Digitally restricted

No entryI hate DRM. I really hate it from the bottom of my heart. Just thinking about it makes my blood boil. Tell me, what’s to like about a system devised to make it incredibly difficult use the content you have legitimately bought?

I paid my hard-earned money for my copies of Hitman: Absolution, Deus Ex: HR, Portal 2 and many others. But can I switch on my PC and have a bash whenever I want? No, I cannot. That’s because Steam won’t let me play unless I compulsarily update my games. It’s been over 8 hours now. My update of Hitman Aboslution has moved from 80 to 89 per cent. I don’t want to play any more—because it’s eight hours later and it’s now time to work. And I really wish I’d kept that Rs. 899 for something else and just torrented Hitman so I could at least play when I bloody well want to.

I also hate Steam for assuming that anyone buying their games will also have access to a high-speed (let alone always-on [Are you listening Blizzard?!!]) Internet connection.

The logic that DRM helps prevent privacy is rubbish—in fact, it’s doing a very good job of convincing me that piracy would make my life a lot easier. I’m not labouring under the delusion that before Steam and its ilk the world was a lovely little place where you could play your games free of restriction. It’s the whole premise of these systems and the control they exert on you that I have my problems with. They’re not just pulling the chain tighter on how I play my game, they have detailed information on how, what, when I’m playing.

Apart from making it possible to collect a massive amount of information on their users (I’m not even sure what sort information they collect, but I have a healthy cynicism regarding the motives of big companies), Steam, et al. make it that much harder to install and play a game. I just want to play, damn it. If I wanted to make use of the so-called advantages of Steam, et al.—such as having your game available to download whenever you need and synchronizing saved games across devices—it should be my choice. In any case, they are moot all if the platform itself is an impediment to what I paid for in the first place: to play the effing game.

I know that the makers (and satisfied users) of Steam and Origin and their ilk will be quick to jump to the defences of these systems. And there is no denying that they have their uses. But, and there’s a big but (no, not in the mood for jokes!), as I will quote from this Forbes article on the truth about DRM:

First of all let me dispel the myth about DRM protecting anything. The truth is it does not work. It’s as simple as that. The technology which is supposed to protect games against illegal copying is cracked within hours of the release of every single game. So, that’s wasted money and development just to implement it. But that’s not the worst part. DRM, in most cases, requires users to enter serial numbers, validate his or her machine, and be connected to the Internet while they authenticate – and possibly even when they play the game they bought. Quite often the DRM slows the game down, as the wrapper around the executable file is constantly checking if the game is being legally used or not. That is a lot the legal users have to put up with, while the illegal users who downloaded the pirated version have a clean – and way more functional! – game. It seems crazy, but that’s how it really works. So if you are asking me how do I see the future of DRM in games, well, I do not see any future for DRM at all. [Quoting Marcin Iwinski, CEO of CD Projekt Red]

See, that’s why it makes me mad.

To be fair, I have to admit that this control-freakish behaviour might work to my advantage too, though I’m not sure it’ll be very convenient. I have the option of downloading 13 GB worth of data to install Mass Effect 3 rather than coughing up for a new set of DVDs (Rs. 799) since the one I bought was damaged. Oh good, you say? But here’s the nub: my Internet connection is stuck at 512 kbps for reasons that will have to run into a whole new post of its own. So paying for a new DVD would by far be the more convenient option. (Also, I have to add that this is my first experience of Origin, and have yet to discover if it is as difficult to worth with as Steam.) But I digress, it’s not Origin’s fault (or anyone else’s except mine for not checking the DVDs within the 30-day replacement period) that my discs are damaged…

In short, DRM is evil. Down with DRM, etc. etc. It is yet another camera trained on how we live and work and play in an increasingly “surveillanced” world. Most of us might shrug and think that it’s no big deal, that we have nothing to hide. But when one starts putting together all the (unnecessary) checks and monitoring we are subjected to, it adds up to a pretty significant something.

And at the end of the day, I still can’t play my game. Which, I repeat yet again, I bought legally. If I’d bootlegged it, I’d be writing a review about now.

[Image credit: mzacha at]


3 Replies to “Digitally restricted”

  1. I haven’t had any issues with Origin or Steam for that matter, but I would prefer having the choice of using them or not. My Internet at the new apartment is a faster package than the old one, in theory, but I haven’t downloaded any games since being here to test.

    I can say I hate the move towards an all digital game world because it takes forever to download a game and then you have to speed even more time waiting for it to install. I like just popping in a disc and playing. But it seems those days died with the Playstation 2.

  2. I would say I’m still lucky that despite having a tortoise of a Net connection (which should go up on 1 May, yay) because at least it’s unlimited data transfer. People who have data limits really just either have to give up gaming or turn to piracy!

    Yeah, I hate this all-digital move too. It has its benefits and would be great to have as an option. But I’ll take popping a disc in anyday to watching my download counter move from 43 hours left to 37 hours left… :'(

  3. […] rampant piracy exists. (Another reason for this is, of course, the existence of silly DRM policies, about which I’ve ranted here.) I have been tempted to go down the bootleg route, but haven’t so far even though it’s […]

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