only through government intervention. It is the most unfree market possible - their entire service relies on the weight of a government-backed threat to be valuable.
In a free market, they would have nothing to stand on and piracy would reign 100%. And just like any free market, if there is a demand for a good, the market will find a way to supply it. Whether this is through working out of goodwill, working for donations, monetization through ads, collector products, etc. doesn’t matter, but the demand will always be met, even for producing AAA CoD titles and such.
It’s also worth pointing out the effectiveness of open source culture at lowering barriers of entry and reducing cost of production by virtue of resources sharing. What this means is that if all the entitled indie devs shared their assets and code freely, people wouldn’t be forced to independently render the same chair 1000 times, code the same FPS engine, etc allowing indie production to proceed more rapidly at lower cost. That this principle escapes them when their entire ability to enter the industry across 99% of the indie field relies almost entirely on freely provided engines and their connected frameworks, tool sets, templates (how many devs do you know built their own engine?) is just their greed blinding them, so they’ll still go ahead and sell their shitty chairs on the Unity Store.
Games are used as an example because the industry’s consumers have learned a unique taste for being exploited. No one hesitates to pirate other cultural media, music movies books etc but epic gamers were somehow tricked into thinking being extorted is the moral thing to do.