Lately I've watched Thrive. It's a documentary about the bad government, greedy corporations, our diabolic bank system and suppressed scientific results - everything garnished with some esoterism. It sums up to the conclusion: the establishment has a master plan to enslave us all.
I'm not sure what to make of this movie. These stories about "all bigwigs are deceitful" are so common these days. Especially all the mentioned great inventions which never went public puzzle me. A perfect cure for cancer found in the early 20th century pharmacy companies want to keep secret? Clean energy supply out of thin air? Come on.
However, it made me ponder how the establishment can do bad things to their own people. We know that political and financial decisions don't get made for the public benefit. They get made for the decision makers, to keep them in power. Therefore bad things happen to the common people regardless what they want from their leaders. Democracies grow into oligarchies, it's the old game.
The question for me was: why is money more important than people?
A single word took shape in my mind: apathy.
Apathy is the absence of emotion towards other beings. When someone has no emotional connection to an other being (s)he will see it like an object and treat it that way. Insects are a simple example. Would you have concerns squashing a fly when it gets annoying? What about killing spiders just because they look disgusting? Humans don't see themselves in these animals and therefore have no empathy for them. Killing them is not killing. It's removing distraction.
It gets more difficult when animals get bigger and "mammal". Dogs, cats, pigs, cows, dolphins - whatever has a recognizable face and "voice". How easy is it to kill a dog, especially when it squalls in pain? If you don't have a problem ending a dog's live just for fun please consult a psychologist. Otherwise read on.
The point is: when there is no emotional bond and no compassion towards an animal or human being it's easy to exploit it in any way we want. This apathy seems to be the root of most problems we have with our establishment(s). The often demonized money isn't the problem. It's just a catalyst for unethical behaviour. When leaders are too far apart from the people they (have to) guide and decisions get made out of selfishness regardless if they harm others we have reached apathy. When I don't see the pain I create, when I don't have a relationship with the victims or simply can ignore their fate (best masked with statistics where the starving are just a percentage) I'm able to exploit these "insects" at will and squash them when no longer needed.
At this point it's time to lead over to games.
Imagine how pirates get copies of your game. Usually somewhere from a server, from a generic Internet link. There is nothing there pointing out that you invested months or even years making this game. The pirate doesn't know you or just has no empathy for you. There is no emotional connection. The monetary loss for you is not the his/her problem. Pirating your game this way doesn't feel wrong.
A complete different experience for a pirate would be getting into your flat with a picklock, hacking into your PC, copying the game and leaving without a trace. The result is the same as downloading it from a server. No physical theft happened, the game is still on your harddisk. No immediate harm was done to you. Despite the same outcome as a download the pirate feels that (s)he acted unethically. It gets even worse when the pirate is a friend of yours. How unscrupulous would that be?
It's easy to exploit others as long as the harm does not affect ourselves. This becomes more difficult when we have an emotional connection to the victim.
That's the hook game developers should utilize for less piracy. Building a relationship with the audience is vital. There are several things a game dev can do:
- start a blog where you talk about your work, your thoughts and opinions,
- communicate with your audience, e.g. in forums,
- support clients personally - no call center shit,
- share your knowledge,
- help out,
- be friendly,
A load of true fans, interested in you and your work, sounds like the ultimate goal. Empathy and trust are critical for this endeavour. People with a positive emotional connection to you will be happy to spend money on your games. It's no longer buying stuff, it's supporting a person or team they feel connected to. That way spending money feels more like help than trade.
That's the way I would love to spend my money!