The Morality of Pirated Games

If you haven’t heard yet there’s a possible leaked copy of Halo 4 available for download that’s spreading like wildfire across the internet. Halo 4’s release date is still three weeks away, but supposedly fans have the ability to download the game today. This raises big questions about the morality of pirating video games.

Music torrents are wide spread, and stealing music for the younger generation seems like a part of many kids upbringing. The same goes for movies and TV shows. In this day in age if you don’t mind breaking the law pretty much any form of virtual entertainment can be acquired through illegal downloads. I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with the practice, I’m simply stating everyday it becomes a more accepted practice. But as a gamer, I have a moral obligation to the download of video games, especially games that haven’t even been released yet.

Halo 4 is the topic of conversation right now. Personally there’s no argument for me between whether or not it’s ok to torrent Halo 4. I’m waiting three more weeks before buying my copy legitimately  It’s not fair to 343 Studios who spent years making another Halo game to have their product spoiled before it’s even hit the marketplace. Not only is a situation like this going to cost the copy boatloads of money, but it ruins the campaign for people planning on purchasing a copy when it’s officially released. No good can come from a leaked copy of Halo 4.

But there are other arguments that pop up from this situation that are in more of a moral gray area. Like retro games. I don’t own an NES, or an SNES, but there are games on those consoles that I’d like to play for nostalgia’s sake. Nowadays it’s all too easy to download an emulator and get ROMs with your favorite games on them. The files are small because they’re old games, and the price is great because… well, they’re free. (Please note that I have never downloaded an emulator or an illegal copy of a game in my lifetime, and I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon).

What’s the difference between Halo 4 and a retro video game? In my eyes lots of things. First off, the game has already been released. It’s not ruining the content of the game, or ruining the sales and the profit for the company that made it, because it was released years ago. Which brings me to my second point, retro games are old. You can’t buy new copies from the company anymore. If you buy a copy online it’s a used copy, and the only person gaining a profit is the seller. Is it still stealing if the only person that’s getting the short end of this deal a consumer that already choose to buy the game? Also, it can be hard to find old titles. Sometimes I’m looking for a game and simply can’t find it anywhere. I’d gladly pay for a copy if I could just find one!

On the other hand those titles are still the intellectual property of the company that developed them. There’s no way for the company to rerelease old games on Xbox Live or Steam if everybody has already torrented the old version of them. It’s the creative property that the company paid for to produce, and like music or movies, that property is there’s and there’s alone.

Personally I’d like to see vintage video games become free, open sourced property. But until they do I’m sticking to the legal route. Not because I respect the laws or the idea behind intellectual property. It’s because I’m a true video game fan. I don’t want developers fearing that their work will go unappreciated by consumers who only want to steal their product. I want to reward the people that are working so hard to give me entertainment and enjoyment that I can’t find anywhere else. I have respect for video game developers and their craft. And as a true video game fan it goes against my morals to pirate a game.