[EDITOR'S NOTE: Continuing its multiple "Schadenfreudian Slips" columns for Gamasutra, notable and more than a little eccentric German game company Schadenfreude Interactive presents an anecdotal account of the hardships of trying to find the right copy protection.]
Lothar (our art director) came to me one day with a problem. Ordinarily he would go to our chief technical officer, Bruno, with these things, but Bruno was away attending the Beard & Mustache World Championship in Berlin (just attending, not competing – my mother can grow more of a mustache than Bruno can). Anyway, Lothar had found copies of our games available for download on BitTorrent. When I asked him what he was doing looking in such places, he sheepishly admitted he was looking for a copy of the Wide Boy Awake song “Chicken Outlaw”. I suppose I am glad he found pirated copies of our game instead of that song, which should itself be considered a crime.
But what was I now going to do about people pirating our games? Like when your drunken Uncle Jurgen shows up at your wedding wearing nothing but a pair of yellow rainboots, this situation had to be dealt with right away (I assigned Uncle to guestbook duty – we Germans are not as prudish as you Americans when it comes to public nudity).
Now, I do not want to treat our customers like they are pirates. Unless we are making a MMORPG about pirates, and thus our customers are pretending to be pirates, in which case I will gladly treat them as pirates. I had a girlfriend once who liked to pretend to be a pirate. I still have the scar from that parrot bite - but that is neither here nor there (actually, it is a few inches above my right knee).
The issue of software piracy is nothing new. Who can forget the hilarious Kopieren Sie Nicht Diesen Floppy-Disc! anti-piracy television campaign from the early 1990s? I don’t think that rapping fraulein made anyone think twice about copying computer games, but she did make many of us think once or twice about…blondes with 5.25” disks.