On Pokémon Go, the Philippine release, and why we should probably stow those acro bikes for a bit longer.

We corrected our earlier statement that Pokémon Go was released in Japan. We apologize for the confusion caused by this. Thanks to Krishna Calingacion!

koffingKHAN (lv.4 KOFFING)

For those of you who somehow missed it, Pokémon Go launched last week to a limited release; it being an online thing, Australia and New Zealand are on the list (probably because of the small customer base, making it an ideal testing ground) as well as the USA (One of the biggest markets, no surprise there either.) This being the Pokémon game we’ve all probably been waiting for since we first held those multicolor bricks as kids, it’s no surprise that this was a really big thing.

Unfortunately, the limited release has resulted in a particularly disappointing reaction locally. While this actually isn’t new, we’ve had the misfortune to observe that a lot of releases regarding this news have been less than responsible, and may have actually encouraged some of the more distressing habits of the local playerbase to flare up worse than usual.

We really, really want to play Pokémon Go too, you guys. But here’s a few things to consider on why we should probably sit tight, and wait for the green light on our Pokémon journeys.

zubatADE (Batmanologist Supreme)

I won’t go into the legal reasons why defying Niantic would be a bad idea. I’ll leave that to the others. All I know is that downloading an APK from a random file-sharing site can give you a bad time. For all we know, the Pokémon Go APK that you just downloaded may have been modified, giving you more than just a chance to catch random fictional critters. So yeah, all I’m saying is that you need to hold your horses and wait for the official release from the proper download portals so you can be safe.

psyduckRHENN (Frustrated Psyduck, part-time Team Rocket goon)

“Being the Best” Complex

What seems to be the perennial problem of piracy does not begin (and end) with the implementation of the rather controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Cybercrime Law) that officially took effect in April 2014. Nor did it stop with the recent shut downs of illegal torrenting sites, like how Kickass Torrents (KAT.ph) got itself a few domain shifts per complaints from organizations such as the Philippine Association of Recording Industry (PARI), and how The Pirate Bay, much to its resilience, finally had the last head of its infamous hydra of links cut off.

But alas, here we are, behind the veil of torrenting and downloading when it is convenient. Did you know the Philippines is responsible for the 10th most BitTorrent downloads globally?1 (In 2012, at least).

In fact, countries such as the Philippines had it worse a few decades back. The country was first included in the United States’ piracy watch list in 1989 and has been consistently on the watch list since 1994. The Philippines was only removed from the list2 during the first state visit of United States President Barack Obama in the country, and only through the country’s effort to reinforce intellectual property rights.

People like me were there when pirated CDs were crawling all over Quiapo or Greenhills (they still do), ranging from camera rips of movies, music and video games, despite their respective (and quite legitimate) stores just a few floors or blocks away. And knowing everyone’s incessant need to “be ahead,” questions like “May torrent na ba ‘yan?” (“Is there a torrent for that?”) are now too commonplace it felt like it was part of everyday life. And somehow, Filipinos keep up with statistics.

But is there a need to be afraid? Probably. Definitely. Under the Cybercrime Law,3 acquiring any digital copy of any copyrighted material (illegally) is punishable by a fine between PHP 200,000 to PHP 500,000 and prison time for up to 20 years.

With the implementation of the same law, any crime under the Revised Penal Code is now a cybercrime4 if done through a computer or the internet, again including illegal filesharing. Perhaps in this case, it is important to consider the challenges that kept on blocking the country from implementing a good anti-piracy scheme – and what it tells us about our personality.

But first, a reminder.

Terms and what now?

Why the sudden mention of the Anti-Cybercrime Law? Well, there is this thing called the Terms and Conditions we keep on skipping that might hold some actual importance in the software we download and install in our systems. Apart of those “terms” and “conditions” focus on the distribution of copies of such a software.

Niantic Labs even has one posted on their website5. Niantic Labs says we are obliged to follow these Terms and Conditions by using their services (in short, the game). There is this little part on the above portion of the Terms and Conditions (boy I wonder why they placed such a boring thing among the first things we see?) that says “Rights in App.”

“Niantic grants you a limited nonexclusive, nontransferable, non-sublicensable license to download and install a copy of the App on a mobile device and to run such copy of the App solely for your own personal, noncommercial purposes,” it says.

“Except as expressly permitted in these Terms, YOU MAY NOT: (a) copy, modify, or create derivative works based on the App; (b) distribute, transfer, sublicense, lease, lend, or rent the App to any third party; (c ) reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the App; or (d) make the functionality of the App available to multiple users through any means.”

This also means the game could only be downloaded through an actual “App Provider,” in this case the Apple Store, Google Play, or the Amazon Appstore. Anywhere else is illegal.

With a country such as ours that has an Anti Cybercrime Law in place (and given how many people have complained of its rather “unfair” regulations), what might happen if Niantic Labs decided to sue players who have illegally downloaded the game? Believe it or not, people are actually very capable of tracking down people who have visited websites. What then?

Blocking is perhaps the most merciful punishment we could wait for. Niantic Labs not doing anything is simply god-like, and a bit disappointing given we would not likely learn from such a lesson.

Does the game’s servers have the right to block people from using their games? Of course – other games do IP Bans (and has banned players) all the time. It’s not a rather “unwise” decision, given the game is already on the top of Google Play as of two days ago. It may be perhaps simply a matter of respect to the craft, the game, and the software that provides us what we have wanted for years.

Tolerance?

In her research6 for the Pace International Law Review, Jennifer Vitale said these stems from a few factors:

  • The different mandates for strengthening the intellectual property system has resulted to a “lack of cohesiveness” in government actions
  • There is an “absence of retrievable data and information… on enforcement and prosecution, resulting in lack of transparecy operations, weak follow-through and inadequate facts to guide strategic and tactical operations and policy making
  • Low public awareness and knowledge…” when dealing with piracy; and
  • A “lack of institutional and personnel capacities of the Intellectual Property community (practitioners, enforcers, prosecutors, judges, etc.).”

There are even political and socio-economic values involved. Government scandals and accusations of election fraud may have become justification for some people to not be afraid of breaking the law, and some families even rely on the profits of piracy.

Disregarding elements such as “free” software, and the adamant belief that “everything in the internet is free” (and boy, you have to stop thinking7 incognito is the same as being anonymous – and proxying could only get us so far). Perhaps what is more alarming are the things internet piracy tells us about ourselves.

A dangerous lack of self-control

Self-Control theory is perhaps one of the most popular crime theories (yes, piracy is a crime) ever made, with a key component being low self-control. This is “the time-stable individual difference that regulates behavior.”

Gottfredson and Hirschi explained that individuals with low self-control may have come from environments with ineffective or poor parenting practices before the age of eight. These are from parents who were not consistent in forming an emotional attachment with their child which, in effect, reduces the chance of seeing deviant behavior.

Children – now adults – with low self-control tend to prefer menial tasks, focus on themselves, like physical than mental activities, prefer risky behaviors, and prefer not to control their temper.

“These individuals are more likely to disregard the long-term effects of their decision for themselves and for others,” Gottfredson and Hirschi said, as quoted by George Higgins in his paper8 for the International Journal of Cyber Criminology in 2007.

A good manifestation of a lack of self-control is in criminal behavior, since it shares many characteristics with individuals with low self-control: they are risky, immediately gratifying, easy and simple to perform.

Given the simplicity of maneuvering the internet, digital piracy is “simple and easy to perform.” With just this logic alone, a lot of us could be guilty of lacking the least bit of self-control. What is scarier is that this deviant behavior is actually a good small push towards a life of crime.

And boy, just imagine if President (and Lord Almighty) Rodrigo Duterte suddenly put the crosshairs on digital pirates. Raging about the game will be the least of our concerns.

Of course, with this in mind, the inevitable argument of, “Stop being a hypocrite, it’s not like you’ve never downloaded anything before” will surface (and knowing Filipinos – or maybe “peenoise“, the argument would be more of an extremely aggressive statement, one where more than two profanities would be used), but then again, the Self-Control Theory does raise a few alarms.

A dangerous need for (self?)-gratification

The popularity (and influence) of the video game industry spawned what seems to be a new sub-culture in society, affectionately called the “gamer” subculture. This is easily evidenced by forums, discussion groups, and websites (such as this one) that are dedicated to serve a community of people who call themselves “gamers.”

As time passed, the popularity and prevalence of file sharing has transformed it into a norm of internet culture. People are “expected” (like common courtesy) to share knowledge, experience and software.

Some individuals who modify software and share it to the public often do so not because of profit, but because these activities “provide a feeling of notoriety and prestige.” For some, this is also a form of rebellion, where some individuals make anti-corporate statements. Others? For fun.

“These people do it for fun, because they want to. There is also a sort of Cloak and Dagger element where [groups] try to break and find ways around the newest security features… There is also competition and pride to see which [group] is able to crack and distribute [them] first,” an interviewee from Vitale’s research said.

Gerben Van Kleef and his peers (University of Amsterdam, SAGE Publications) added9 that such a power – and power in general, in this case to modify software – provides an illusion of superiority due to their inclination to be in an environment where they can disrespect rules of social behavior.

“People without power live with threats of punishment and firm limits. Because the powerful are freer to break the rules, it makes them seem more powerful,” the research said. “Norm violators are perceived as having the capacity to act as they please.”

However, this does not eliminate the fact that a lot of us are still law breakers. Just because something makes us feel good, and just because we’re doing it to “help others” does not mean it’s right. This is an entire industry that is also depending on the way we’re supporting them with our funding (the game is free, and the microtransactions are the only things with costs – but the mere fact that we are more than willing to resort to piracy instead of buying the game is alarming), and is simply not just an issue of lending our creative or “moral” support.

primeapeLEANDRO (The Host of Salt)

Well I’m not gonna talk about the issue in legal terms (well maybe a bit), but more of game development, user experience, and a bit of the business aspect. First of all, people who are downloading the game through “questionable means” might just be screwing with the player’s experience in places where the game already officially released. How so you ask? Well the game isn’t out everywhere cause the devs do not have the server space to support all territories yet. So what this does is clog up the servers which could lead to a laggy experience or people being unable to play the game outright due to an overpopulated server. The devs aren’t banning users who acquired the game illegally “just cause”. No, they’re banning these users cause they’re ruining the game for everyone else. This is essentially the same thing Blizzard is doing with Overwatch and cheaters. If a player is caught cheating while playing Overwatch, Blizzard just hardbans you out of the game. Your IP address, your system, your motherboard/pc parts/console/whathaveyou, Blizzard shuts cheaters down HARD. The only to ever play the game again would be to 1) move to a new location, and 2) get an entirely new PC/Console.

Some may think this is a bad business decision by locking out potential customers, but it really isn’t. By securing a good playing experience, they guarantee the satisfaction of their, currently, legitimate user-base, thus giving these users more confidence with these devs, and thus more willing to spend on their games. As I mentioned, it worked for Blizzard (what with 13million Overwatch players right now). Furthermore, we’re talking about Pokemon here, what’s a few bans gonna do to hurt the revenue? Also let’s be real here, if you’re just “acquiring” the game through “sources” there’s a high likelihood you’ll just pirate the game even when the official release comes.

Now, let’s talk about entitlement. Whoever’s downloading this game illegally, isn’t entitled to jack. The devs have every right to just outright ban you device for illegally downloading and playing their game. As I already said, these people are potentially ruining the experience for other people, and probably cause a lot of grief for the devs. I mean, it’s not like the game’s not gonna come out here right? So just be patient, and wait for the official release. This isn’t like Australlia and Hotline Miami. In that case, AUS outright banned the selling of the game in their stores and on Steam and other digital platforms. In response to this, Devolver Digital (Hotline Miami’s Devs) pretty much gave their AUS fans the “OK” to pirate their game. IIRC they even hosted the game on torrent sites themselves. This isn’t the case for Pokemon Go. Just keep your pants on, and wait.

scytherOSIXX (The Lunatic Surgeon)

So, a few days ago, Pokemon GO got released in a few select regions, namely, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Suddenly, my Facebook feed was awash with posts about it and some of them, detailing how to get the app. A few hours after, people were already showing off screenshots of the app and of the Pokemon they had already caught. Honestly, I was a little jealous and was already tempted to download the apk being distributed via third party sites. But what made me decide otherwise? First of all, A friend of mine posted that Niantic was known to suspend or block accounts who accessed their servers from a region where the app wasn’t released yet. Secondly, I wasn’t sure if the apk being distributed was modded or not. So, in the end, I decided to err on the cautious side and wait for the official release.

True enough, Niantic began blocking access from regions where the app wasn’t released yet. What I found funny and irritating is that the people who had downloaded the app, whether by downloading the apk or switching their Play store/App store accounts to US/Australian accounts, were getting salty about not being able to access the game anymore.

I was seeing posts like:

“Niantic is selfish,” or “Niantic is a killjoy.”

Sorry to break it to you, guys, but no, they aren’t. They were just sticking to their protocols for handling new games. Their servers weren’t able to handle the stress of the number of players online, especially because there were more people than they estimated because people from regions where the game wasn’t released yet were logging on. They decided to do a staggered release for a reason, guys and gals.

My point is that we should wait for the Philippine release, just as respect to Niantic and other players.


…So, yeah. We’re just as eager as you to catch ’em all, but it looks like the smart money is that we wait a little bit longer. But hey, it looks like it’ll be worth the wait: we’ve got quite a bit to look forward to, and in the meantime, we’ve got seven generations of Pokémon games to play while we’re waiting.

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orange
orange
Bitten by a radioactive ponkan, Orange now pretends he knows how to internet.

Contributor and person who does the picture things for WAG.
Ade Magnaye on FacebookAde Magnaye on GoogleAde Magnaye on TwitterAde Magnaye on Wordpress
Ade Magnaye
Ade Magnaye
Ade is a bassist who blogs way too much about Doctor Who and Batman.

Check out his blog at Noisy Noisy Man and follow him on Twitter: @AdeMagnaye
Leandro Chan
Leandro Chan
Also known as the saltiest person on the planet. He loves all things geek particularly video games, board games, and anime.
LunaticSurgeon
LunaticSurgeon
When your rage can sunder mountains, only then you may speak to me of passion.

orange

Bitten by a radioactive ponkan, Orange now pretends he knows how to internet. Contributor and person who does the picture things for WAG.

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