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BioShock: Copy Protection Tipping Point?

Posted by MrTact on Sep 4, 2007 in Uncategorized

I finished BioShock, and have been meaning to do a post comparing it with F.E.A.R. However, the whole copy protectionrootkitsaga has me so captivated, I feel compelled to talk about that first.

Note: I generally like to keep it family-friendly hereabouts (why? I don’t know. Perhaps out of fear that my kids will one day come across this and have to make a radical reassessment of their mental picture of their Parental Unit). However, there’s a little NSFW language in here, because I just can’t get around it. Proceed at your own peril.

I once read a book called Racehoss by a guy named Albert Race Sample, who gave me the book when I was briefly his neighbor over off Metric Boulevard. The man went on to become a celebrated City of Austin civil servant, but the book details his life as a young man, including the time he spent in prison. One of the scenes that has stayed with me from that story was his description of the prison mule, which had been fucked so regularly by the prisoners that she simply raised her tail anytime anyone got near her hindquarters.

I bought BioShock the day it got released, and I played the crap out of it. Pretty much every nonworking nonfamily noneating nonsleeping etc. etc. moment for four days was devoted to completing it. It’s a great game, one of the few I’ve ever bought where my expectations were high and were still met. And the copy protection issue didn’t really register for me. So I saw all the furor about it, and I wondered: why hadn’t it bothered me?

Ah, but as I pondered this question, I realized: it had. In retrospect, as I was installing it, it had bugged me. But this was a game I had been planning to buy for a year. I was really jonesing to play it. Yes, the copy protection was obnoxious, but I wanted to play that game.

And that’s when I realized: I had just raised my tail. Sure, I’ll keep the DVD in the drive, in spite of the 4GB of hard drive space I just donated to your opus. Sure, you can install a permanent windows service and some undeletable registry keys. Sure, I’ll connect to your authorization service and accept my first activation (of a paltry two).

And now that I’ve seen the forest for the trees, I’m hopping mad. Because inch by inch they are making me not want to play games on my PC ever again. “It’s only a small requirement,” they say, and “we have to protect our investment.” Like they are doing us a favor by releasing the game on the PC in the first place.

Why am I even thinking about this, instead of just enjoying what a great game BioShock was? I am starting to understand why Richard Stallman is such a zealot. Seriously, if I went to the store and bought a hammer, then brought it home, started pounding away, and then got a security alert stating that I had driven in too many nails, that hammer would get planted right up someone’s ass. So why is this acceptable behavior for software in general and games specifically?

Look, I’m no bleeding heart. I kinda sorta work in the industry, and I’m an aspiring fiction writer, so I’m very much in favor of people profiting from their intellectual property. I’m not saying “software wants to be free,” I’m saying, “look, retards, your inability to see what’s directly in front of your face is resulting in no harm to the pirates you’re targeting, and lots of harm to the people that want to give you their money.” I’m saying “there’s a better way — and more enlightened souls have known it for years.”

I’m hoping this incident is a wake-up call to the industry. After all, no one ever said, “Here’s some money — please inconvenience me.” Surely, hundreds of pages of outraged posts in the 2KGames forums will get noticed, right? With luck, the situation will inspire someone to pick up the ball and run with it, to the ultimate betterment of the situation for all parties. Maybe even me.

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