If I type the phrase, "piracy hurts the entertainment industry," several hundred people will, without reading the following words, skip down to the comments and carefully explain that pirates don't actually download music or movies or games unless they weren't going to buy it anyway. Then they'll pull out some studies showing that music downloaders also buy the most music.
But the bottom line is the music industry lost more than half of its sales since downloading became a thing. And, by what I'm sure some of you will say is pure coincidence, PC game sales collapsed in that exact same time period. It has nothing to do with whether you think piracy is wrong, or if you can justify your own personal habits. The black and white numbers say it's factually harder to make money by creating entertainment now.
I guess that's not always a bad thing.
That's bad for you. And you can thank us for getting it started.
It made sense at the time. When I was a kid, buying music was a huge pain in the ass. CDs, cassette tapes and records were expensive as fuck, so you had to be very selective about what you bought. Finding out that a record sucked was like taking a month's worth of allowance out of your wallet, wiping your ass with it and then setting it on fire (you owe my entire generation $20, Motley Crue).
And that's if you could find the album at all; if you lived in a small town, you didn't exactly have a record store on every block. The ones you had were small and basically never had the album you were looking for (try being a small town Midwestern kid in 1989 trying to find a copy of Straight Outta Compton). The rest of your music came from Wal-Mart, who by the way didn't sell the uncensored version of any record, and you usually didn't know that until you got home and played it.
The only words left on an Eazy-E album after censoring were conjunctions.
What I'm trying to say is that price, availability and quality were shit. The music industry was an absolute fucking mess, and we were at the mercy of it.
Until the Internet, and specifically Napster came along.
You mean we can get just the song we want, for free? Well, hell, that's no worse than recording it off the radio. So, we jumped on that shit and never looked back. Then the dam broke. We started downloading PC games, even though that industry had done nothing to wrong us. Yes, it was illegal, but it was illegal in the way that speeding on a country road at night is illegal. You had never met anyone who had actually gotten caught doing it.
Before we knew it, we had created a new reality in which creative content is effectively worthless. Now, kids trade iPod libraries in one swipe, a few gigabytes of songs zipping invisibly over a thin wire in a few seconds -- a library that, once upon a time, would have cost more than your first car.
It looked a lot better before I discovered ramping.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to do that old guy "Back in MY day we APPRECIATED food because we had to KILL IT OURSELVES" thing. I'm saying that we've trained you to expect created works to be free, and that will have the effect of killing off a lot of the coolest stuff. You can snicker and say, "Oh, I REALLY feel bad that the guy who made Transformers 3 won't be able to buy his sixth summer home" but that's the point -- a blockbuster can afford that loss. A cool, risky indie film can't.
See, when piracy hit Hollywood, they didn't stop funding blockbusters -- they stopped funding edgy, creative movies. They're going with safer and safer bets.
Piracy did that. We got that ball rolling, and there is no going back. Instead of Reservoir Dogs, we get Jack & Jill ... and you have no idea how deeply sorry I am for that.
"We're filming the Super Bowl crowd shot today. Bring in Eddie Murphy."
Recently, I noticed some ads on the cartoon channels that my kids watch, urging their viewers to turn off the TV and go outside:
Needless to say, at that moment my oldest son was on the computer, my middle son was playing a video game in his bedroom, and my youngest daughter was watching Adventure Time in the living room (because that show is fucking awesome). When they got bored, they'd switch places. And if I didn't make them take a break from it, they'd do that all weekend without batting an eye. I have to make them go outside like it's a chore, because I know they need the exercise.
Older people talk about how fat you're getting, about childhood obesity and diabetes and how you're all lazy slugs. They imply that back in their day, kids got up and did 50 jump squats every morning just because they enjoyed the sense of pride in their self discipline. But let me let you in on a little secret: We only got exercise because there was nothing fun to do indoors. If they had Modern Warfare multiplayer when I was a kid, we would have played the shit out of it.
"We don't put up with that pussy sniper shit."
Instead, we had three channels on the TV, video games were something rich kids had and there was no Internet. So when we wanted to have fun, we did live-action Modern Warfare, i.e., grabbing plastic toy guns and chasing our friends around the yard pretending to kill each other (and the toy guns back then were awesome, they had magazines and slides you could click back like you were reloading them).
All that running around burned calories. Not because we cared about fitness -- what kid does? -- but because we were waiting for somebody to invent something better. They did, and now we spend so much of our day on our asses that we have to remind ourselves that there are legs below it (no offense, Legless Carl).
Again, it's unquestionably progress -- I wouldn't go back to a time before I could pay all of my bills, catch up on missed episodes of The Office, order a pizza and do all of my work without ever leaving my keyboard. But you kids are also missing something crucial. Not just the great outdoors and swinging into a creek on a rope or tackling somebody into a pile of raked leaves. I'm talking about in-person interaction, away from the grownups, outside the structure of a classroom or organized sport. I'm talking about kids, on their own, getting in trouble and setting things on fire. Kid stuff.
Boys will be boys.
Because why should my kids invite friends over to play? They're all right there, on XBox Live. Why should they go out to a movie? We have Netflix.
We talk a lot on this site about how geek culture has taken over the mainstream and I worry that another part of geek culture -- the social awkwardness and inability to deal with social settings -- is also going to become the norm. We've slowly killed off most of the activities where kids get together with other kids and have fun (and in the process, learn how to interact).
"It's so beautiful out here. I'm so glad I have all my friends with me to witness it."
We didn't do it on purpose. We didn't do any of this on purpose. But you'll suffer for it just the same.
So, uh, sorry about that. Our bad.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Internet Life Lessons Parents Need to Start Teaching Kids and 5 Reasons Life Actually Does Get Better.