Thursday, December 04, 2008

Can we all shut up about DRM already?

Digital rights management has become an increasingly hot topic for PC gamers in recent times. Certain forms of DRM, most notably SecuRom, are universally agreed upon by the gaming community to be a bad thing. Forms of DRM can range from a short disc check to an invisible limit on the number of times a game can be installed (this is tracked online), and often involve some tiny piece of software being installed on a user’s machine, unbeknownst to them. The primary argument against DRM is that it treats paying customers like common criminals, while completely failing to prevent piracy. In addition, it’s been known to conflict with software on people’s machines, resulting in them not being able to play the game they just bought. I agree that DRM is generally not a good thing, when I buy a piece of software, I don’t appreciate companies installing crap on my computer to protect themselves from something that I could potentially do, but most likely won’t.

However, the single most annoying effect of DRM is that PC gamers CANNOT STOP BITCHING ABOUT IT. Seriously, it's an epidemic, probably the most consistently discussed single topic I've ever seen on gaming message boards. A lot of major titles have been released recently that include DRM, I know this because it seems that every single message board thread about these games will devolve into a discussion about DRM. I’m not sure why people feel that this chatter is necessary. I just summed up everything you really need to know about DRM in the opening paragraph. 90% of posts regarding DRM will either rattle off this same information with different wording, or proudly proclaim “I’m not going to buy this game because it has DRM. Suck on that, evil publisher corporation!” A post like this will typically be followed by a bunch of responses amounting to “I’m with you on that, bro. Keep fighting the good fight. Now I’ll tell you why I stay away from DRM, which will be essentially what you just said but worded differently.”

Now like I mentioned, DRM sucks on general principle. But the reality of the matter is, it’s really unlikely to affect most people in any tangible way. Unless you plan on installing your game in 5 computers or installing it in 15 years when the server-side SecuRom components are long gone, you shouldn’t have a problem. Forum-goers are usually pretty resourceful people. If DRM is really giving them that much trouble, I doubt they’d have much trouble getting ahold of the crack. As for the software installed, it’s probably a lot less harmful than the crap you’re likely to pick up just browsing the internet. Yet, gamers continue to harp on DRM as if it’s set their mother’s hair on fire and eaten their dog. Most of the bigger whiners have not and will not be affected by DRM in any way in the near future of PC gaming. I am convinced at this point that it’s mostly herd mentality at work here. Plus, people love to feel that they’re taking a stand, making a difference in the world… Ok, whatever, but we’re talking about computer games here, not something of real importance. Perhaps you guys’ complaining and stand-taking energy would be better reserved for something—anything— that actually mattered. Even more importantly, thanks to you, I have to wade through pages and pages of your crying to find some information about the actual game in question.

Anti-DRM fever is everywhere online, it seems. Just check out Amazon’s page for the game Spore. It’s rated 1 ½ stars thanks to hundreds of 1-star votes from anti-DRM net-thugs, most of whom have sprung from a few specific anti-DRM message boards. Though I suspect most of these people could probably benefit from finding something better to do with their time than fighting against the “computer game Nazis”, there’s a sliver of possibility that actions like this might have an actual effect. But the bitching about DRM on gaming message boards will have zero effect. None. You’re not contributing anything new, you’re not making a difference in the world, you’re just being annoying and wasting everyone's time, including your own. So why don’t I stop visiting message boards? Because it’s part of my job as a member of the games industry to keep up with what’s going on with gamers. I have no choice but to read your inane postings. So, like, stop it. Please?

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