The Ugly Truth About Hackers
Recently, Sony slammed the door on Linux on the PS3, which ironically invited in a slew of hackers salivating for a challenge. The hacker community claimed taking functionality away was a call to arms. They wanted to retaliate against the corporate bad guys like in The Matrix.
But what about those other game systems they've hacked? What did Xbox 360, PSP, Wii, or the DS ever do to them? Remove any features? No. Nothing. Yet they are among the most heavily pirated systems right now.
So are these hackers really looking out for the best interests of the consumers? Maybe. But mostly not. It certainly justifies their actions in the public arena and garners them support. But the reason behind hacking is a simple truth that is not much discussed. Considering that the legality of it all lies in favor with Sony, who are the intellectual and copyright holders, hackers are committing felony by taking away profits from them and account for untold losses in sales. That is why hackers take on the Robin Hood persona in order to gain endorsement and validation from the public.
This is not to say that the existence of hackers is devoid of any benefit. Far from it. Now I'm not talking about getting free games here, although the public mistakenly perceives that as the sole purpose of hackers. It is not. It may be a small motivating force and the impact is undeniably enormous, but believe or not, hackers do what they do for deeper reasons. They are not here for the freeloaders. Their work does open the door to piracy, the negative consequences of which are constantly portrayed in the media, but hackers themselves do not profit from piracy.
For some hackers, their reward is notoriety. There may be those out there that honestly want to rally against corporate greed. But let's lay out the truth -- the simple and greatest motivation for hacking is simply the challenge and experience they get from cracking these seemingly unhackable systems. These accomplishments may translate into real jobs with the very same game companies they've "rebelled" against.
Hackers (a broad term I'll use to include homebrew programmers) provide an unheralded service to game companies that isn't readily nor officially recognized. They are the world's ultimate beta-testers, bug-finders, innovators, and super computer programmers that normal and legal avenues of talent search will not find. Corporate job head hunters can't post hacking skills in their job descriptions, but they sure can scour the internet (and essentially the world) for the 1 or 5th percentile of super intelligent programming geniuses and recruit them for work at Sony, MS, or Nintendo.
The ugly truth is that hackers have advanced the game industry. For all the damages they've done, they have repaid it by dragging game corporations into the digital age. Where would downloadable games and DLC be, without the homebrew and emulation scene? Where will voice chat, friends lists, and all those other features you've grown to love on Xbox LIVE be without the hackers? Save states were a common feature on emulators long before PSP finally implemented their version in a recent firmware update.
Does Sony have a right to take away features from PS3? Some may say yes -- a necessary evil to combat piracy. Low game sales kills your favorite game studios and independents. Microsoft regularly takes out the ban hammer instead of stripping any functionality though. It is certainly within each corporation's power to protect themselves however they see fit, but morally it is a gray area and may be a legal issue in of itself, one that likely will never be challenged in the court of law in a civil action suit, but does damage their credibility with consumers. Will taking out Linux work? No. What they have done is issue a challenge to hackers. Any everybody loves a challenge!
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