Hit and run… and regret forever — What possessing a game console means

Here I am to share a glimpse of the dark side of game addiction, based on my own personal experience. So it’s a confession, so to say.

This was when I was around 14~15 years old in junior high school. PC games were gradually taking off the market and so did the PC bangs. But the traditional Japanese game consoles like Super Nintendo, Play Station, Saturn and the sort was sill an unnegligible part of the market. If you were a lucky kid, you had a networked PC and a game console at home while going to PC bangs occasionally with friends.

I was a big fan of Play Station and have played many of the important RPGs at the time like the Final Fantasy series. Yes, I confess that I may be promoting esports for living right now, but my secret pleasure is and has always been single playing RPGs that are hard to call as esports.

Owning a game console and the software was quite expensive. A few hundred bucks for the console and some $50+ for a single software. People get tired of monotonous entertainment (and so did I) so usually we tend to own multiple software titles — RPGs, sports, adventures, actions, simulations, and etc. You name the genre. But, as I mentioned in another post, there was no way you can comfortable afford all those software titles. Unless you take the dark side and illegally modify the game console such that it can run pirated software titles that virtually cost nothing. You could modify your console pretty easily at the local game shop with a small fee. Some warned about the potential shortened life span of the console due to unprofessional modification, but nobody really cared.

I despised the dark side. I just couldn’t accept the fact that playing a private version of the game. In my mind, it was so disrespectful to the game creators who must have spent years just to develop that wholesome virtual world with a spectacularly absorbing story lines and characters just to mention the minimum. Being a big fan, I couldn’t line up in the dark side train.

On the other hand, the realistic economical concern was colliding with my pleasure-seeking game-centric nature. There was this new title that recently came out by Konami (called the Castlevania Dracula X) that I’ve been eagering to play for long, despite it being a different adventure-type genre than the comfort zone RPG. But I couldn’t afford to buy anytime soon. Perhaps wait another half a year until the next new year holiday season when I can expect some sizable pocket money from the grand parents.

After weeks of internal mind battle, my ethical consciousness finally surrendered. There was no time to wait. I had to play. So I decided to steal it at a local game store.

I won’t go into details on how I did it. But the punchline is that I succeeded in stealing it. Pure shoplifting.

Was I happy to eventually get a hold of my then-favorite game title? Maybe. But it didn’t last long because the shop owner soon began to hunt me down (we were living in a small town after all) waiting for me night and day in front of our school building.

I’m not trying to brag about my shoplifting experience during my adolescence here. The take away point is that, as I look at the industry and the past from a more consulting point of view, the game console business model and the right to play the game contents by the rightful owners of those who have payed are outdated. In fact, nowadays it is getting rarer to find game contents that you have to prepay a fixed price to have the rights to play.

Most of the games now are free of charge to play. They rather charge you by in-gaming purchases such as items, characters, or character skins and etc. Virtually most of the households in a developed country own at least one PC and online network or a net cafe-like business model that people can go and pay as they play. So playing the game contents itself is virtually free. And I think this must have had a huge impact on the shoplifters like myself back then as you don’t need to go beyond the law-abiding citizenry just to enjoy a game. Some similarity with music industry as well.

It may be worthy of looking into how the copyright of gaming has changed over the past decades.

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