~ A Writer’s Kryptonite: Part Two – The Ethics of Pirated Pixels ~

However after two days I spent stumbling around a entirely revamped and restructured game, complete with new game mechanics and questing areas, my cousin sent me a screen shot of him playing on a private vanilla server. To give you better idea of what that means, first you have to understand Blizzards subscription model of game play. So when someone buys World of Warcraft, you buy the game, however, because it is live and takes a great deal of oversight, they charge a monthly subscription to keep things running smoothly 24/7. The player must also buy each expansion, which changes the world and the game play drastically every few years, as well as adding in-game content. But then you have a whole community of people much like myself, and millions of others who yearn for the Azeroth of old. We vie for a day when questing seemed like an impossible task, everyday an adventure, and when finishing a dungeon, raid, or looting that two-handed mace that gives you a plus twenty five to attack power, as well as a five percent chance to critical strike actually took a little blood, sweat, and tears. So, as that world has been pushed aside for newer shinier expansions (and destructions), the “Vanilla Community” took it upon themselves to host pirated versions of the original WoW.

Now I get it; I am well aware that such a practice is illegal, and some would argue unethical, but I argue that it should not be illegal, and that it is not unethical. Let us look at video games like art. Before we do so, we must have an agreement that creative expression does not stop at the artist. The true weight of any artistic piece, in any medium, must take into account the audience and what they bring to the table when viewing said art. It is like the “Three Blind Men and an Elephant” analogy, how they were each touching a different part of the same being, but each having a vastly different experience than each other. If we agree with this perspective then we can move on. If we are not in agreement than I suggest you come out of the Stone Age and join the rest of civilized humanity, along with our modern and more complete perspective on epistemology.

So if we agree that the creativity of art relies almost as much on the perception of the art as it does the vision of the artist, than it must be argued that on an ethical stand point–not legal–there is no ethical foundation for intellectual property, therefore no one person can “own” the right to art, or everybody does. Now this does not mean that I blindly negate the staff at Blizzard Entertainment and their brilliant vision, but what is a video game that nobody plays or loves. Especially if said individual already bought the game (and every damn expansion), and had paid for years of subscription time. Does the purchase and love of video game not entitle the individual to play it, the version they love, whenever they so chose? That is for you to decide.

It could be argued that Blizzard is making their product better. Most of us in the “Vanilla Community” think that Blizzard did the right thing by their shareholders and made the game more streamlined and therefore enjoyable to what gamers call Casuals, an epithet given to those that do not devote the majority of their free time to one game, but play a number of simpler games every so often.  And from an economic and market stand point, this was smart move on Blizzard’s behalf. And yet it alienated their core fan base, the very fans that helped rocket the game to popularity, which in turn attracted the casual gamers to begin with. What’s even more is that with every subsequent expansion, an individual is no longer able to play the old content. IN my case, I paid for vanilla ($60), plus a monthly subscription fee ($15/month). I also bought each expansion, each time spending another $60(6 expansions). I have probably purchased 4 to 5 years of subscription time–we will say 4.5 years to be fair. That is 52 months of $15 ($780). Add that to the purchase of the game and each expansion ($420). That means, I have spent $1,200 on World of Warcraft, which does not mention books, shirts, accessories, in-game mounts and other aesthetics. We are easily looking at having spent over $1,500 and I according to Blizzard, i am legally not allowed to play the game for the content and difficulty that made me fall in love with it near 14 years ago.  Strictly from a financial stand point, I believe I stand in the right in my demand to play the content I wish to play. And to even balance my support of Blizzard and their brilliant game with my inability to stomach the game in its current incarnation, I even go so far as to continue to pay my monthly subscription fee, as if I was playing on Blizzards servers. Granted this is not a common practice, nor have I ever even heard of anybody else doing so, nor do I expect any substantial amount of people would. However, my personal ethic and my integrity remain intact, even if I am indeed violating Blizzard’s so-called “intellectual property” by playing a game that I have spent over $1.5K on.

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