If you’re old enough to remember the N64 and PS1, you’ll also be old enough to remember that Nintendo opted for cartridges for its third generation system. Despite technology pointing strongly toward disc-based media, Nintendo stubbornly stuck with the cartridge in the mid 90s for one principle reason: piracy.
Naturally if youre of the aforementioned age you’ll recall Napster, Limewire and Kazaa as well. These were music downloading platforms that basically allowed users to steal music for free rather than buying albums. The blank CDs that pirates used for this purpose could also be co-opted, however, to play software instead of music.
This is the time when game piracy was perhaps at its most prevalent. While Nintendo rightfully got its chops knocked a few times for its decision to stick with cartridges, they weren’t wrong. Everyone I knew with a PlayStation at the time had at least a few “burned games” as we called them. Hell, some guys had an entire library of them.
Of course, like many teenagers before us and since, we had no idea what we were doing or how serious it was. We sluffed off the crimes we were committing with a collective shrug, paying little heed to the software licensing laws we were breaking. The massive fines we might have earned for our parents were the furthest things from our minds. I mean to say, we were young, entitled, stupid and poor, again like many teenagers before us.
However, I do remember the day I grew a conscience about this practice. I was at a Zellers (a now defunct Canadian department store) and saw a copy of Chrono Cross in the display case. I had played through my burned copy several times at this point and thought to myself that I’d like to own the real thing, I remember my friends scoffing, asking why I paid $30 to own a copy of a game I already had. The answer was then as it was now: if something is worth owning, it ought to be paid for.
This isn’t some sycophantic capitalist treatise either, it’s just basic economics. If you like something, you pay for it, thus hopefully ensuring that it will continue to be made. Today with the prevalence of Raspberry Pis, emulators, torrents and android boxes, people are stealing media at a higher rate than was even possible when I was a teenager. Regardless of whether some of these products were originally designed with other uses in mind, there’s little doubt that software piracy and streaming has become their most prolific purpose.
It’s overwhelmingly strange to me how little users of these products and programs seem to care, though. I’ve personally spoken with two different people recently about this, one who uses an Android Box and one who uses a Raspberry Pi with emulators. Both are completely ambivalent to the fact that they are not supporting the things they are so passionate about, citing how much money it saves them, despite netting much higher salaries than I do.
I find the whole thing utterly baffling. I mean one supposes that the whole concept of corruption is that you turn a blind eye to something once it begins to benefit you. Still, its disconcerting to see people you know and respect become corrupted by something so inherently wrong and insidious, while showing so little compunction over the fact.
While many would argue that moral failings like these are a sign of economic necessity rather than a failing of character, I would again have to disagree. By far the majority of people I know who utilize these services and products are doing just fine financially, even during this particular time of economic duress. We just seem to have descended into an era of apathy where literally millions of people can’t be bothered to pay for the products and services that better their lives.
If this all seems a bit preachy, just know it’s topic that I’ve had roiling around in my gut for a lot of years now. As someone who loves movies, TV, video games and music to the point that I’ve written hundreds of articles on them, it just kills me to see so many people stealing these great works of art that have enriched my life and, at some particularly heavy times, made it worth living. It’s never been harder to make a living as an artist, and here millions of people are stealing the food out of their mouths.
It’s disturbing to say the least. So let me close by asking you to consider all the cancelled shows you’ve loved, all the movie and video game sequels that never were, and all the bands and artists who are unable to tour at this time. Though things may be tight for a lot of folks financially at the moment, we have to support the things we love. Like with voting, piracy may seem like just a drop in the bucket when it comes to this sort of thing but, when you add it all up, it’s more like a flood.