Every so often in our lifetimes there comes a pivotal moment where the result of one thing could have a tumble effect of monumental proportions. That moment is right now with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), two bills being brought forth by the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, respectively. These two bills, if passed, could change the internet forever. Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Gay Rights, and now… Internet Rights.
SOPA is being touted as a bill that will target internet piracy and the backers of the bill would have you believe that passing the bill is in the best interest of the internet as a whole. However, it would put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and may result in the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. It would also allow the larger media companies to cut funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if there is no copyright infringement, resulting in a large contingent of foreign websites not showing up in the lager U.S. maintained internet search engines. This would mean less web traffic which would result in less advertisement money, and eventually in the shutting down of these websites due to the loss of revenue. A classic example of government controlling the right to free speech. If passed SOPA would require websites to maintain control of every website they link to, making sure each and every link does not house copyright material. It is a task that is simply not possible and would make websites such as Wikipedia useless and subject to closure by the government.
SOPA and gaming
What does this mean for the video games industry, you might ask? Good question. Let’s review some facts, shall we. In 2011 the most torrented Xbox 360 video game was Gears of War 3, on the Wii it was Super Mario Galaxy 2 that got the number one spot, while EA’s Crysis 2 was illegally downloaded almost four million times. Those three games were some of the biggest selling titles of 2011 for their respective platforms. There is no denying that piracy on the internet is rampant, but that does not mean I want the government controlling what I access.
Does piracy have an adverse effect on video games as we know them right now? Probably not, not yet anyways, however developers and publishers of games could start limiting the quality of the games they create due to piracy. Meaning we could soon start to see the quality in the games we love dip because no one wants to pay money for them. In this respect, a bill in the mold of SOPA might do some good but at second glance the movement of the bill in the background of the internet would do damage beyond anyone’s control… except the government’s.
Video games such as World of Warcraft, LittleBigPlanet, and Minecraft would be shut down if the SOPA and PIPA are passed due to their user-generated content. These games make their money off of people being creative. Creating levels in LittleBigPlanet that resemble real-world activities is what drives the masses to buy the game. It is something that Sony has touted recently with their “Play, Create, Share” tagline.
Players of the vastly popular Minecraft would soon find their gaming experience limited as they would no longer be able to build worlds that resemble Pokemon, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and The Legend of Zelda. User-generated and user-controlled content is what makes gaming fun. It is something that I can marvel at and it lets me know that there are people out there playing games just like me on their couches or at their computers. And frankly, they are geniuses.
Video games are quickly going the route of user-controlled content even if they are not considered a true creative title like a Minecraft. Games like inFAMOUS 2 have taken gaming to a new level by crossing the action-adventure RPG elements of running around, saving the world, to creating levels where the main character can access them. It maintains the level of fun-actor while allowing those household geniuses to make a name for themselves. There is no better feeling than creating something and having other people enjoy your creation.
SOPA and PIPA would destroy that feeling. These bills would limit the creativity of said household geniuses all because the content created through these video games could violate some vague copyright agreement.
On hold… for now
Now, not all is doom and gloom. On January 19, 2012 websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit completely shutdown in protest of the bills with Google being a tad bit more subtle in their protests replacing their patented logo with a black bar. In result of these websites protesting the bills’ U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (Republican – Texas) has moved to postpone voting on SOPA on January 24 indefinitely. On January 20 Senate Majority Leader Reid moved to postpone the vote on PIPA indefinitely as well. That does not mean that the bills are dead it just means that the government will try to find another way to censor the internet.
Take a stand, continue to fight for what’s right; continue to support the movement against SOPA and PIPA.