A Third World Gamer’s Look At Piracy

Looking at game piracy in the Philippines and how attitudes have changed. 

Being an avid gamer can be tough. This is especially true where I live. You see, I live in a small country in Asia known as the Philippines, a third world country. All-in-all, it’s a pretty good place to line in but the way the gaming community works here is a little different than other countries because over here, pirated video games are not the exception; it’s the norm.

I guess I’ll have to speak from my own experience as a gamer as to why it became this way.

I had both a Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES) and an IBM XT growing up. It way much more difficult to convince my parents to buy games for the Famicom since the really good games like Contra were really expensive, demanding really high prices ranging from 800 to 1,000 Philippines pesos (roughly 40-50 dollars during the time). So, these were generally given as “special occasion” gifts, such as birthdays and Christmas.

Nintendo Famicom

For the lost cost of 20 pesos (which was about $1 at the time), I could get a copy of any PC game I wanted.Even so, I could always get my gaming fix by buying games for the PC since they were so cheap. For the lost cost of 20 pesos (which was about $1 at the time), I could get a copy of any PC game I wanted. It would cost me another 20 if I didn’t bring my own blank floppy disk. At the time, the only way to get games for the PC was to go to any computer store, pick your game and they’ll give you a pirated copy, no questions asked.

For the longest time, this was the only way to actually acquire games for the PC as the country never really imported them since they were an extremely niche product. Besides, there wasn’t a market for original games since, well, who would buy them? When the original PlayStation became popular, it was the same thing. I actually wanted to get an original copy of Metal Gear Solid so I would know what is Meryl’s frequency but the stores would only carry the pirated version and it didn’t have the information I needed to continue with the game.

Metal_Gear_Solid_CD Case

Because of this long standing practice, most of the gaming population here still think this is the “proper” way to get games. We’ve been pirating games for so long, it already is a part of this country’s culture! Even now, when I tell some of my friends that I buy original games now, they sometimes look at me weird and ask me why I don’t just get the pirated copies since they’re so much cheaper.

Gaming is an expensive hobby and the barrier for entry is pretty high to begin with.This leads me to another aspect why piracy is “okay” here: they’re incredibly cheap. Gaming is an expensive hobby and the barrier for entry is pretty high to begin with. Consoles and high-end PCs are significant investments on their own right by themselves and not everyone can afford to buy the latest blockbuster games as they come out. Spending money “frivolously” on “something unimportant” like original games can be called into question when the fake ones work just as well. All you have to do is modify your console and you’re good to go!

There are even entire malls dedicated to bootleg games here. And the pirates work really fast! You can get a pirated copy Grand Theft Auto V for the Xbox 360 for less than 5 US dollars right now! Even the almighty PlayStation 3 isn’t safe. You can have the same people jailbreak your PS3 to enable it to play “downloadable” games with each game costing $2 only. With prices that low, why pay the exorbitant price of originals?

PS3 JailbreakTo be honest, I was a pretty notorious game pirate before. In fact, I was one of the people who used to tell people that buying originals was a big waste of money. It was so… natural for me to pirate games since I grew up doing it. But that was because I never really had a choice. If I wanted to play video games, I had to do it.

I guess I’ve “reformed” myself. That’s because there are now stores over here like DataBlitz (sort of like the Philippine version of GameStop) that do sell legitimate copies of games at fair prices. I now can go through Steam and purchase games there without the hassle of fighting DRM restrictions. And there are a lot of gamers now here in the Philippines that do the same, which is definitely a good thing.

Published by

Victor de la Cruz

Most of my childhood (and adult life) was spent doing a lot of geeky stuff: watching TV, playing video games and going to the movies. To some, it may have been a waste of time. Well, to me, it has made me what I am today... a geeky adult.