01 Apr 2015
Confessions of a Pirate: Tall Tales from the Seven Seas
I’ve pirated a lot of games.
I live in a country in which piracy is so engrained in the national consciousness, it’s taken for granted. You assume that when buying almost anything that there’s a fair chance it might be fake. This extends from alcoholic drinks at bars and various items of clothing to even foodstuffs such as baby formula, lamb and eggs. It also extends to video games.
With console games having been banned here for most of their existence, there exists a thriving grey market for such things, filled with imported machines from other more gamer-friendly places nearby. Six years ago, I naively wandered into a Best Buy in search of an Xbox 360. A week-long holiday was approaching, and being single then, I knew the best way to spend all that free time. The employee in the Best Buy told me that consoles were not sold there, and I’d need to walk down the street to a local video game store. Odd, but okay, sure.
Just to make sure everything is clear: this is one of many stores which sells imported consoles and pirated games. They also have real games if you choose to go that route. Once there, I bought a machine, which was then chipped to allow me to play all the pirated games in the store. These machines can’t go online, which for many people is a big turn-off. But it was a no-brainer at the time, with regard to the decision of whether or not to pirate. I’ll take the cheap games, please. Numerous rationalizations exist, all of which can be applied to other forms of media such as music and movies.
• Games are expensive, and I can’t afford the cost!
• Big publishers are evil, and they deserve to be stolen from!
• I wouldn’t buy this game at full price anyways, so I’m not hurting anyone by pirating it!
• Plenty of other people buy games, so it’s not a big deal if I don’t!
I can easily find more than a shred of validity in all of these, and I’ve subscribed to each one at various points in my pirating career. And for the most part, it was a good move. I saved a ton of money and got to play all the games I wanted. I was able to buy new games for less than a dollar, five to ten games at a time. If you’re like me and couldn’t care less about playing online, piracy just got even better.
But there was one consequence I didn’t foresee. I’d find myself wondering from time to time why, when I was younger, I’d devote myself to a single game at a time, never quitting because it was too hard, never moving on until I’d found every secret and every pickup in the area or level. Each game I played received my full, undivided attention until there was nothing more to glean from it – and I’d keep on playing still.
Compared to those halcyon days, my current experience felt hollow. I didn’t feel the same connection to my games as before. I played most of my games with an absentminded detachment, only completing the rare gem which truly captivated me. I attributed this at the time to a consequence of getting older, of having more on my mind than back when I was happily breeding chocobos on my PlayStation. It just wasn’t in me anymore to become so mentally invested in these rich worlds and the stories held within.
It wasn’t until last week, when I finally retired the ol’ 360 in favor of a shiny white PS4, that I realized my mistake. I bought my PS4 unmodded, meaning I’m now paying full price for games, and bought just one game to start with. And boy, have I been playing the crap out of it. It’s one of those games with morality choices, where you can choose to be a hero or a selfish prick, and the choices you make ideally will affect the storyline as well as give you different options in your character’s skill trees. I’ve already beaten the game as a hero, and I dove right back in to try it out with the evil choices.
It wasn’t getting older that ruined gaming for me. It was the fact that, due to my piracy, games ceased to be an investment and had transformed into cheap entertainment I was buying in bulk. Paying full price again forced me to commit fully to this game, and I’m glad I did, because it’s really, really good. I’m not sure if I’d have been so motivated to beat it and explore it fully if I’d paid $0.80 for it instead.
The same holds true for music. Back when I was younger and buying CDs in music stores, I’d buy one, maybe two at a time, and I’d spend countless hours dissecting and internalizing that music. Now that I’m able to download a discography in minutes, I rarely form such a bond with a record anymore. Will that prevent me from pirating in the future? We’ll see. Piracy software exists for the PS4, but I haven’t decided whether or not to install it.
But either way, my advice is this: don’t refrain from pirating because it’s “the right thing to do,” or whatever. If you feel that way, that’s great, and media creators the world over will love you for it. But don’t let yourself be guilted into something. Instead, buy a game because it’ll force you to bond with your media the way you did when you were a kid and you had to save for weeks or months to afford the one game or album you really wanted. It really does make a difference.