January 20, 2008

Musings on Pirating Games

Filed under:Personal, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 1:48 pm

I pirate games. I’m a bit afraid to openly admit it on the internet because I don’t know if saying so incriminates myself in some way, and I’m not sure if I’ll be reprimanded by my readers. I wanted to open discussion and see how my fellow radical gamers feel about pirating. I don’t want to hurt my friends who work in the game industry, but I’m a cheap-ass, capitalism-loathing student and when I can remove myself from supporting multinational corporations. I’m also privileged and know it’s unlikely I’ll ever be punished for software piracy.

Where are you all at with pirating? What’s an anti-capitalist gamer to do?



  1. My personal rule is to only pirate games if I don’t feel that it hurts the developer.

    For example, I haven’t got major problems ripping off Chrono Trigger, since Square long ago got their investment back for that. I don’t feel bad about dissuading them from trying to foist the same game upon us over and over.

    That argument particularly applies to games like the original Mario Bros. Enough is enough, Nintendo, I’m only interested in buying each of your games twice, 3 times maximum!

    If companies aren’t trying to re-sell old games at ridiculous prices, then they’re just not selling them at all, meaning my only choice is to pay a lot of money to somebody with a physical copy on eBay. Piracy, in this case, doesn’t hurt the developer; nobody pays that much attention to resale value when buying game media, does they?

    On the other hand, I never pirate games that are from smaller developers that are still selling their game, or when the game came out recently (past few years), or when it’s an old game that’s being re-sold but at a reasonably low price.

    Comment by DSimon (11 comments) — January 21, 2008 @ 12:18 am

  2. In college, almost all the games were pirated. But that was twenty years ago and almost no one thought it was a big deal.

    But now? Never pirate games. Or music. I’ll admit to torrenting one HBO series one time, but that’s it for movies. I know too many people in the business (both big and small companies) and I don’t feel right about taking something they worked on for free. It’s easy to rationalize “stealing” from the big companies, but I don’t shoplift at either Macy’s or the local bargain clothing store.

    So-called “abandonware” is in a slightly different category – I was until quite recently very active in that scene – but even there I will usually check ebay, even though there is zero chance of the original maker getting anything from it. That’s more about me wanting a real copy than anything else.

    Comment by Troy Goodfellow (10 comments) — January 21, 2008 @ 11:33 am

  3. Last time I pirated a game was Civ III, a few months before Civ IV came out, but long after I lost my first copy. I couldn’t find a copy in any nearby store, so I pirated it, and my brother and I had much fun. Before CivIV came out, we saw actually Civ III on a shelf and snagged it, just so we’d have another hard copy around in case the mood struck. Before that, well, it’d been years (assuming we’re not counting games from defunct developers and abandonware.)

    But so far as a personal rule, I’ve got nothing against piracy. This would normally stand against my aspirations as a game developer, but I’m currently in the pirate’s position. I understand the unwillingness to pay when there’s a free option. In an ideal world people would gladly give for free that which doesn’t cost anything, which includes digital copies of anything. Of course, it’s not a perfect world, and this would leave the types of games we recognize as “big budget” completely out in the cold.

    I wish I could find some realistic solution to satisfy both the big budgets required of game devs and the shrinking budgets of individuals, but I can’t. I’m honestly of two minds about it. If you ever do come up with something… Be sure to blog about it. You’d be saving me many headaches.

    Comment by Jeffool (8 comments) — January 21, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

  4. I don’t have a strong ethical stance on pirating games. When I can afford them, I buy them; when I can’t, I don’t. Too many games come out for me to be able to pay for them, and I want to stay current on my experiences with them, so I tend to pay accordingly. It’s not ethical, but it’s what I need to do to follow gaming trends as carefully as I want to.

    Comment by Nick (18 comments) — January 21, 2008 @ 11:47 pm

  5. I’ve pirated games, although I am a strong believer in supporting developers.

    Like DSimon, I have no qualms downloading ROMs of games that are no longer being produced by companies or sold in stores. In fact, I think the availability of roms and other “abandonware” is actually a positive thing for gamer culture (it keeps us in touch with our roots) and for companies that are still around (it allows people who weren’t around when those games were released to play and enjoy them, thus helping to ensure the fame of the company and encourage the buying of new products).

    Pirating of new games is a trickier subject. My general opinion is that I don’t think it is financially hurting companies too badly (and might even be helping sales), but then again I don’t know how one would be able to measure that so I freely admit that it’s not a statement of fact but rather how I feel given what I know about things.

    Personally, the times that I played pirated games I did it in the same way that I played rental games: I would try it out and if I found myself liking the game, I’d buy it and finish it. If not, then it wasn’t like I had wasted upwards of 70 bucks figuring that out.

    Although I haven’t pirated a game in several years now (I’ve been surviving on carefully researched products and cheap used games from Book Off) the escalating ridiculousness of anti-piracy software is making me reconsider my decision. I still believe in supporting companies, but I am not happy that I pay money to have them infect my computer with malware that does everything from break my CD drive to restrict which programs I am allowed to have installed. It’s done all in the name of stopping piracy, but yet I can easily find the pirated versions without the malware that comes with the legit copy. I’m resisting it because I know in that case I would stop buying products from offending companies altogether (thus making it feel more like “stealing” than “renting” to me), but I’m feeling less and less that these companies who are happily screwing over their legit user base have the moral high ground in that situation.

    Comment by tekanji (32 comments) — January 23, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  6. I’d like to mull over your idea of an anti-capitalist gamer. I don’t think such a thing is possible in the current gaming environment. “Gamer” is a term loaded with marketing connotations and unless you’re willing to only play free games, abandonware, and other things you can get on the cheap. But keeping up with modern video games takes money and playing along with the system.

    If you’re strongly anti-capitalist, you’ll want to reward the people who are working out of the mainstream with your money. Yes, games are expensive. Yes, that sucks. If you have to pirate, at least vote with your dollars if you enjoy something. And hey, you can always buy games when they get cheaper. My friend just got his first PS2 and was able to get a lot of games at a highly discounted rate: http://tinyurl.com/2clpcb
    Maybe that’s the approach you need to take?

    Comment by Bobby Bokista (4 comments) — January 23, 2008 @ 10:26 pm

  7. I’m an “abandonware” pirate myself, but even then I find highly inhibited to actually do it. I wasn’t before, but since I’ve gotten into the field(Computer Science, IT) I’ve become far more paranoid about…well every aspect of my computing.

    Pirating is also a big enemy of the open source movement, less people try open source when they can get all the proprietary crap they want for free. The Linux community would be way bigger without pirating of Windows, and who knows, maybe we’d actually get some Linux games!(that aren’t from ID Software/Epic)

    The only other reason I’d pirate is because of what tekanji said, MALWARE. Proprietary, paid software with embedded malware is literal heresy to me.

    Comment by SLAM (1) — February 2, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  8. please i have somthing to ask you perhaps it is not related with your post..but i know u can help me

    i am a new linux user..am looking for pirated games in here..like quake4 doom etc..but it seems that there are none on the web..cant i plzy good games on linux without BUYING.. i hate buying games..i prefer pirated ones..please help me

    Comment by inkahmessiah (1) — March 3, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

  9. Pirate games and music without reservations. Games and music that are created out of love will then dominate, and the dull ones that were once commercially viable will fade into obscurity.

    Comment by Matt A (2 comments) — June 12, 2008 @ 10:06 am

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