Preserving old games “will destroy the video game industry”

2 min read
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WTF

Piracy sucks. I get it. It’s never cool when developers work hard to release games, only for them to be released on file sharing networks and downloaded en masse. This, according to publishers at least, is why we have to deal with things like DRM, servers that authenticate games and other bits of code that only really make it a hassle for legitimate, paying customers to play the games they’ve bought.

One of the scariest things about this is that in 5, 10, 15 years, many of the games we’re playing now will be rendered useless, as the servers required to get them working will have been long off-line. Of course, clever people could bypass these sorts of checks – but the ESA really, really doesn’t want you to do that. They equate it with piracy, and believe it’ll destroy the industry.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation – along with a myriad of game museums, internet archives and researchers – wants to preserve games, and to do that they’ll need to circumvent certain protections. They’re looking for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions – known as Section 1201 – for those who modify games to keep them working after the servers they need to run have gone dark.

The ESA, the body that represents platforms holders and publishers though, has opposed this exemption, saying that “modifying games to connect to a new server (or to avoid contacting a server at all) after publisher support ends—letting people continue to play the games they paid for—will destroy the video game industry.”

They assert that bypassing these protections, even after the games are no longer sold, would “undermine the fundamental copyright principles on which our copyright laws are based.”

I understand that people are afraid that if it becomes law that modifying game code to circumvent protections becomes legal in a small subset of games, the same could somehow be made true for all games, but this is, for lack of a better word, pathetic.

Games – digital works of art – deserve to be preserved, and this sort of fat-cat serving, draconian and frankly backwards attempt to stop that from legally happening is more likely to “destroy the video game industry.”

Last Updated: April 9, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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