Everyone's talking about video game piracy.
Everyone either has reasons why piracy shouldn't be allowed to happen (because it's bad, right?).
Or they have reasons why it can't help but continue (because restrictive publishers/developers are practically compelling would-be consumers to be pirates, right?).
And almost every single person who enters this debate -- from EA CEO John Riccitiello to people posting on message boards justifying why they've ripped a copy of a game they didn't pay for -- is willing to offer their ideas about how to make a world that has less pirating of video games.
But what ever happened to pride, shame and peer pressure? Why don't the anti-piracy people borrow a page from the pro-environment green movement?
After we published Patrick Klepek's excellent interview with Bethesda's Pete Hines earlier this week -- in which Hines said that his peers claim that up to half of customer service calls to game companies come from pirates -- I had an idea about this seemingly intractable issue:
The anti-gaming-piracy movement needs to find a way to make people feel about pirating games the way more and more of us feel about not separating our garbage from our recycling.
What's keeping all those gamers out there who don't pirate their games from standing up and saying they pay for what they they play?
It's embarrassing to do things that may be harmful to the environment. The day after we published the Hines interview, I wrote an entry in my Gaming Diary in which I mentioned the dead batteries in my TV remote control. A reader wrote a comment, pushing me to replace them with rechargeable batteries. There's no law that says I have to. And I bet five years ago I could have ignored that comment and not felt guilty about it. But these days, it's such a point of pride among people to do less harm to the environment that I felt I couldn't blow off the suggestion. When I went to the store near my apartment that night and saw they only had regular non-rechargeables -- and I bought them -- I felt I'd need to come clean at some point. Plus, next time I'm at the right store, I'm buying rechargeable batteries. I know it would be awkward to be caught doing anything else.
Say what you will of the movement for being environmentally conscious and the extent to which it helps the planet, but living in a green manner has become a pervasive motivation in the public's collective psyche. We waste less and do more for the planet out of a sense that it is the right thing to do. And we know that's what many of the people around us think is normal. When did so many of us start thinking this way? I don't know, but it seems this became the standard viewpoint within the last few years.
So why is there no equivalent to eco-consciousness in the arguments about pirating games?
Some people complained about the "Spore" DRM, saying that it made them feel like they were being treated like criminals. Pete Hines told Patrick that Bethesda's customer service reps don't want to ask questions of the people who call them that make those people feel like they are guilty until proven innocent.
But what's keeping all those gamers out there who don't pirate their games from standing up and saying they pay for what they play? From making not being a pirate a point of pride?
Where are the gamers calling out their peers if they sense those peers are going to pirate games -- the way that reader of this site called me out when he thought I might buy the wrong batteries?
When will pride, shame and peer pressure become major factors in the debate about game piracy? And, if they ever do, what affect will that have?