Dear friend of mine,
Twenty years ago when you and I lived in Russia as children, what few games we saw were always pirated. There was simply no store that could sell us a game. The vast majority of people had never even seen a computer, and those who had, mostly did so at work. I remember going to my father’s office to play Leisure Suit Larry, Digger and Prince of Persia. It was even better when he brought a computer home to work on some project. Back then it didn’t occur to me that the people who made these games possible were expecting to get paid for their efforts. I thought that games just naturally shipped with computers.
We didn’t know each other back then, but my first week in America, I walked into CompUSA and was blown away. There were shelves full of games. It was amazing! I also was unpleasantly surprised by the prices. It turned out I couldn’t afford a single one. So I continued playing pirated games, but for the first time it dawned on me that I was doing something wrong. It was 1995 and I was 13 at the time. Later, as I got more and more into gaming, it began to bother me that I was stealing from the very people who were doing so much for me.
The very first game I ever bought was Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega Genesis. You roll your eyes every time I tell you that I actually own all my copies of Windows since Windows 98, and also my Adobe Creative Suite, my Visual Studio, and all my movies and MP3s, not to mention games. You tell me that the prices are too high, that you like to try before you buy, and that what you do is not stealing because you don’t actually take anything from the developers, since they are still left with their copies of whatever it is you now have. You complain about DRM schemes that treat you like a criminal, and you insist you’ve pirated certain games as a political statement against the evils of some particularly nasty DRM system.
While all those excuses are technically true, they are just that – excuses. The prices are in fact too high, but games and music are not a necessity, and neither is Photoshop. While you don’t actually steal a physical object, you do deny the developers the money they are owed for your use of their creations. As far as DRM schemes go, I agree they are a crime in and of themselves, but if people like you didn’t pirate, they wouldn’t exist. Trying before you buy is great, and all games should have demos, but not offering one doesn’t give you a license to steal them. Plus, how often have you really gone to a store and paid for a game after you’ve already finished a pirated copy of it?
I know that your ideas are still overwhelmingly prevalent in Russia and many other parts of the world. But didn’t our parents bring us here so that we could leave all of that behind us? The culture of thievery could be explained by how destitute those people’s lives are, although I am reluctant to use the word “destitute” to describe someone who owns a gaming system. Either way, neither of us has that excuse. We both make a decent living and can afford to buy a game every so often. You play much less than me, so the amount you are saving is negligible. Legitimate ownership feels good; you should really try it sometime.
In all seriousness, I don’t expect you to come around. We’ve talked about this before, and I know you believe that paying for something is silly when you can get it for free. There isn’t much I can do about that. Turning you in is out of the question; you are my friend after all. Sadly, I simply don’t hold enough sway with you to convince you of the error of your ways. I guess the only thing I can do is refuse to take any part in this. You’ll pirate anyway, but it won’t be though me. For example, even though I’m glad you decided to go with my recommendation and play World of Goo, I will not email you the installer. It’s a great game and I’m sure you will enjoy it. Just go to the website, spend $20 and buy it. It’s not that much money, and although I fully understand your desire to save, I don’t think that stealing this game is the best way of doing so. Wait for a sale if you must, or come over and play it on my computer; you know you are always welcome in my house.