Hi, I am Player Uno, and I download cracked games.

Yes, I download nefarious copies of games, I will freely admit this. However, before you accuse me of “destroying the industry” let me give you a bit of backstory, and more reasons as to why I do it.

I was born back in 82′, To a household that already had games in it. This system was a Grandstand Video Entertainment Computer (A Fairchild Channel F Variant), already 5 years old by the time of my birth. I have no memories of this system, other than seeing it in the loft. I can only assume this was my parents, as I am an only child.

My earliest memory of gaming proper was on a ZX Spectrum 128 that my father had bought, which I came to realise was rather a posh model Spectrum as I got older, although I am struggling to remember which game was my first. I have gotten it down to Repton, or Daley Thompson’s Decathlon. I remember reading the magazines and things at age 4-5, and sitting with my dad typing in the lines of Basic code that appeared in the old Speccy mags of the day. I remember being rather happy with a little bus graphic that I made move across the screen. Anyway, let’s get on with the point before I get too nostalgic.

Speccy games were not overly expensive back then, and new games used to only cost 2-3 quid a pop. But I noticed a strange phenomenon. My game collection was getting bigger than the games I had bought, and these new games had hand-written labels. As I would come to realise later, software piracy at the time was rampant, and copying tape to tape was easy. I always wondered why my dad had a rather expensive double-deck tape player, but no music cassettes (he was more of a vinyl person). To a child, this was a bit of a revelation. I could get as many games as I wanted, as long as you knew someone who had it. This was obviously way before the Internet. I did not understand the consequences of this at the time, I just thought it was great.

Also during this time, I moved to consoles. The Sega Master System was my weapon of choice then, but I was a little late to the party, as I had the Master System 2 Variant with Alex Kidd built in. With this new console came new games, and higher prices. As I was still young and didn’t really understand why I could never get as many games as I could on my Spectrum, but quickly dismissed this as the graphics were gorgeous compared to what I had played on the spectrum. And I loved that little system, and kept hold of it for a long time, beyond even the next generation. The first sonic game I owned was the Master System version, which came out some time after the Megadrive one. But, there were new opportunities on the horizon.

My parents did not see computers as gaming platforms. They of course knew that there were games on them, but bought them to give me a head-up, and to try and help me in my education. This is the point when the Amiga 500 Entered my life. My parents went all out on this. RAM expansion, proper monitor, Dot Matrix printer, word processing software, Obviously the seminal Deluxe Paint, and a bunch of games. Also, a second floppy drive (I think you see where this is going).

The Amiga quickly became my go to gaming machine, and I did have a lot of the classic big box amiga games. I even remember going to a local shop for a release party for Lemmings 2. But also, at this time, a few of my friends had Amigas also, and I had become aware of program called XCopy. So, without a second thought, and a few boxes of blank disks later, all my friends had all my games, and I theirs. It became a common weekend practice to be running off games for my friends. We still bought games no doubt, but there was also now strategy involved. We would discuss what games we would get, so only one of us would buy a copy. Copies of code-wheels and manuals were a common practice as well. I never once profited from it though. This was done for free. I was just sharing. I had met a few of my dad’s workmates who did sell copied games – and even at that age, I didn’t like it. They felt off in a way that I could not put my finger on at the time, and even to this day, I don’t agree with profiting from piracy. I know, maybe a bit hypocritical, but there we are. Anyway, this is just how it was back then in the amiga scene (god, I hate the word scene), it was just so prevalent.

Post Amiga however, my pirate-y ways waned somewhat. I moved to a PC, blew through the 16 bit era of consoles, and the only time I made mention of it for years was when I wanted a CD writer for my PC and the clincher was telling my dad I could copy PS1 games and make the money back relatively quickly. Never burnt a single game, and to this day still don’t have a chipped PS1.

My interest in it returned with the original Xbox, and that general era. I had a PS2, and just like now, held no interest in the Microsoft console of the time. This was all changed though, on one fateful day at work. My boss had bought his Xbox with him, which he had recently modified. At this stage it wasn’t copied games that grabbed my attention, it was emulators. I had been using emulators on my PC for a while at the point, and I think I had even built my first arcade stick by then (totally different story, that I may tell one day). But, this was a whole new ball game. I wasn’t stuck to my PC anymore, I could play classic games anywhere. (also, I realise roms are another form of piracy, but let’s not get into that here.) Unfortunately, soon after this, I lost this job, and moved on, but with it still in the back of my mind.

It was not until a few years later, with the 360 on the horizon, that I bought a pre-modded Xbox. I filled it with emulators and roms, and then found out that I could copy entire games to the hard drive. FLOOD. GATES. OPENED.

Within a couple of months, I had amassed over 250 games. Oh, and 3 more Xboxes. I modded these myself, one with a chip, and two using a softmod technique. These were used for a variety of things. I was running my personal website from one of them using a custom Linux install. One was running a Dev Bios, allowing me to play around with the SDK. I was deep into it. I also starting modding friend’s systems. I did all this not for profit, but for kudos. Alongside this was the PC side of things.

Again, I did buy a lot of those big box games, the ones I really liked, and at this time demos were a big thing. You could try games out before purchasing. So I rarely had a need to copy (or at this point download) cracked copies of games. I had the cash, so I could get the games I wanted. If a demo was not available, an illicit copy was obtained. If I liked it, I bought it, If I didn’t, it would get put in storage. As an aside here, I am a massive digital hoarder, and hate deleting things – you never know when they might come in handy (this will come up again later)

Around this time was also the period of Napster, Limewire and their ilk, so it was not just games I was hoarding… but that’s by-the-by.

Time moved on, my PC went out of date, so I couldn’t play the latest games, and the 360 was released — and the Wii and PS3. During my Time I have owned, and indeed still do own, pretty much all main-line consoles, and a few oddities here and there. My illicit ways waned again, especially in the realms of music and movies what with Netflix and Spotify starting up. The only thing I dabbled with during these times were DS flashcards, which again were so prevalent it just seemed like the thing to do. But now, with the history done, Let’s get on with the meat.

Why? Here’s why.

Lack of Demos

The lack of demos in this day and age is probably the biggest reason I do this. I need to be able to try games out. I have very odd tastes in games, and usually have very different opinions on games than may otherwise be massively popular. If a game is not fun for me, I won’t play it. Unfortunately, I tend to find I have this opinion of a lot of big franchises – I don’t just not like them out of sight, I do try and play them, but just do not get on with them. Gears of War, God of War, Assassins creed, pretty much any online focused shooter, the “Souls” games (tried them, did not like them). I have been burned too many times by a game that looks like it should be fun and the reviews say as much, only to find that to me, it plays like a sack of shit, and is simply not fun. So, to recap: to try before I buy.

I Don’t Trust Reviewers

It’s been a running joke over the past few years, but it’s hard to deny that shady dealings go on all the time with the bigger players in the game review world. Sites get paid to promote a certain game, publishers will cut ties with a site if they get a bad review, etc. It makes the whole thing completely untrustworthy. Again, let me re-iterate that this only seems to be an issue with the larger sites as they have more to lose, but then, they get the biggest audience, so the, shall we say, untruths subsequently spread further. Stick with B3 though, they give it to you straight 😊

Publishers Giving No Advance Copies

This Kind of goes hand in hand with the previous reason, and is much more recent. Developers have started not even giving reviewers copies of the game before release date, or at the very least, giving them heavy, strict embargoes. This means they cannot reveal the review before release – this has the effect of giving bad games a chance to sell to the early adopters, and we have seen how bad this can be.

Games Disappear / Archival Reasons

This is the reason I hoard things, and also, why I am not the greatest fan of the digital distribution model. They can, and will, take games away from you with no notice. Games will often get delisted from multiple online services, or in the case of older games, simply go out of print. For a variety of reasons: quality problems, licence issues, etc. (@Toadsanime on Twitter has a long going thread listing games that have been taken down from Steam.)

I think the biggest one for me, was Marvel VS Capcom 2 being removed from the Playstation store after Disney bought Marvel. This happened with a number of other Marvel games too. But, this happens all the time. Every game I have bought from Steam, I have downloaded a cracked copy of, and stuck it on an archive drive, so if these games ever go, I still have them.

I mean, I paid for it, I bought it, I think that’s perfectly fine. The way I see this, is that if Nintendo came to my house and randomly took one of my NES cartridges, and said “Sorry, licence issues, you can’t play this anymore” I’d say, “Bollocks. My games, I’m keeping them.” and, I’m sure you agree.

Crazy DRM

Seriously developers, DRM helps no one. If you have it, it will be broken, as we have seen recently with Denovo. Yes, it took a while, but it was broken. If you state that you have unbreakable DRM, you are wrong, and now have a massive target on your chest.

There have been multiple times in the past that I have bought a disk based game, left it sealed and downloaded a cracked version to play, as most of the time, it’s a lot less hoops to jump through to just play my game. And as long as I am careful, it installs a lot less crap on my PC. I also buy a lot of games from GOG these days, as I totally agree with their stance on no DRM.

I’ll Buy it Later

Now I know what you are thinking, “Yeah yeah, whatever, that’s what they all say,” but hear me out.

This is a FAR more recent reason for me, and it specifically came about because of the Switch. I love my Switch, and I love the portable nature of it. So much so, that I would rather get games on there to give me more options. BUT, and this relates to the first point also, games are getting released later on the Switch. So I will download a PC version (if available) to try out. Then wait and purchase the game later on the Switch. I have done this with Stardew Valley, Yooka Laylee, and Snake Pass. I played them all on my PC, then bought Snake Pass on my Switch. I have not played Yooka or Stardew valley since that initial test, but they have still been stored (point 4) as I am waiting for the Switch versions to release.

So, just to do a final sum up. Yes, I have been incredibly shady in the past, and I still download illegal copies of games today. However, I do not do it for nefarious purposes. As I am now older and wiser; have 3 kids, and less disposable income because of “life”. Because of these points I need to make my gaming choices carefully, and I want to be able to keep playing those games no matter what happens to the services they came from.

Is this wrong? I do not profit, and now I no longer even distribute. I am just breaking down some of the barriers that this industry has forced on me. Now, as noted above, I have not discussed game roms for older systems, which I also hoard. That’s a totally different conversation for another day.

So kids, make your own mind up. Am I wrong or just fighting the wrongs of the game industry?

The reasons I do this can be easily fixed, and I think the more we talk about this the better chance we have of getting changes made.

Your Friend,

Player Uno