Indie game developer on when it’s all right to pirate his games
July 30, 2010 | 9:15 am
Reaching into the world of video games again for another point that could apply equally to e-books. (At least it’s not about Valve this time.)
Jeff Vogel is the developer behind a number of independent games (perhaps the equivalent of self-published e-books in the video game world) including the Avernum series and Nethergate: Resurrection. And, though he’s nervous about speaking up about it (because he relies on his games to feed his family, after all), he has blogged about three relatively rare cases where he’s more or less all right with people pirating his games.
Though the blog post is about Vogel’s video games, these points could apply equally to music, movies…or, indeed, e-books, if their creators felt the same way. (Though, of course, Vogel does not claim to speak for anyone but himself and his own games in his post.)
One of those cases has to do with computer gaming in the third world, where disparities in income and currency mean that even the $25 to $28 to legitimately buy a copy of his games are beyond most gamers’ reach. Vogel writes that occasionally such gamers email him in broken English pleading for a registration key.
Although he deletes such emails unanswered, given that he doesn’t want to encourage asking him for free keys when he needs to sell the game to feed his family, Vogel does hope that the kids went ahead and pirated his game. There really isn’t any other way for them to get to play it, after all.
Vogel’s second case has to do with the non-monetary rewards that come from distribution of his game—knowing that it is out there influencing other peoples’ lives. And whereas the 5,000-copy target for the game to be paid for is relatively small, if he imagines that 9 copies were pirated for every copy sold, he gets warm fuzzies from knowing that for each game there are 50,000 people out there having a good time because of him.
And his third case has to do with the ongoing recession that is hitting so many people in the wallet right now. Vogel writes:
Someone who is facing long-term unemployment and bankruptcy probably should not pay for my game. And, in that case, if stealing my game gives them a temporary reprieve from their misery (and there’s a lot of misery out there right now), I’m cool with that. I’m happy to help. These are my fellow citizens, and I want to help out how I can.
Though he does add that if someone can pay, they should pay—it’s not cool to take it for free just because you can.
Vogel closes by suggesting that pirates should try to pay for at least one game per year, because paying for games is what helps more games like them get developed (and because doing the right thing just feels good).
Who knows, perhaps they might do so via Steam.
(Found via Slashdot.)