ENGL 255: Video Games and/as Literature
March 24, 2017
Micro-Essay 2: Sharing What Is Not Yours to Share
A central topic discussed in Sarah Coleman and Nick Dyer-Witheford’s article on piracy and digital commons is the concept of “warez”, which is the illegal redistribution of video game software on the internet. They explain that, despite this phenomenon being believed to hinder the video game industry tremendously when it comes to making profits, to the selling prices of games and to the value of the games themselves, they also state that piracy in this form “disseminate[s] game culture, and sometimes save[s] old games and spur[s] new innovations” (Coleman, Dyer-Witheford 939-940).
A recent example of this inspiration and preservation of games via warez would be the fan-made Pokemon game, Pokemon Uranium. The game, released in the summer of 2016, had taken its creators 9 years to complete and had gotten 1.5 million downloads in the short span of two weeks. While the game had its own world, its own Pokemon and its own characters, the core ideas of the main Pokemon games, such as the battling system and the collecting system, had been kept, and regardless of the fact that many similar games have been made in the past, lawyers representing Nintendo asked the creators of Pokemon Uranium to remove their game from the internet (Schreier). However, despite the creators conceding and removing their download links to their creation, people who had gotten the file before it had been taken down started redistributing it. Now, simply typing “pokemon uranium” in Google and opening the first link will lead you to a site with multiple download links, as well as video guides on how to install the game properly onto your PC. The game also still receives updates and patches, made by fans to keep the game alive.
On another note, The Beginner’s Guide, a short video game made by Davey Wreden, tells a much sadder story of the redistribution of games. It is the story of Davey Wreden himself, who is showcasing the games created by his friend Coda, allowing the player to play these games as Wreden explains his interpretation of them. Wreden slowly reveals in his explanations that he believes Coda is going through a rough patch in his life, that Wreden had shared his friend’s games before without his permission and that Wreden had been pushing Coda in all the wrong ways, forcing him to create and make games that he would never be satisfied with. It is revealed in the end that the pressure the Wreden had put on Coda by sharing his games and expecting so much out of him is what pushed Coda into this bad spot in the first place. Wreden then explains that he knows that by sharing these games again he is simply doing exactly what Coda had told him not to do, but he can’t seem to understand Coda and so he feels he has to do this.
There are, of course, many other examples of where redistributing games have both positive and negative consequences. Morality is pitted against creativity, and there is no true way of telling if a line is being crossed.
- Coleman, Sarah and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.” Media Culture & Society 26.6 (2007): 934-953.
- Pokemon Uranium. Involuntary-Twitch & ~JV~. 2016. Video game.
- Schreier, Jason. “Pokémon Uranium Creators Pull Game After A Reported 1.5 Million Downloads”. kotaku.com (2016). http://kotaku.com/pokemon-uranium-creators-pull-game-after-1-5-million-do-1785258831
- The Beginner’s Guide. Davey Wreden. 2015. Video game.