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Digital Rights Management Explained As Soup

Soup NaziHave you heard about the new SimCity's always-on Internet requirement?  While touted as a gameplay feature, it's also a handy form of digital rights management.  It's also causing problems for some players.  Sometimes it's a challenge to describe why digital rights management is such an annoyance.  I love a good metaphor, so when I read this explanation of how DRM works by comparing it to ordering soup at a restaurant written by a Reddit user going by the name of SeductiveMango, I knew I had to share it with you all.  It's succinct and outlines why DRM ends up impacting those who legitimately buy games more than those who pirate them.  Also, now I want soup.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, which is basically a way for a game company to make sure that the people who are playing the game actually paid for it. DRM isn't bad in of itself, in fact it's understandable as to why it exists. The problem is when that DRM prevents us from enjoying the game we purchased. DRM that requires a constant internet connection is one such DRM.

Imagine you go out to buy some soup (a game). Now depending on where you go, you will often get the choice of ordering the soup for take-away (singleplayer) or decide to eat there at the restaurant (multiplayer). Let's say that you enjoy sitting at home to eat your soup, so usually you just go to the register where you order a bowl of chicken noodle and they hand you a receipt (DRM). You then proceed to show that receipt to the server who then gives you your soup since you have proof that you bought it and you go on your merry way.

Now the DRM that is in this version of SimCity would be akin to being forced to eat your chicken noodle at that restaurant. Sure you can go sit in the corner, eat there, and not talk to anyone. But you came in a pair of pjs with a rip in the crotch, so you much rather be home. The restaurant tells you at the counter that they will be serving your soup to you at your table one spoonful at a time, and if you do not recite your receipt number when they come to you with each and every spoonful, they will assume you did not pay and kick you out of the restaurant (You must stay online to prove that you paid. If you get disconnected, they will assume you didn't pay and kick you out of the game).

Now they say that they do this service for everyone just in case someone doesn't have the ability to feed themselves (calculations are done server-side so people with out of date computers can play the game). So you appreciate the gesture, but you feel that you are more than capable of feeding yourself. A couple bites in, you find that the carrots that are usually found in chicken noodle are nowhere to be found. You ask the server and he says that the carrots were prepared that the same as the soup and if you'd like, he can go ahead and add them for an extra charge (day one dlc/micro transactions). You begin to suspect that this may have been an attempt by the restaurant to make you pay more for the soup, as you probably could have just added carrots at home (game modding). A bit of time later, your friend Jonathan come over and gets some soup. The soup is now cold, so they have sold it to him at a lower price (discounts due to the age of a game). He goes to sit down and receives two spoonfuls of soup when the manager decides to kick everyone out and that they will not be selling that style of chicken noodle again (servers for the game are closing). Everyone who is there is complaining that they still wanted soup, and the manager says to come tomorrow when they will have a new recipe of chicken noodle that features white meat instead of dark meat (SimCity 2 with any improvements it comes with). While people start saying how much better white meat is for you, you will always miss having your dark meat chicken noodle. And you end the day thinking "If I was able to bring a bowl home with me, I'd be able to eat leftovers tomorrow..."

Meanwhile, the pirates are at home eating their ill-gotten soup and laughing it up after smuggling a cup of it out of the restaurant when nobody was watching.  While that is going on, indie game developers are making their own soup and selling it under fairer terms which allow you to at least feed yourself outside of the restaurant.  Sometimes they even give away the recipe/source code!  Now that's just souper.