I've been doing a lot of thinking recently. I know it's rather dangerous but I’m at the stage where I’m starting to firm up some thoughts, figure out plans of attack etc. One of the issues is piracy and how to combat it's effects / is it worthwhile spending that time. You all have heard the arguments for and against so that isn't the point of this column. I'm looking at another impact of piracy currently unseen. So to begin let me tell you what I overheard yesterday.
I was in a major chain store, one of those ones with the incredible discounts and with a toy sale on the games were even cheaper than usual. In fact here in Australia you can grab Rhythm Heaven for $30! That's $40 off retail! A wide majority of the titles are priced between $20 to $40 with the shovelware for kids being at the lower end and Pokémon being the higher, but that's still at least a $20 discount for platinum. So right now is the best time to purchase those DS games you have been putting off, right?
Well what horrified me was a mother with her four young girls looking at the DS games, all of the girls looked between six and fourteen. Now a couple of the girls were running up to their mother going "I want this one", nothing unusual there. However what horrified me was the line that came next, the very next words out of the mother's mouth in response to purchasing some damn cheap games was
"No, I won't buy the Nintendo games, Daddy will download what you want when we get home"
I was dumbfounded, shocked and it took every bone in my body to resist walking over to the lady and giving her a piece of my mind. More violent thoughts also raged through my mind, but I just kept to myself and continued to walk, ashamed to be anywhere near the lady with the bad ideas. Piracy is not a victimless crime, it's just that when you do it all you see is a line on a screen and an option to download. But that isn't the issue here, the issue is "what does that teach the children?"
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have done piracy in the past, when my family got our first PC (a 386dx, we quickly upgraded to 486 with math co-processor!) my father "borrowed" software from friends at work on 3 1/4" floppies. Jill of the Jungle, Worms, Duke Nukem, Commander Keen 4/5/6 etc etc. Hell when Pokémon came out I didn't have a Game Boy so I grabbed a emulator and played on that, not quite the same but it was still fun. But when I did that I made those decisions myself and when I got my Game Boy and later my N64 I was constantly saving and hunting down gaming bargains to play on my system.
But in terms of those four girls, what message does it send that they can goto daddy and he'll download the game onto a piracy cart so they can play what they want on their DS without putting out cash? Isn't saving and purchasing one of the earliest and easiest lessons for parents to teach their children? Isn't stealing wrong?
I don't know about you but I'm feeling that this is disappointing, if parents will not encourage their children to save their money and purchase even the cheapest of games aimed at them, what hope do we have for the future. Do we need to start educating people that there is real people they are harming with the blasé attitude towards piracy?
I have always been of the opinion that you should only make the actions that you are prepared to accept the consequences for. If the kids can figure out how to get a R4 to work, where to download the ROMs from and can explain to me what they're doing? I'll give them that. But there is a better solution for raising gamers with a cheap wallet.
And that solution is my uncle. He has brought up his kids rather awesome, he's taught them about ratings, went with a N64 rather than a current gen console and been cheap ass gamer the entire time. The kids still enjoy the games and can play to their hearts content. Hell he bet his son on swimming lessons that if he completed to a certain level he would purchase a Xbox 360 (and is now eating his words after his son completed two courses in three weeks) but the major difference is there. His kids save and scrimp to buy the games they want, they recognize things beyond them and hell, they are excellent gamers.
The morale of all this? Piracy is robbing more than the developers, it's also hurting your kids too. Can you really afford it?