Food for Thought: Digital Rights Mismanagement

If your a gamer you probably heard about the now famous Sim City crisis. If not then to quickly sum things up you have this game which recently released however it is an always online games. It was being billed as designed specifically to be played online so that your part of a greater community and share ressources, etc. Basically a more communal Sim City where everyone lives in harmony.

Sounds great right? Well in theory it does however a large portion of fans wanted a solitary Sim City experience. All the other Sim City games were offline. But as gamers we know something is generally amiss these days when a game is always online and that’s DRM. Yup, this is rearing it’s ugly head again.

Whenever I hear about DRM I cringe. I just cannot understand this concept. I cannot understand that a company intends to sell me a game that has either a limited use (number of activations) or needs to always have an active connection to the internet (to verify the authenticity).  Essentially these days with DRM your not really owning your games anymore. I avoid these types of games at all costs as I think it is pretty bold on the publishers part to be so insulting to it’s consumers.

So let’s take Sim City. Ok so we know in the back of our heads DRM is really what they are aiming for. It’s the proverbial elephant in the room. Well so does this EA employee who had comments posted on Forbes. In his comments he bashes his employer for not following their core values and not respecting the consumers. Kudos to him! More companies should follow their core values but corporate politics tends to take precedence.

So consumers rightfully cried fowl at EA for this in which they then pointed to finger of blame to Maxis which is humorous when you think of it. It’s like seeing a shit storm coming and then going whoa, it was the other guy I swear. In the end all are to blame as this was in the planning all along. But that wasn’t the end of Sim City miserable life.

So you bought your always online game, you pop it in on release days and….servers not functioning. Not only were they not functioning but it took about a week or so to get things playable and playable is a strong word as from what everyone has been saying. The game is still not very playable.

Maxis went on the defensive claiming online was all along planned, nothing further to see here, sorry about the disturbance. They also said that Sim City is like an MMO. Yeah I face palmed on that one too. They also tried selling us on the idea that their servers behind the scenes were working wondrous magic making computations and simulating. It could not possibly be played offline and how dare we demand such nonsense.

But Maxis and EA have forgotten that gamers are geeks. Geeks are coders sometimes. Sometimes geeks can find out that your game has a line of code that forces a termination of the game after 20 minutes.Ouch!!

That was embarrassing. But then again, Maxis and EA were still saying how online was the vision and that the servers were still needed to make the magic happen. Well maybe they should find out who from Maxis basically confirmed at Rock, Paper, Shotgun that servers were not handling anything serious.

But with all these problems it’s not just a symptom of a bad game design and not listening to your customers. It’s about controlling their purchases and plain faced lying to them in any conceivable manner to hide what is really going on. What is really going on is that the consumer is getting screwed.

Since computers became so popular there has always been piracy. We don’t condone it at all but it happens and will happen. There has never been any anti piracy method that has not been cracked by someone which means every attempt at control has failed. And for what? Has the investment in these methods not outweighed the gain by now. Loss of consumer confidence, boycott’s and almost indirectly encouraging people to pirate their games out of spite.

It still doesn’t seem to resonate with companies though. They are still trying and even the new Xbox seem’s to be heading towards the always-on, always connected method. Which begs to question will we even be proper owners of the console of the future? And do we really own our games anymore? I feel like it’s the most expensive rental from Blockbuster ever.

To top it off when these servers all come down eventually we are stranded with a $60 plastic case and a disc of a game we can no longer play. At least there will be no mistaking who own’s that plastic case. We do and it is not nearly as fun as the game we thought we owned.

And that is some food for thought


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Was recruited back in the first year of high school to play this odd game called Dungeons & Dragons by his friends who would become his family. Tending more towards darker themed games like Call of Cthulhu, Ravenloft, Gemini and other such titles; he has also ventured into other genres as his interest has developed. If there is something cool to play out there, he will play it even if it hurts his brain.

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