Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Pirates of the Seven Seas

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“Pirates are not consumers by definition

So says Tycho of Penny Arcade.

Actually, no.

Piracy is something a person does, and thus cannot be exclusive to any other thing a person may conceivably do, including consume. Declaring that a person is a pirate is no more meaningful than defining a person solely by any other activity they may have partaken in. I am a jaywalker: A scourge on traffic engineers everywhere, for I am physically incapable of not endangering myself and others around me via creative, consistent and pathological avoidance of the zebra walk.

Yes, that does sound silly. It sounds silly because it is.

I am not, however, unreasonable in my vocabulary: Judging by what we spend most of our time doing, we are all consumers. Even the most hardcore of criminals legally purchases the vast majority of his stuff. Some of us also pirate. A rare few pirate for a living, and by normal parameters may thus be called pirates. The irony of those professional pirates is that they are by definition the best consumers as they often-times must first legally purchase a copy of the game they mean to reverse engineer.

Pirates, using Tycho’s definition of the term, consume. Indeed, they are the best, most hardcore consumers of the industry, and their mere dross – those who have legally purchased the software – are what have made it thrive and keep it alive. In fact, I cannot imagine somebody who has diligently pirated every game in existence and has never once legally purchased a game – not even for five bucks off of Steam, or bargain-binned in GameStop – and should one exist he deserves all those games because that’s a lot of goddamn work.

The collection of games I have wantonly pirated is matched only by the collection of games I have legally purchased, and I have done a great deal of both. I am a fan of computer games – I grew up on the motherfuckers – and will get them any way I deem best.

The target market has never been bigger. It needs only be tapped intelligently – and therein lies the rub.

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