Normally I don’t make posts related to news events, but since I literally think this is the most important topic in gaming now (plus about a dozen people have emailed me about this), I’m making an exception on this. Many people have reported now that the Library of Congress now allows cracking single-player games to be legal. This may sound cynical of me, but I feel like too many people are viewing this as something worthy of dancing in the streets and solving the problems of dead games.
In my opinion, this barely solves anything. From an article I read on the matter, the following is stated:
“The LoC placed some important limitations on this new legal right, though. For one, gamers can’t legally work to restore online gameplay in titles that required a defunct central server to coordinate such play.”
This makes this new legal status almost worthless in my eyes for a few reasons:
1. While there were some exceptions, cracks to single player games (like at gamecopyworld.com) and abandonware games have more or less been operating out in the open. While giving these cracks legal status is definitely a positive thing by itself, I think it comes at a cost (below):
2. This does nothing to help games like Battleforge. In a sense, this is worse than nothing, because it reinforces that the practice of keeping online-only games is illegal.
3. While this legal status might be more important for places like museums, for the average person that actually wants to play the game, the legality is relatively inconsequential. People have been making cracks for decades and working on MMO server emulators for years without much regard to their legal status. While this sometimes leads to some legal conflict, I’m not aware of any server emulators for DEAD games that have been shut down completely due to the law. Besides, this new ruling says getting dead online-only games working is still illegal anyway.
4. This really does nothing to address the source of the problem, which I feel is that companies shouldn’t be allowed to operate commercially if they’re killing games with no end-of-life plan for them whatsoever. While I’m sure there’s a better and less hyperbolic analogy than this, what comes to mind reading this is something like “Good news! It’s now illegal to whip your slaves UNLESS they’ve tried to run away!” rather than trying to limit slavery itself. I’m of course not trying to equate killing games with something as serious as slavery (I’m tired while typing this, it was the first analogy that came to mind), rather my point is that it’s still completely backwards where we’re focusing our attention on this. The Library of Congress is treating people who want to play dead games LESS like criminals instead of addressing how harmful this practice is to culture to begin with.
Anyway, sorry to burst people’s bubbles with this, I just thought I should make a post on this before I got 20 more emails on the topic.
- – -
ADHD version: Ross says the ruling by the Library of Congress of being able to restore games isn’t that big a deal and doesn’t help save the most at-risk games at all.