Monday, June 14, 2010

DRM = Anti-American

This is a rant that developed while I was writing the update nagging post.  It mostly uses Steam as an example, but the broader subject is how much corporations run America these days and how the country has abandoned some of its most vital founding principles.  Rather than posting the update nagging post with this rant intact, I pulled it out because it drove the post completely off-topic.  As you can tell from these rants I write, I feel very strongly about some things, and constantly feel as though I'm in the minority opinion.

Steam bitches at you if you have the audacity to put it in offline mode.  There's a story here.  I want to have it in offline mode, because I'm on Comcast and every now and then the connection just inexplicably goes away.  Most of the time it's not an issue because I'm asleep or something, but Steam has this nasty "feature" where it won't let you start playing the games you've legally obtained if you don't have an internet connection.

A while back, after we had a four hour long power outage, I guess Comcast felt like it had to compete so our connection went down conveniently just after the power came back on.  During this time I was naturally bored, so I figured I'd fire up Portal and play more advanced levels or challenges or something, but if Steam can't connect when it starts up, it just hangs and you have to kill it in task manager.  Later, after Comcast decided to turn our connection back on, I selected "go offline" and it goes "oh teh noes u wants 2 go offlien?  Steam will b teh suck!" or something.  If you press on it will go into offline mode as you want it to, but then it gets all pissy and won't let you play a game if it isn't updated all the way to the absolute most fucking recent version possible.  Then it bitches at you every step of the way, saying things like "Hey, you're in offline mode, do you really want to be in offline mode?  Wouldn't you rather be in online mode?" and "We can't connect to Steam Cloud even though you don't even fucking need Steam Cloud and can't turn it off, the world will end if you play this game, are you sure?".

Why do my configuration and game progress need to be stored anywhere except on my hard drive anyway?  If I'm migrating from one computer to the next, I'll either copy the files directly or just fucking transfer the hard drive into the new computer.  If I'm logging into my Steam account from elsewhere, it doesn't take more than about two seconds to change a game's config.  Also if I log in elsewhere, it's guaranteed to be on a better computer where I won't need options turned down just to have a smooth framerate.  This means remote access to my config will only make life miserable when I get back to my computer and have to turn everything down again because it remotely saved over it.  I likely won't care about game progress anyway.  It's completely unnecessary.

Why are the updates so fucking important that I lose access to what I've legally obtained because I don't want my gaming experience in a single player game to be connected to and announced across the internet to anyone who wants to see?  Why does Steam play nanny and look for updates when you start a game in offline mode and refuse to start the game if it detects one?  I'm in OFFLINE mode dammit, it shouldn't be using the fucking internet!

This is why I hate officially-sanctioned digital distribution: you have no proof of ownership over what you've legally obtained, and the software is in control instead of you.  What's worse: any game released that can use the Steam platform that can be bought in a physical box with physical install media and an actual fucking existent manual still fucking requires Steam.  What the fucking bullshit is this?  If this is the way of the future, I'll stick with the past.  Because in the past I could play a possibly out-of-date install of a game while I lacked an internet connection, and nothing tried to check up on anything behind my back.  Because I owned the copy of the game.  With this bullshit, they own it and are just letting you play it.  If they want to they can remove access at any time.  And it's probably not future-proof either, so if Valve is ever in financial jeopardy and has to stop running the Steam authentication servers, then any random hardcore gamer tool with hundreds of Steam games will lose all of them.

In comparison, if you pirate a DRM'd game, you can crack or otherwise bypass the DRM and play it normally, without any restrictions, whenever and wherever you want, in any situation.  DRM really only hurts honest consumers, because the dishonest ones will just get around it.  This is why I expand DRM as "Digital Restrictions Management" instead of "Digital Rights Management".  DRM is all about restricting your right to do what you want with what you've legally obtained.  In the process of trying to crack down on piracy, all they're really doing is hurting honest consumers.  By treating everyone like criminals, they're also assuming guilt and asking for proof of innocence, which is exactly the opposite of one of America's founding principles: assume innocence until guilt is proven.  That's right, DRM is un-American (unpatriotic, etc.).  Fight the war on terrorism at home first: get rid of DRM!

There's an important distinction to make here.  I'm talking about consumers owning the individual copies of the games they legally purchase.  I'm not suggesting that consumers should own the copyright unless they somehow manage to legally obtain the copyright.  I had a tough time explaining this distinction to my dad (he thinks they're the same thing), and we are polar opposites on just about everything (hence why we don't get along very well), so I figured there'd probably be more people too stupid to understand.  "Owning the game" does not equate to "Owning the copyright and/or intellectual property".

We haven't been a capitalist country for a while now, we're instead a corporate republic.  That's where the government is in bed with all major corporations, and tells small companies and consumers to like it or GTFO.  Corporations can get away with whatever they want these days, and it's fucking sick.  Think about it: when was the last time you actually saw large companies competing for customers by lowering their prices?  Corporations figured out that the consumer wins instead of them when they compete with each other, so they stopped competing.

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