Category: Thinking About Stuff


So, Lollipop Chainsaw just came out. Being a fan of Suda51, I bought a copy for the bois and I to play, and on that rainy Wednesday night we loaded it into the Xbox and sat down to give it a spin. It’s pretty fun, kind of a Rainbow Brite colored hack and slash game with the usual Suda51 sense of weirdness. It’s not the greatest game ever, but it’s entertaining enough, even really fun in places.

But as the controller got passed to me during a particularly tedious run of enemy-filled rooms, D piped up with an interesting question: is this game sexist?

It’s not a question the three of us (oh, right: I’m polyamorist. Haven’t mentioned that here yet.) could easily answer. There’s a lot of elements to consider, and that discussion ended up filling our entire playtime for that night. It was interesting, actually more interesting than the game itself. Honestly, we still don’t completely know the answer, although we’ve reached the consensus that it probably is sexist. And here’s why:

It’s all Juliet’s fault.

"Tee hee!"

Goddamn it, this image reveals NOTHING about her character!

Our main character for Lollipop Chainsaw is Juliet Starling; if you’ve seen any of the marketing, you’ve seen her. She’s the centerpiece for the advertising drive, which is… troubling in its own way, but we’ll get to that.

Now, this is a Suda51 game, and if there’s one thing that’s kind of cool about Suda51, it’s that they always have interesting main characters. From Travis Touchdown to Garcia Hotspur, each one has been entertaining and funny… And this is a trait that doesn’t carry over to Juliet.

Now, I can see what she’s meant to be: she’s supposed to be a schlocky fan service heroine parody, like movie era Buffy, in a way. But she absolutely doesn’t get there, not even a little, and that’s down to specific failures both in the character herself, and the world she inhabits. Let’s begin with Juliet herself.

Though the game assures us that she’s eighteen, Juliet is a high school student and a cheerleader… and that’s all you need to know. You can build the image up in your mind based on that; the blonde hair, the skimpy outfit, the pom poms…  You get it. And there’s nothing wrong with employing cheerleader imagery in this context; the juxtaposition of a role traditionally designed solely for sex appeal with an ass kicking character is what this kind of schlock world has thrived on since the seventies, it’s just that Juliet errs too closely to the latter characteristic.

Juliet is heavily fetishised, in almost every aspect of her character; this is a high school girl who, aside from prancing around in the shortest skirt imaginable, also apparently pole dances recreationally, even integrating it as part of her combat repertoire. She burbles and squeaks with idiotic text speak and ridiculous teen idioms, showing nary an ounce of self awareness, intellect or even concern over the zombie apocalypse that she finds herself embroiled in. Hell, even her walking animation is contrived to raise her hips at an odd angle, just so the player is treated to a perpetual view of her panties as she progresses through the game world.

Yow

Also, this can happen. It’s pretty transparent.

The flipside of this is, of course, her ass kicking side. You see, Juliet was also trained from a young age to be a zombie hunter, because in this world apparently that’s a thing, though everyone else seems quite surprised at the appearance of zombies. The fanservice heroine who’s been trained to fight is a pretty standard trope and I’ve never had a problem with it in the past… It’s just that this time, even her fighting style has been sculpted around the idea of Juliet as a fetish object, rather than a study in internal contrast. Juliet flounces around the battlefield, leap frogging over her enemies and attacking them with pom poms and a Technicolor, love heart-bedecked chainsaw that makes them bleed sparkles and pink stuff. Oh, and the chainsaw is also a phone, because chicks love yapping on the phone. Durr…

It’s not that Juliet is unlikable, she’s just vapid and two dimensional. Her nonstop energy is charming enough, but then again it’s been designed to be, and it feels processed. Not to mention, every camera angle, every movement Juliet makes, every move in her arsenal, has been designed to show off the maximum amount of skin. When you’re building and writing a character, this is the wrong way to go about it; Juliet exists at the player, rather than within her own world. She’s a Barbie doll for the audience to stare at, and I submit to you that this isn’t exploitation theatre, it’s just exploitative. And then there’s the world she inhabits…

None of the other characters can stop themselves from commenting on Juliet. Smack talk is fine and all, but the thing is, the only thing anyone can say about Juliet is that she’s hot. Fight an enemy, he’ll comment on her ass. Rescue a civilian, he’ll tell her he’s going to masturbate thinking of her later (yes, really.) The majority of the people you meet in this game can do nothing but drool over Juliet, and it gets tiring really quickly.

Uh... what?

Then again, she might be asking for it, going to school dressed like this!

So with Juliet posing for the camera almost constantly and most other characters staring at her ass, I ask you: is this sexist? I still don’t know.

Because the thing is, the people who made this game are clever, and entirely capable of meta commentary of the games that they make. At least, I think they are; I don’t know what Shadows of the Damned was supposed to be a commentary on, which really only leaves No More Heroes, which was clever… but maybe it was an accident. Maybe these guys don’t know how to do anything more than making entertaining games.

All throughout Lollipop Chainsaw we found things that might be social commentary, but then again might be nothing more than an entirely un-ironic thing. We just couldn’t tell. The first boss battle is against a punk rocker zombie, whose constant abusive catcalls of “slut!” and the like at Juliet take on physical form to attack her. Now, this could be an incisive comment on the way those words are used to attack and suppress women… but equally it could just be a thing that he does. It certainly doesn’t feel like a message thing when it’s happening, and also this particular character isn’t the only one to employ those words against Juliet.

This kind of sincerity might be the most interesting thing about Lollipop Chainsaw; either its intelligence is so unerringly accurate that it blurs the line between representation and commentary, or its presentation is so all encompassing and sincere that it can be mistaken for commentary in a search for any kind of depth. It’s an odd feeling.

But if there’s one thing we went away certain of, it’s that the game was intended to be silly; it’s definitely parodic, if not actively satirical. It shows in every aspect of the game, from Juliet’s decapitated head of a companion, Nick, through to the music choices (the item shop theme is Lollipop, Lollipop, if that helps.) It’s the kind of thing that Suda51 does quite well, and also the reason why James Gunn was recruited to help with the script writing. The problem I have with this is that Lollipop Chainsaw is the first game by this studio to feature a female main character, and also the first one this outright exploitative. Travis and Garcia, the heroes of the last two game, had way more going for them than this, and if you add in the troublingly casual rape-y implications Shadows of the Damned gave to resident damsel in distress Paula, this attitude toward women is becoming a bit of a trend.

It’s clear that Juliet was intended to be a parody of the standard sexy videogame leading lady, in the vein of Bayonetta, albeit styled quite differently. The problem is, sexiness wasn’t the only thing Bayonetta had going for her. What worked about Bayonetta wasn’t that she was sexy, it’s that she was sexually intimidating. This was a character who not only knew she was attractive, but was completely blasé about that fact. She didn’t let it define her, she played with it, and it showed in everything about her. Not only was she quite predatory in the way she looked and moved, but she would do something awesome every few seconds, and then say “yeah, that felt even cooler than it looked.” She was a badass, and she even shares Juliet’s fixation with lollipops; the difference is, Bayonetta is sexy, whereas Juliet is hot.

This is a distinction very few media seem to understand; someone can be hot- as in physically appealing to look at- without being sexy. Sexiness comes from character, from being intellectually attractive, not just having curves. Bayonetta was sexually intimidating, whereas Juliet is sexually exploitative. Her appearance is most of her character, but Bayonetta integrates her appearance into her character. And they’re both main characters in exploitation theatre pieces, definitely.

That's an angel she just cut in half, there.

This is a character who is sexy, but not a sex object.

There’s a target mark in exploitation that’s very hard to hit; the point where it becomes empowering to the female leads, not degrading. It’s often hard to tell where that line is, but to me it’s the point at where the character and story become gleeful about the heroine’s sexuality, and it becomes another weapon in her arsenal. Often in these types of pieces, the heroine is aware of how good she looks, and uses it to trick or distract dumb men. In fact, that is also an important thing to note; these protagonists are often fighting against an oppressive or violent patriarchal presence. But they’re not fighting against men in general- no, that wouldn’t fly with the largely male audiences for these things- but against specifically, nonconsensually dominant male presences.

Juliet, on the other hand? Juliet never even seems aware that she is attractive: in a move that’s clearly a surface level attempt to ground the character, Juliet has body image issues related to her butt (read: she complains it’s big, while everyone else drools over it.) Furthermore, Juliet’s struggles are never against a patriarchal presence, but are mostly fighting in favor of one; a lot of the men objectifying her in this game have been saved by her mere moments earlier. Juliet fights indiscriminately, and there’s no overarching theme or message that can be gleaned from this. Where most exploitation heroines fight for something, Juliet just fights because zombies are bad, ‘kay?

This also reaches into her design; leaving aside the constant panty shots and pole dancing, Juliet is again clearly designed at the player, rather than for the game. The pigtails, the short skirt and belly baring top… none of these things are particularly great for zombie killing, nor are they in any way required for the normal school day she was embarking on before the game begins. It’s just there, like her high pitched voice (Tara Strong) and the clear oral fixation we can draw from her constant lollipop consumption. And here’s where we come to an interesting observation…

Consider Juliet as opposed to Bayonetta again. Both have a thing about lollipops, and in both cases it’s a clearly sexualized move, and all about the sucking motion. Duh. But here’s the interesting part: check the sizes. Juliet’s lollipops are big, they’re meant to fill her mouth… I think we all know the implication of that.

But Bayonetta’s lollipops are tiny little suckers, barely more than a bite. It’s just another very clever visual choice with this character; once again it’s a subversion of a rather Freudian visual designed to show that Bayonetta’s sexiness isn’t for the benefit of the player. It’s all in service of making her the aggressor in her own skin, in a market where too often the girls are princesses needing rescuing, or if they’re at all competent they’re aloof or infantilized to a ridiculous degree (Juliet in the latter case, Cammy from Street Fighter in the former, for example.) I bet she even crunches them with her teeth.

Is Lollipop Chainsaw sexist? We don’t know, but it probably is. Do we find this objectionable? Hell no. The game is fun as all get out when you get into it, and Juliet herself is rather charming, if not particularly deep. But we did find it worthy of discussion, and our conclusions interesting. At least the game is rather good natured about its representations (that punk rocker boss notwithstanding…) but at the same time, it does say some interesting things. Intentional or not, every piece of narrative art reveals something about the people who made it, and how they think. I don’t think Juliet’s construction was deliberately made like this, but rather built up naturally out of a single concept: “kickass cheerleader.” Like it or not, this is just how girls in videogames are made, usually; sex appeal before sexiness before character. Juliet is how she is because this is how it’s done. At least this time, there’s a little bit of self awareness about it.

Like most gamers recently, I have been playing Skyrim. I have been enjoying Skyrim, in fact; Skyrim is great, I’m having a lot of fun with it. To me, it’s a wonderfully constructed sandbox game that has just enough detail in its world to alleviate the issues I usually have with sandbox games, namely that the game world itself lacks points of interactvity.

But on my last play session- half an hour ago at the time of writing- I came across the first segment of gameplay that I outright disliked. I might go so far as to say hated. I might (accurately) go further and say that I loathed it with an ardor that could kill me if I ever allowed myself to fully feel it.

Some of you may already have stumbled upon the quest called “Forbidden Legend.” For those who haven’t, it is a quest you can pick up from a certain book that sends you off after an old legend concerning a magical amulet. The quest itself is just a little bit boring, forcing you to wander around collecting the amulet in parts, with each one guarded by an undead boss. It is here that I began to feel that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

One of the bosses I fought was, in life, called Sigdis Gauldurson. When I first fought him, he was a Draugr that, it was immediately apparent, had taken a disliking to me. But, though frustrating, I was eventually able to slay him. I sighed, “Well, at least I won’t be seeing him again.”

Some of you might be predicting where this is going.

The final battle of this quest is against ghostly versions of each boss in sequence, with Sigdis taking up the middle slot in this carousel of torment. It is here that the true, dark design of this quest becomes apparent. It very nearly destroyed me. So, in the spirit of giving, I’ve compiled a little list for all of you who haven’t yet had the true, terrible misfortune of encountering this quest. It is simply entitled:

Tips for surviving your encounter with Sigdis Gauldurson.

Even when you turn the game off, he is still there. Waiting.

Number One: You cannot enjoy this fight. Do not try. Your struggles will only teach you the pointlessness of human endeavor.

Number Two: Learn to hate yourself. Do not consider Sigdis as simply an annoyingly bad piece of enemy design; think of him as an ironic punishment from the universe itself for some wrongdoing in your past. If at all possible, select a wrongdoing that is small and insignificant, to properly enforce this cosmic bitch slap as something petty and unfair. This will help prepare you for the ultimate truth that this level has been constructed to impart to you. You will need all the preparation you can get for this.

Number Three: Learn to hate Skyrim. In playing this level, I have become convinced that it, not the main questline, is the black and beating heart of Bethesda’s latest Elder Scrolls game. It is simply too finely honed, too perfect an engine of human misery, to have been a simple conflux of programmer’s accidents and inattention. In order to survive your final encounter with Sigdis, you must learn to consider the high quality of the rest of the game as one grand trick; a method by which Bethesda can pull the rug from beneath your feet when you are at your weakest, exposing you to the cold and yawning void below. Where you will be crushed.

Number Four: Learn to hate your weaponry. Because you will lose them. All of them. Permanently. If you hate them, at least you will not be disappointed when every armament you have is ripped away, leaving you defenseless and vulnerable. And I implore you not to realize what this act really is; an act of theft by the game itself, with you as its victim, and no benefactor of the theft, except whatever cosmic horror happens to be feeding from the misery and rage generated by the Forbidden Legend quest.

Number Five: Prepare yourself for the cold realities of combat. You see, in much of Skyrim’s combat, you are exposed to the myth that martial conflict is fair, or at least, that you will have a reasonable chance of meeting your enemies on a playing field that, while perhaps not level, at least presents you with a chance of coming out victorious, if you are skilled or cunning enough. Sigdis is the terrible, gleaming hook to this bait. He is not an opponent; the word opponent implies that one will be fighting. Sigdis has been endowed with a number of crippling, unfair powers and skills that you, as the player, may already have, but will be unable to retaliate with during this battle. You do not fight Sigdis, you are crushed by him, without any hope of an actual battle, or fairness of any kind. You are devoured.

Number Six: Know beforehand that Sigdis is actually an extended and horrifying metaphor for a gang rape. The first thing that he does, upon beginning the “fight,” with you, is to create three illusory copies of himself, each of which is armed with exactly the same skills and powers that the real one possesses, including a magically empowered bow, and two different Shouts. It is your task to find the real Sigdis, and attack him: you will recognize him by the horns on his helmet, which are curved, not vertical like the copies. Upon the creation of the copies, you will cast your eye around and find the real Sigdis quite quickly, upon which time you will rush him, running across the center of the room as fast as you can. The moment you reach him, the gang rape metaphor becomes apparent; from out of nowhere, you will be Shouted at. The most usual configuration of this is that you will first be hit by a Disarm Shout, robbing you of your weapon (See Number Four) and staggering you momentarily. Seconds later, you will be hit with one or more Force Shouts, hurling you away from your intended target, and sending your weapon spinning off into the void. Once the three false Sigdis’ have finished Shouting at you, all four will pelt you with arrows from their powerful, magically enhanced bows, while you struggle to your feet. Once you have regained your footing, Sigdis will teleport away, and the process will be repeated. This experience, of being disarmed and powerless, entirely at the mercy of multiple cruel and aggressive monsters, is easily what I imagine a violent assault would be like, and the utter humiliation one feels during the experience must certainly be a reference to violation. Why the developers would be this cruel remains to be seen.

Number Seven: Know that Sigdis is a coward. Much like the rapists he is surely constructed to represent, Sigdis is an awful and base aggressor; a terrible excuse for something that was once human, deserving of all the punishment that can be meted out by man and god (See my final point). This is a creature that delights in the suffering of his victim, while ensuring that the odds of him actually coming into a position where he himself might be harmed are low, if not outright zero. This is a lesson about the true nature of man. Learn it well.

Number Eight: The game has allied itself with Sigdis. You will be the victim of multiple, terrible glitches. This is representative of the world itself turning against you. From the moment the fight starts, you are being taught that the universe desires only your slow destruction through inevitability. If the repeated, multiple Force Shouts hurl your helpless form into an awkward part of the level’s geometry- and they will- you will find yourself sinking through the level into a white void that the game treats as being underwater. This experience, of drowning in sheer, existential nothingness, is an apt comparison for the universe in which you live. You will then be forced to repeat the battle from the beginning. Furthermore, often- by which I mean, every time I played it- the defeat of the real Sigdis will not result in the disappearance of his duplicates, as it should as reported by other players. While you are forced to engage the third and final boss for this quest, you will be assailed continuously by the arrows and Shouts of three unerring, unwavering copies of the monster that has given you such trouble. This experience, wherein victory gives you no satisfaction, or even a cessation of suffering, is another lesson about the cruel pointlessness of human endeavor.

Number Nine: Know that this will ruin your ability to enjoy Skyrim. For every quest you undertake from this point on, every location you scout, every enemy you fight, will have that terrible question hanging overhead: Is there another Sigdis nearby? Never again will you feel safe. Never again will you feel joy, in Tamriel. You are no longer the Dragonborn. You are merely a man, as vulnerable and weak as any other.

Number Ten: The Truth. It is here that we come to the final piece of advice that I can give you: the true, dark purpose that Forbidden Legend harbors. This quest, in its entirety, is designed to pull back the comfortable curtain that most people live in front of, and to reveal the cold, black sky beyond. It revels in the pointlessness of life, the existential torment in which we truly live, and when you are done, you will never be the same. Though you may walk about as a free man, know that you will be a prisoner of this knowledge, unable to see the world as anything more than the sharp-toothed maw of the creature known as Death. For the duration of Forbidden Legend, you are jerked around through a series of meaningless and extended fetch tasks, dangling some small and petty bauble in front of you at the end of each in order to distract you from what you are actually doing. Then, the true horror of Sigdis comes crashing down upon you and, once you finally defeat him, what is your reward for this torturous experience? Only an amulet, another pretty but ultimately dispensable bauble, in exchange for the loss of your capacity to feel joy. You will ask yourself if it was worth it, and you will not like the answer.

Carry this around your neck; the noose of your disappointment.

Now that your battle with Sigdis is over, you may be asking yourself: how can I recover from the raw, soul-shredding experience I have just put myself through? In truth, there is no way to fully heal the scars that Sigdis has carved deep into your mind, but through some quick, emergency steps right now, you can at least chisel your grim visage into something approaching human facial features again, if walking unnoticed and unshunned through the world of men is your goal. Go to your loved ones, resist the urge to kill them and mercifully spare them from the truth you have endured, and sit with them. Remember what made you love them, back when you still had a heart with which to feel love. Look at old photographs of yourself, back when you were unaware of the universe’s cold grip, and try to replicate the smile you will never again feel. Listen to music that you could once enjoy, in the hopes of blocking out the shrieks of reality as it slowly kills everyone you were once able to care about. It won’t help, but the illusion may provide momentary, cold comfort.

The life you once enjoyed is over, this is true. But that doesn’t mean you can’t paint the lifeless doll that is your body with the disguise of happiness, so that you don’t offend the sensibilities of those with the blessed gift of ignorance. Remember: What Bethesda has done to you is a crime against your mortal essence, and whether it was human evil, or something far older and far more sinister at fault, you still do not have the right to do this to others, as tempting as it may be to envelop others in your misery, and earn yourself the empty comfort of no longer being alone. Best of luck to you.

Kurokami, signing off.

On Piracy

Humans, I spend my time thinking about some odd things, sometimes. One of the things I hold some pretty strong opinions on is software piracy and intellectual property. Actually, it’s kept fairly present in my mind because most of the times I load up a DVD, I get a condescending message from the manufacturers, telling me not to pirate stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I find that a tad offensive. This is the one that most Australians are familiar with, rather dramatic and pointed in its equation of piracy to any other act of theft. Sure, I get it. Manufacturers don’t want me to pirate, because it loses them money. Yeah, I totally get it.  I get it.

But aside from making me dislike Happy Feet, another thing these piracy messages make me do is frown. Actually think about them: when do we, as viewers, see these messages? When we are watching a DVD. In other words, something we have already paid to watch. Want to know who gets to skip these messages entirely and move on straight to the movie? People who have pirated it.

I for one don’t appreciate being moralized to while I am in the process of doing what the moralizer wants me to. Especially not while the people who actually need to see the moralizing get to skip it entirely. One wonders whether the manufacturers actually understand what they’re doing, here; the message simply isn’t getting to the people that need to see it, while the people who don’t are forced to sit through a lecture every time they want to watch something. That they paid for.

Another thing I’m not entirely wild about is this whole idea of including a digital copy of the feature on the disc. Usually there’ll be a little boastful thing somewhere on the DVD about how you can “watch it anywhere.” Okay, thanks for your fucking imprimatur, DVD. I actually didn’t know I needed it. See, I already bought you, I own all the content you have. I can do with it what I want, assuming I’m doing it for private use. I’m damn sure I could just, y’know, download a digital copy onto my computer anyway. Because I bought it. Specifically so I could watch it. At home. Whenever and wherever I want.

Let me clarify my position on piracy itself, before I go much further: it’s wrong. You shouldn’t do it. I don’t. Insofar as I do pirate, it’s under a contract with myself that when I am in a position to buy a DVD of the feature, I do so. And I’ve never broken that contract. I use piracy- torrents and the like- to level the playing field of release dates; Australia has some pretty woeful delays most of the time, so I pirate stuff to be able to watch it at the same time as the online communities I frequent. This year, I pirated the entire sixth season of Doctor Who as it aired in the UK. And even though the complete series DVD collection cost ninety-six freaking dollars for thirteen episodes, I did buy it. Because content producers rely on the money brought in from sales of their merchandise in order to fund more content; it’s simple commerce. If I don’t support the things I enjoy, I lose all rights to comment about the content, or to bitch when it goes off the air. Because I’m no longer a consumer, and the producers no longer have any need to please my sensibilities. This is a very simple concept; I don’t understand why it escapes so many people. You pay for stuff, people. Anything else is theft.

I once had a conversation about this with a friend of mine who is an unashamed pirate. He pirates everything, he says. He countered my above argument by saying that “there are plenty of other ways for producers to make money.” I didn’t understand. I sat, grave and silent, trying to parse his argument for a moment, but came up empty.

“That’s very true, there are plenty of other ways to make money,” I replied, finally. “But this is the way that content producers have chosen to make their money.”

It’s the basis of a capitalist economy; you produce something of value, a product, which is then sold on to the people that desire it- consumers- so that you make a profit whereby you can produce more products. Filmmakers, television producers, videogame studios and musicians have opted to use these specific things as their products. The fact that they could make other products- or work for other companies making products- is not a terribly compelling assuagement of guilt and responsibility for stealing their chosen product. And it is stealing; there seems to be this idea that a lot of people share that data- software- is free, or should be. It’s almost like what you’re paying for, when you buy a DVD, is only the case and the disc itself; that the content on the disc isn’t what you’ve paid for. This is simply untrue: when you buy a DVD, what you’re really buying is a license to watch the feature on it as much as you want. You’re buying the feature, not just the delivery mechanism.

It’s the internet that does it. The web is a great global platform, a wonderful mechanism for the free exchange of ideas and knowledge. I love the internet, but there seems to be this prevailing mentality that movies, music and the like are on the same level as ideas and opinions. At least, that’s the high-minded justification that’s often trotted out when one dares make the argument that piracy is theft. Pirates like to play the role of the revolutionary, of modern day Robin Hoods shirking the Hollywood, consumerist system and redistributing product to those who deserve it (and when they say that, they always mean themselves.) I once heard the argument that piracy is a form of idealism; once again, this is merely a veneer of justification.

That friend of mine that I talked about earlier? I kept arguing with him, persisting in my view that piracy is morally wrong, and it became very clear, as we continued, that all his arguments were walls erected around a very simple basic stance: I don’t care, I just don’t want to pay for things.

In the end, that’s what it really comes down to: pirates do not want to pay for the things they consume. And that’s fine, because I don’t really want to pay for them either. I also don’t want to be paying for my groceries. But we live in a capitalist society, and in one of those you pay for the things you want to own. Money is a thing. I’m sorry that you don’t want it to be, but fuck you. You don’t get to steal things just because you don’t agree with the way society is set out. I want to kill people sometimes, but I don’t, because it’s a moral evil according to our society (and many societies, but I’m not getting into an argument about moral relativism here.)

Let’s be clear: there are plenty of instances in which these high-minded, radical ideals that the pirates espouse fall away, and the simple greed underneath is exposed: occasionally downloadable services like Steam will offer game packages where the profits go to charity, and that often you’re allowed to pay whatever price you like. You could pay literally the lowest monetary denomination that exists, but you can bet your fucking ass that people still pirated these things. In one instance, the Humble Indie Bundle, a full quarter of all the people who played it pirated it. So aside from avoiding a very simple moral good, these people opt to commit a moral evil in its place. Stealing from a charity, that’s just good, isn’t it? This is the point where any ideas of defying the money grubbing corporate system disintegrates.

But I’m also not really here to be shrill or accusatory. I’m here to ask a simple question: where does this conflict between producers and pirates leave legitimate consumers like myself? I buy DVDs, games, music… A lot of that stuff, deliberately giving up the monetary advantages of piracy in order to support my favorite production studios. Then, my reward for this is becoming the victim of strictures put in place by the manufacturers to stop the pirates: I’m not just talking about irritating anti-piracy PSAs, folks. I’m talking about region codes, and Digital Rights Management crap. About authentification systems for new games, and whatever else will be employed in future.

Here’s the thing: I bought this stuff. I’m doing exactly what should be done, I’ve fulfilled my side of the bargain. By and large, pirates don’t give a fuck about this stuff. Pirates gonna pirate, it’s sort of in the job description. If they can, they’ll get around whatever copy protection or DRM stuff is put in their way, and if they can’t… well, some might buy the product through legitimate means, but an equal number will surely move onto something a little less challenging to steal. Meanwhile, both sides continue to moralize to me about piracy.

I love getting moralized to by fucking thieves on one side, and by the people I’m allied to on the other. That’s just awesome. Ordinary consumers don’t really seem to factor into this conflict at all; producers seem to think of us as safe, like our business is assured. And pirates don’t really give a fuck about us either, because they aren’t actually striking out at the corporate system; they’re just having a great time stealing stuff. We become caught in the crossfire, like commodities. I hate the idea that some of the money I pay for my games or DVDs goes toward developing new DRM programs or PSAs to lecture me, but what else am I going to do?

It’s a vicious cycle: pirates steal stuff, leading to producers wanting to safeguard their investment via DRM, leading to more consumers becoming dissatisfied and turning to piracy… Welcome to the wheel of idiocy, folks.

But listen. It’s more than that, humans. This is what you are in the dark. I get the feeling that pirates are engaged in an effective little act of doublethink whenever they torrent, download or burn something; telling themselves that they aren’t stealing anything, even as they steal. But it’s maybe time to actually think about this shit. By “what you are in the dark,” I mean, “what you are when you’re all alone.” See, it’s pretty easy to think of piracy as something victimless; whenever you steal something physical, you’re having to take it from somewhere. You have to at least think about the people who actually own it, since you’re on their turf. But piracy is the one kind of theft where you don’t even have to be in physical contact with what you’re stealing. You don’t get to see anyone lose money, and because it’s hard to police, hard to catch the offenders, it’s probably very easy to think of as being above board. Thieves get arrested, I have not been arrested, therefore I am not a thief. But if you pirate, you are.

Far be it from me to be an idealist, but… is that really want you want to be? Buying things actually isn’t hard. I manage it fine, over and over again, and I’m a very lazy human being. Also, I have a wife and two infant children, so I end up having to buy a lot of things. Seriously. That’s not even the point. But this is: I get the feeling that none of you out there wants to be labeled as a thief. Even by yourself. Nobody thinks of themselves as a bad person or a criminal, but that’s kind of what pirating is. A crime. And…

And I could go on about this forever and it wouldn’t do a damn thing. Pirates will defend their right to pirate just as vociferously as copyright holders will defend their right not to be taken advantage of. This isn’t something people can win. Either side, and certainly not consumers. I just wonder where it’s going to end, y’know? Which side will see sense first and understand that nothing the other side can do will change anything?

In the end it just makes me a little tired. I’m tired of having to deal with shit from manufacturers just to get to the product I paid for. The fact that it’s everybody’s fault but mine only makes it worse. Like I said earlier, I think about some odd things, and maybe this seems silly to everyone else, but fuck. It’s my blog, I’ll write about what’s important to me.

I just get the feeling that everybody involved in this thing could lift their game a little, you know?

Actually, anyone reading this, why not post a comment? I’d love to hear from content producers or pirates or whatever: clarify your stance, people!  If you’ve got a view, tell me about it!

 

Kurokami, signing off!

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