Piracy is bad – Christian and Secular Argument

Originally posted 2013-02-05 01:47:08. Things might have so feel free to tear apart and rebut! 

I first pirated a video game when I was in year 5. It was Age of Empires II. I paid my friend $2 for the cd and trouble to burn the game with his top of the line 16x cd burner. Unfortunately Age of Empires II needs a whooping 32MB of ram and my computer only had 16MB of ram. My $2 wasted.

I continued to pirate games that my parents thought were too expensive for me. I downloaded emulators to play pokemon yellow and gold. I burn things like Deus Ex and Half Life. I hit the jackpot when my grandma brought a bounty of video games including Abe’s Exodus and Red Alert. As a child, I was in heaven. All the games I wanted were in my grasp without having to pay a single thing. This further continued with a mod-chipped PS2 with a whole range of games like Winning 11 and Need For Speed Carbon.

However now that I’m older and wiser, I realise how foolish and sinful it was to support piracy. Yes it is easier for me to say piracy is wrong when I can afford to pay for video games. But it isn’t about be able to pay for it or not. It’s about giving due credit and following God’s commands.

I will use two arguments to condemn piracy. First I will address the issue from a secular point of view. Secondly I will address the issue from a Biblical point of view. While I will believe the issues with piracy apply to movies, music, software etc, I will speak from a video game point of view as it is my passion. I will refer to video games here but it is my intention that the principals apply to all media that is often pirated.

Firstly from a secular point of view, piracy does not make any sense. 2012 and 2011 was an amazing year for videogames. Titles released include Skyrim, Battlefield 3, SSX, Final Fantasy 13-2 and Guild Wars 2. We also saw the release of the Playstation Vita, which I am a huge fan. The quality of video games has always been consistently high. Since Tetris and Pacman, there has rarely been a year where there hasn’t been a collection of fantastic video games.

Considering this, why wouldn’t you pay for video games? Why would you seek to not give due credit to companies who are committed to releasing video games? A good video game is hard to make. I am not sure if you can replicate something like Pokemon ever. The impact of that video game is being felt across generations, though future generations will ever know the joy of 1st Generation pokemon. What about game characters like Mario and Yoshi? The Final Fantasy series? Can you replicate these classics? It’s because people all around the world have worked hard to make the best product for the customer.

Yes, it is all for money. But credit is due when credit is due. We all work hard to get paid. We all pay taxes to ensure our country keeps running. Why wouldn’t you pay for video games to keep the industry making fantastic video games? Some of you may say that video game companies make enough money so we shouldn’t give more money to greedy executives. However if every gamer who has enjoyed the pleasures of something like Starcraft I decided to say “No, Blizzard is getting too much money. I do not want to pay them anymore”, do you think Starcraft II would be released?

Simple as this: if there is no one to pay game developers to make awesome games, who would make games for free? There are a few notable games that are for free (mainly mobile games), but you cannot compare something like Angry Birds or Chasing Yello to Starcraft II, Skyrim or Battlefield 3.

You cannot say “Make something as complex and as huge as Guild Wars 2 for free”. You cannot say “You have to make FIFA14 perfect for free”. You cannot say “Make something as memorable as Pokemon, Super Mario, Counter-Strike, Battlefield 1942, Starcraft, Age of Empires, SimCity while having to feed your family, support your elderly parents, support your pregnant wife, pay for medical treatment for cancer through another job”.

I think it’s so sad to see people rave how great a game is and say things like “I can’t wait for the next Elder Scrolls instalment” and say “Oh I got Morrowind from Pirate Bay”. It doesn’t make sense. It’s hypocritical. It’s ungrateful and it will destroy the video game industry.

I definitely learnt the value of making good video games when I started Software Engineering at ANU. The pains of trying to get something to work is hard enough, let alone having the creativity capacity to invent an entire world based on nothing we have seen in this world. I think it’s amazing to see people recreate football based on formulas and matrices while I struggle to get my phone to send my website data. I think it’s amazing for individuals to create a full sized dragon with detail to the claws while I struggle to draw a stick figure on paint. I think it’s amazing to perfectly balance a video game to a point it has a professional competitive league while I struggle to balance my cake between two friends.

I think we should put aside the whole “social justice” or “sharing the wealth” culture when it comes to deciding whether EA deserves our hard earned money. Believe me. After playing an entire season of FIFA Football on my Vita, I can understand how hard it is to think “You know what, EA deserve my $60”.

However I still believe behind each apparently “greedy” company, there is a team of hard working developers, designers, artists, testers and managers that are committed to producing the best piece of work that their training requires them to. I believe it is our obligation and privilege to give what is due to hard work.

Guild Wars 2 is my current obsession. I am in amazement that this game only cost me three hours of work at Koomarri. I am in amazement that ArenaNet does not have a subscription fee for months of support and reliable gameplay. It is my belief that it was a game well worth my money, thanks, the three million gamers online now and the award on this page . I would hate myself if my continued piracy habits would mean nothing like the sort would ever surface and I would be stuck with something like Train Simulator 2013 or Diablo 3. I think we should look past our reservation on corporate culture and just give credit when it is due. Five star ratings is not enough. We need to be feeding the families of those who commit themselves to producing quality and support those with the resources to encourage infinite creativity.

However if you are convinced that video game executives and companies still do not deserve any sort of credit, there is not much else I can say to sway you. I can only appeal to those who call themselves followers of Jesus. This leads me to addressing the issue from a Biblical point of view.

I could pick a number of verses but I feel it is appropriate to pick a passage that relates to the secular argument against piracy.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48

My argument relies on you reading my secular point of view. This means you have to be appreciative of video games in order to understand my argument. You have to agree with me video games deserve credit and have value in our society. So if you are unappreciative of video games, stop reading now (however I would question why you are pirating things you do not enjoy).

My argument points to the idea of video game companies not deserving money because of their greed and immorality. Well that may be true, however unproven, and it may be the case that the ethics and practices of companies like EA and Activision can be questionable, it does not give us the right to disobey Jesus’ commands to love our enemies and those who seek to do us harm.

It may be the case that we are getting ripped off from all the DLCs and cost for a single game. It may be the case that FIFA12 was full of bugs and Black Ops II was the same thing released four years ago with a different storyline and name. It may be the case that lag while a WvW session is unforgivable. It may be the case that Gabe Newell is a jerk and should release Portal 3. However it does not mean as Christians, as followers of Christ, as redeemed sons and daughters of God, that we do not give credit for hard work and amazing creativity. Jesus did not die for us to be bitter and unappreciative children of God. Jesus did not promise the Holy Spirit to help us steal money from the hard working. Jesus did not die a humiliating death so that we could enjoy Pokemon, Skyrim, CounterStrike, Starcraft while someone struggles to make ends meet.

So this article may be a bit of a cop out for those looking for a in depth Biblical backing against piracy. It’s because I believe it is simple. Jesus commanded us to love everyone. It’s because I think it’s simple. Downloading a game does not show I appreciate someone’s hard work and efforts. It’s because I think it’s simple. Withholding credit, whether financially or through encouragement, due is unloving.

And of course this applies to everything. Music, movies, TV shows, artwork, software and anything else we are tempted to torrent instead of paying for.

If that doesn’t convince you, stop using them.