Homebrew Lockdown – The Dystopia of Intellectual Property Part One

It is me again. Sorry for the long wait for updates, but I have not really found the time and inspiration for another rant. Fear not my friends, the wait is over, and this time, it is a series. No promise that I will update it frequently though.

To start, I do not really like the word dystopia by itself, as it implies that the word utopia is based on “eu-topos” – a good place, instead of “ou-topos” – non-place. Of course, the pun was intended by Thomas More, but still, a dystopia – or bad utopia – is still a utopia. I have nevertheless used that word, mainly aiming at distinguishability. Utopia carries the connotation of Eutopia far too dominantly to use it for a future of suffering if the audience is not guaranteed to know the ethymologic background.

Also, I want to clarify that this series is not about a dystopian fiction by myself, rather than that, it is intended as an analysis of modern development towards the uncomfortable future as described in the dystopia of many a piece of utopian literature, ranging from Huxley to Barry. Of course, I realize that the nature of a dystopia is always an exaggeration, which would make literal comparison a joke. So of course one has to consider principles, not implementations. Starting with the reason why video game companies such as Nintendo have all reason to hate the homebrew scene – beyond the mere issue of “piracy” arising from it.

As I have alluded to in the introduction, a dystopian author that comes to my mind is noone else than Aldous Huxley.  Having been forced to sit through his Brave New World in high school* English class (Yes, I am a high school* student, so what?), it became evident where the “problem” with homebrew in general lies: Consumption.

It is actually quite simple. In the Brave New World, all forms of entertainment have been designed to involve as much consumption as possible. People are conditioned not to like the more simple pastimes, instead being made to enjoy sophisticated, expense-heavy forms of entertainment. For example, the conditioning is aimed at discouraging enjoyment of nature, with trips to the country being made worthwhile instead by conditioning an interest in equipment-heavy country sports like “Obstacle Golf”. That not only consumes transportation, but also equipment. The objective is simple: Have people derive their enjoyment from spending as much as possible. Does that sound familiar?

I bet it does. The premise in the real world is the same: If people are satisfied with cheaper entertainment, they will not spend as much on the more expensive one. But of course, companies want to be paid. This is where licensing comes into play. Console developers gain much of their money from selling licenses to third parties to allow their games on their platforms. Those games retail for about $30-$70. Well, here in Europe it is €30-€70, which amounts to about $40-$90, but that is an entirely different issue. You see, there is plenty of money to be saved if homebrew developers make free games for you. Which of course, will then not go to the commercial game designers, and as such will not award the platform developer with license fees. And that is why platform developers try to prevent homebrew development.

* Actually, the school system here in Germany is quite different from the american one, but that “translation” might make it more comprehensible globally.

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