Digital Rights Malarkey

I have this really bad habit of letting issues that bug me fester until I can't take it any more. Regular listeners of the C&G podcast will know how I feel about the issue I’m going to bring up in this week's column.

This week I’m going to be airing my grievances with Digital Rights Management more commonly referred to as DRM.

We stand on the cusp of a brand new generation of consoles. While this past generation featured some of my favorite innovations, it’s also allowed one of the most annoying, unfair, and troublesome features to run rampant. DRM is a pox on gamers. In an industry that is taking billions of dollars off  its willing consumers I can't believe that most games now feature more copy protection than ever before. Haven't the massive amounts of money spent on games over the past five or six years earned us some trust? Why is 100% of the market being punished for the actions of a few jerks who think that it's okay to steal games? I have never pirated a game in my life. As a matter of fact, if someone took me hostage, put a gun to my head, and said “Pirate a game or I pull the trigger!” I would be helpless to prevent my own demise. You see, not only am I not a pirate, I’m essentially a “landlubber”. I wouldn't know the bow of ship from the stern and I wouldn't know a Bit.torrent file from an FTP site. Just to show you how little I know about this stuff, I can't even tell if that last joke made sense. I'm a landlubber so why do I feel that every time my ship comes into port I must submit to rigorous, searches, have my customs documents scrutinized and be delayed from using my own goods?

uplay_logo.jpgAlright, I'm done with the nautical metaphors but I'm still outraged. Just this week while trying to play some Just Dance 4 on my Xbox 360, I had to sign into Xbox Live and select a valid profile from my Xbox hard drive which didn't bother me.  What did bother me is that I had I had to sign into Ubisoft's Uplay service. I just wanted to dance, damn it. The first thing that bugs me about these extra proprietary services like Uplay is that it's an extra hoop I need to jump through just to play a game. Remember the good ol’ days when you slid the power button up on your SNES, the Nintendo logo appeared, and all you had to do was press the Start button? I understand that with connectivity comes patches, so I've gotten used to the fact that sometimes a game needs to be updated. Because of this, these days I normally start up my game, see that a patch needs to install, and I go and make a sandwich. I already prep my consoles before I'm ready to play just so that when I do find the time to sit down and enjoy a game I'm not waiting a half an hour. I've adjusted to that, I'm not happy about but I’ve adjusted. Now after all that I still need to either create an account for whatever service is required by the jerk of a publisher or remember my password from the last time I jumped through this silly hoop. Enough is enough, just let me play my damn game.

No customers = no money.The other thing that really drives me nuts about these silly online activations is the codes. I am sick of entering codes. I get a new game, open it up, and low and behold there are two or three inserts with codes on them that need to be entered before I can “unlock” all the features of the game. Why am I being punished? Sometimes game publishers make me feel like Job. Why? I ask. Why do this to your customers? If I buy a car, do I have to sign up for a Ford account and then log into the on-board computer with my special car driving activation code? Hell no! I sign the lease get the keys and drive away. I can't understand why game publishers do this to their customers and it's getting worse. I get it, if people pirate your games you make less money. Actually, scratch that, I don't get it. If you force people to hop on one leg and touch their nose before they follow a guy with a mustache around after invading Russians for the fourth time do you really think you're going to have any customers at all? No customers = no money.

I guess what's really bothering me is that I'm used to being rewarded for good behavior. I understand how much time and effort goes into creating the games that I love and I would never dream of screwing over those who make my job worth doing. So if I don't cheat or steal why do I still feel like I'm being followed around by security at the mall? Is it the way I dress? Is it my attitude? No, it's simply because I happen to be in love with an industry full of publishers who think it's right to punish everyone for the acts of a few. There's one last thing I’d like to say to the game publishers out there. Give gamers some damn credit. You can call your fancy online service whatever you want; Uplay, Origin, Games for Windows Live. You can even offer us points to buy useless in-game stuff we'll unlock anyway. You can even present it as some digital distribution platform but we're not stupid, it's DRM plain and simple. Your patronization and lack of trust makes me sad, and I don't think it's going to go away. Because I know that without DRM you'll make up some ridiculously high piracy figure and your stock will dip a quarter of a point.