When people defend the piracy of gaming, I tend to get really frustrated. There’s this culture around piracy that’s one of entitlement and benevolence that I really don’t understand.

People make excuses for piracy. They target the price of games, the cruelty of DRM, the ravings of indie developers and the unavailability of demos for their need to rip, torrent and download games illegally.

Stop lying to yourself, you’re stealing.

I don’t care what label you put on piracy, the simple fact of the matter is that you’re stealing. The act is nearly indefensible.

You claim that you pirate games because they’re so expensive? How is that a legitimate excuse? I don’t download a bootleg copy of a movie because I can’t afford a ticket. I’ve never stolen a candy bar because I didn’t have a spare buck in my wallet. When I can’t afford something, I simply live without it.

You claim that you pirate games because you hate the DRM companies use to enforce security? You want to know the best way to hurt that company with bad DRM policies? Don’t play their games at all. Don’t tell people you liked their software, don’t engage with their multiplayer servers, don’t even go near their merchandise. You want a company’s crappy DRM to go away? Stop supporting them.

You’ve heard indie developers say it’s okay to pirate their games? Maybe in a perfect world where pirates are only temporary thieves. Most people download games illegally without any intention of buying them at all. When an indie dev says they can afford for you to steal a copy of their game, they are speaking to their very specific situation. Not all indie devs have the means to support a massive network of pirate gamers. We’ll get to that bit later.

You pirated a game in order to see how it would run on your machine? In the process of doing so, you’ve shared pieces of the game with other torrent users. If a game doesn’t have a demo, skip it. Tell the publishers you want a demo and won’t be making a purchase until you get one. Again, the best way to speak to them is with your wallet.

I’m convinced that this commercial lead to more piracy than it prevented.

When is it even remotely acceptable?

The only time I’ll ever give a pass to any form of piracy is when companies make games and media unavailable in certain territories. If publishers physically make it impossible for you to legally pay money in order to play their games, piracy makes sense. It’s still stealing, it’s still wrong, but it’s not like you have the opportunity to pay for the games anyways.

If the games ever do reach your region of the world, buy them. Not only is it the right thing to do, but you’re telling the publishers of said games that your region will make them money. That will lead to more releases in your neck of the woods.

Piracy hurts gaming.

Why do you think we even have DRM in the first place, folks? Piracy hurt companies enough for them to implement terrible security systems. Legitimate game purchasers have to deal with always-on connectivity and the ability to only install a game on one system because of piracy.

Remember Error 37? Thanks, piracy.

Maybe you’re not old enough to remember, but gaming used to be easier than it is today. Pop in some floppies or a CD, maybe enter a CD-Key and install your game. That’s it. There was no need to register unique identities on an external site, no need to connect your computer to the internet in order to verify the legitimacy of the game and there was certainly no need to activate multiplayer modes by entering lengthy codes.

Piracy has made gaming today a pain in the butt. That’s probably why Steam is so successful. It’s made DRM easy and relatively painless.

Even more than that, piracy has hurt the nature of games. Whether or not Notch told you that piracy is okay, understand that independent developers are struggling under the weight of game theft. Look to the small iOS game Battle Dungeon for a perfect example. Here, straight from their official site, is the status of the game (the bold emphasis is my own):

Unfortunately we have taken Battle Dungeon down for the forseeable [sic] future. This was due to high levels of server load created by large numbers of pirated copies of the game. The high load revealed technical issues which we don’t feel we can fix to the level that our paying customers deserve.

Here we have a game that literally can’t support itself due to the vast amount of pirated copies in play. Do you really think Hunted Cow, the small studio behind the game, can afford that kind of reception?

By pirating small games that can’t afford to be pirated, companies lose profit. That’s potential money that could keep them in the business of making more unique games. I personally believe that one of the reasons today’s big gaming scene feels like a world of uniformity comes down to indie companies not having the money to exist viably in the big markets. Maybe piracy is part of what’s keeping them down.

Oh, you like video games? Then support them.

Here’s a crazy idea: support the games and developers you love by giving them money. In doing so, you’re keeping them alive and developing. Buying products is the best way to tell their makers that you want more. Piracy might help spread the word of a product, but actually paying for it is what keeps the developers flush enough to make content.

Minecraft Bling

Where would Minecraft be if it was only pirated? Sure, that game’s seen tons of piracy, but the reason it spread to as many platforms as it has is because people actually paid money for it. Not every game is Minecraft, and that kind of success in the face of piracy is the exception, not the rule.

When you don’t pay for games, the makers of said games don’t get any money. How is that such a hard idea to grasp?

Say you’re 12, you don’t have a job and you rely on your parents to buy video games. I’ve got an even crazier idea for you: if you can’t afford games, wait. Growing up, my family could really only afford to buy one or two games a year. Games back then were a lot more expensive. I’m talking $70 for a Super Nintendo title, and that price doesn’t even account for inflation. When I couldn’t afford games, I didn’t don a ski mask and bust down the doors of Toys ‘R Us in order to steal them. I waited. I rented titles from Blockbuster, I made sure the biggest game of the year was on my Christmas list and I waited.

Is that truly a ridiculous concept?