No, it’s not OK to steal

Remember A? Yes, we ended up having a heated disagreement on MSN about…game piracy. We both have strong views on many subjects, often on the extreme opposite views. Let’s not go into the verbal fisticuffs we had when debating war and pacifism. He’s all “Bush was right to send his soldiers to pre-empt terrorist threats”. I said, “Like hell he is!” You get the point. Fortunately we always end up just agreeing not to talk anymore about a subject when it gets too heated.

My stance is simple. Piracy is stealing.

But A’s stance is that he “has a right” to buy games for cheap and that pirated copies are just “liberated” for the use of all rights-loving people everywhere.

And when I told him that some game studios close shop because more people pirate games than buy them, or that huge teams of designers, programmers and their like work hard to create software, his answer:

”Well, that won’t matter to the man on the street.”

When I point out that games are pretty much non-essentials or luxuries even, he says that no one should stand between his ‘right’ to play games for an affordable price.

That’s like saying because I can’t afford eggs, it’s fine to steal them from my neighbour. Or buy them cheap from another neighbour who stole those eggs.

That’s one reason innovation fails to thrive in Malaysia – we want everything good and cheap. But people won’t bother giving good service if they know they won’t be fairly compensated.

What disappoints me most is that A is a writer. If someone plagiarised his work or paid him less than his going rate for mercenary work, he’d likely never shut up about it. Then, why shouldn’t gaming companies ensure their rice bowls are taken care off.

I can pay a plumber RM35 to fix my leaky toilet. A plumber in the UK would charge me twice that, in pounds.

To get my wisdom tooth extracted with some minor surgery involved, I pay less than RM200 at the nearby dentist.

In the U.S,, I’d be lucky if I don’t have to pay more than a grand in a private clinic.

I am a PC gamer; have been since I was seven. Kingdom’s Quest on an old IBM – ah, those were the days of simple pixilated graphics.

Now, I get full 3D experiences, realistic sound, online collaboration or whole worlds where I can interact with players from continents far removed.

And all that costs money. I don’t mind paying for it. If by chance, I buy a dud game then it’s my loss. I take it and remember the damn studio who came up with the piece of crap. At least, unlike gambling, the risks involved don’t mean I risk bankruptcy, my spouse leaving me or loan sharks trailing in my wake.

So if you love gaming, then love the ones who sweat and toil to bring them to you. Game programmers aren’t rich people by any means, neither are game designers. And game music composers? There’s a special spot in heaven reserved for their martyrdom.

Unsure whether to get a title? Wait for the reviews. Try the demos. Then if it’s worth it, save a little dosh and play it. If the game looks anywhere near dodgy, give it a miss until the full consensus comes out.

If you buy pirated games, then that’s your choice. Just don’t make it out like you’re entitled to cheapening others’ hard labour. Piracy is stealing – at least respect the game companies enough not to pretend it isn’t.

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