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Console Modding
Posted on Wednesday, June 18 2008 @ 05:44:25 Eastern

Console Modding

Today, in gaming news, it was ruled that the owner of site MrModChips, should not be incarcerated for the selling of those technological marvels they call 'chips'. The site also sells pre-modded consoles. Basically, for those of you that don't know, 'modding' a console involves installing a small chip into your console in order to circumvent security measures, in order to perform certain activies (which are perfectly legal) such as to create back ups, or play imported games. However, the issue of modding comes from the fact that a modded console can be used to play games that are purchased, for instance, downloaded and burned onto a dvd. Of course, it's just a few bad eggs that do this. A couple of years ago in Australia, a similar case occured, and the defendant was found not guilty because the chips could quite easily be used for legal activties, and not copyright infringement.

But this raises an interesting point--and one that can be seen further in Peer2Peer downloading. The action itself is not illegal, but can lead to illegal actions, most notably copyright infringement. Because of this, it's incredibly difficult to enforce copyright laws where the actual means of infringing them is legal. People who mod consoles in order to play illegally copied games cannot be, because of the nature of the chip, and the way it works, easily differentiated from those who use the chip for backups. So how can copyright infringement be avoided? The big companies certainly want it to be.

One way, it strikes me, would be to get rid of the need for backups and imported games (or at least region coded games). If this happened, then mod chips could be completely illegalised, as the only activity they could be used in would be illegal activity. There are a couple of difficulties with this though. Of course, the removal of a distinction between PAL, NTSC and NTSC-J is one solution to the imports idea. They're not needed in today's world, but, of course, this would cost money, and if there's one thing that big companies hate more than losing money, is actually having to use it. However, discs will always be fragile, until they're redesigned, and so backups will be made. Of course, a more robust solution might be possible, but guess what that needs? Any ideas? It needs R&D. R&D requires researchers. And they require... yup, you guessed it: money. Again, big companies would much rather just convict everyone that moves, instead of spend money on the problem.

Now, there are those of you out there who are saying that 'copyright laws are just another impeachment on our freedom', and that we should just be able to copy games and play them as we please (and that's why we have Linux). But I'm very much a capitalist, I think that if you justify not paying for something because copyright laws are against your religion or whatever the hell you're saying, then you should listen to that four letter word of what is coming out of your mouth. Copyright is necessary to protect the profit motive of modern society, people put hours into designing top notch games because they get paid for it. If you don't pay for your games then those designers don't get paid, and then you extend it, to a point where no one gets paid. Sure, some of it goes to big fat cats, but essentially, no matter how much money the company makes, they're still going to take the same cut, so essentially, it's just the little guy that's losing out. I'm not having a go, I'm just saying, if you're going to do it, don't try and justify it to yourself, just accept what you're doing is wrong, and then, if you still must, get on with it.

Anyyyyway, for the moment, we have to accept that console modding is a good thing essentially, and that it can be used for very useful purposes. Like P2P, which can be used to share files that one person has created, with other people, modding is not a morally wrong activity, but it can lead to illegal actions. I may be a capitalist, but I'm also a moralist, I think that we have a choice to choose our own decisions, so whilst copyright infringement is wrong, I don't think that people can be discriminated against if they use something which leads to copyright infringement in some cases. That is why today's ruling for MrModChips was a good day for gaming, and a good day for civil liberty.



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Videogames: Addiction, Hobby or Cult?
Posted on Monday, June 9 2008 @ 15:42:13 Eastern

The experience of video games varies from individual to individual. Some gamers play a couple of hours a week, and others play a couple of hours every couple of hours. But I'm sure you already know that (unless you're the latter, then you might be unaware that the former even exist). So how can we possibly put any definition on a group of people ('gamers') that vary in their habit so much that they can't be put in the same time bracket, let alone under the same banner. Look at the example of nations: a person from a country will be a member of that country for their entire life, so we can, with reasonable accuracy, call them 'Swedish' or 'Mongolian' or 'Martian'. However, in these groups there are exceptions, and these exceptions have names of their own 'ex-patriates' etc.

This leads me to believe that there must be other categories next to 'gamer' that can be used. Xbox Live attempted to class this as 'Recreation', 'Underground', 'Family' and 'Professional'. But this did not work. And it didn't work because the majority put themselves as 'Recreational'. And yet, this number of 'Recreational' members varied so much in how often they were gamers at all. I classed myself as recreational, and I play for a couple of hours a day. My friend is also recreational, and plays a couple of hours a week. So Xbox Live missed the mark here.

You can't, as Microsoft attempted to do, define a group by the way they believe they play. A far better system would be to put a timer on the account and then you take an average of time spent on the account per week--this is then attached to the account so other people can see just what 'kind' of gamer this gamer really is (and mock/admire them suitably). GTA had the right idea. In the stats, its possible to view your 'Addiction Level'. Something which is, apparently, 'Spiralling Downward' for me. Naturally, this doesn't define my gamer characteristics, in the way 'addict', or 'healthy habit' would, but it gives the same idea.

It seems to me that all gamers come under three categories (categories they can't possibly put themselves in... because they'd lie): hobbyist, (the kind of hobby that stamp collecting would be considered) addiction (the people that say 'I can quit sure', but never could) and cult (they're aware they have a serious problem [more so than the addicts], but if you try and tell them they should do something about it, their eyes glow red and they pull out a level 43 scythe). People might be able to give up for a couple of months in the addiction stage, but they'll always return.

I'm not saying to be in the last two categories is a bad thing. It's not like heroine which actually has a truly detrimental effect, but I think everyone needs to understand (those outside the gaming circle more than any) that there's not just 'gamers'. A disgusting stereotype ranging from people with glasses and long greasy hair to people who own a mobile phone with Snake II on it.

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