Question Concerning Ethics and Gaming

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f13ticket
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Joined: 12/30/2009

I have ran my computer on Free Software Operating Systems for many years and enjoy them. They are intuitive and customizable in ways Non-Free cannot be. But beyond practical benefit is the ethic of freedom.

I have also researched Stallman's views on Copyright and Community and find them very enlightening. I too feel that copyright has overstepped its original scope and no longer aims to fulfill its constitutional mission.

However, I do have some questions for clarification on video games. I am a huge video game fan and have been sense I was about three. I have owned at least one console from each generation sense the NES and enjoy video games a lot.

However, I have only seldom heard a clear viewpoint on Free Software, copyright, and video games. Where I have heard views they have usually been rather brief.

Richard had made a point that is logical; and divided artful content from gaming engine. If I am understanding him correctly, he stated that the software that runs the game should be Free Software and that the art (such as graphics and music) can be treated differently.

In practice, I have seen many Free Software Games either be both under the GNU GPL or have their engine under the GNU GPL and their art under a different license.

Video games, especially now days, are very large productions. They have as much or more in common with making a digital movie such as Toy Story than they do with their ancestors such as Pong and Pac-Man.

They are very expensive to make, requiring voice talent, music talent, 3D graphic artists; as well as the people doing coding on the engine for the game play.

Companies expect to make a profit and Free Software is not about denying them this. In fact, Free Software brings with it a free market. Further, this is such a clear distinction that the arcade emulator MAME is not considered Free Software because it does not allow for commercial use.

There is a third option outside of instantly making all of the game Free Software or making only the engine instantly Free Software. This option was, as far as I can tell, pioneered by ID Software with their hit video game Doom. It is the model of releasing the engines and the games on them as Non-Free until a new engines and new games are developed. This process takes usually about seven years. Then, after the new engine is released, they re-license the old engine as Free Software.

This allows ID Software to profit from games it makes on its engine, as well as profit from licensing the use of its engine out to other companies so that they can make games with it too. By the time about seven years goes by, technology has advanced as such that it is time to create a new engine for new games. As such, releasing a seven year old engine as Free Software should have no commercial disadvantage. Or, in other words, the company shouldn't be able to be outdone by other companies should other companies choose to re-purpose seven year old work.

This is similar to the point in Stallman's speech called Copyright Versus Community that copyright for different types of media should have different lengths. Books for instance should start with ten years; whereas movies would be fine at twenty. To me, video games should be somewhere starting at seven years and maybe going to twenty years.

However, I have come to a difficult place. Most video games are not made for “PCs.” They are made for video game consoles. Outside of Blizzard games, the PC Market as far as I can tell has basically died. Most gamers seem content with seeing their computer as the tool for work and other media and their video game console for play. Yet, to be honest, a video game console is a computer just that same as a PC is. Just like a smart phone or a tablet computer are all computers.

This is a point that Sony and others seems to want to fight against, and its is awful how they have been restricting users from installing whatever software they want on their PS3. It is especially ironic considering that the PS3 did have an option to easily allow just that. And then they take the option away and go after someone trying to restore it. I was shocked when I read this on Defective by Design. While doubtless the hardware is still a computer and should be free for its users to install whatever software they wish on it; I do have a question of distinction over video games themselves.

In Stallman's speech called Copyright Versus Community he spoke about how copyright should not necessarily be divided by the type of media but rather by its purpose. A book that is a practical work, for doing a job, should be free to modify. Such as manuals, cook books, and instructions. Whereas books for pure entertainment are different. Richard placed them in a category where they should be allowed to be modified after a period of time. He said that he struggled with whether or not they should be able to be modified; and weighed artistic integrity of the original work against artist benefits derived from the folk process.

I am still young and have only been researching and using Free Software for about five or so years. I am always learning that there is more to learn. But there is a question that keeps nagging at me. Should video games be Free Software?

Perhaps the logical divide on video games would be better drawn not between the game's engine and its art. Perhaps the logical divide should be between software that is for a practical use and that which is for entertainment.

VLC and other software should be Free Software; because even though it is a media player it is also a platform for communication. Thus; the software to edit and view audio and video should be Free Software because it is for the practical work of communication. And the programs that make up an Operating System, Office Suit, and so forth should be Free Software too. They all do a practical job. Having any software that is designed to do a practical job not be Free Software is inexcusable as it takes freedom away from its users and impedes their daily work and lives.

But what harm comes from a video game not giving its users freedom? Why should a video game be Free Software at all? A video game is not an Operating System, pixel based image editor, or anything like that. It does not do a practical work. It's only purpose is that of entertainment and art. If I buy a Non-Free video game; what freedom concerning my ability to do a practical work have I lost?

If my Operating System is not free I can be spied on. People can deny me the ability to open certain files. I can not modify something (software) that I use to keep personal records and do daily tasks in life and in work. Restricting my use of all computing, truly, and making me a surf to corporations. However, if my video game is not free; I do not have the ability to decide how high Mario can jump.

The philosophy and ethics of Free Software are perfect and essential freedoms for software that does a practical job. For software that is a tool; tools we use in our lives and live by. But, is it wrong to view Free Software as not a best fit for software that is purely for entertainment value? Just as copyright should apply to different works for different lengths of time and with different restrictions based on the purpose of the work; perhaps Free Software should apply to software as a tool (basically any software that is not a video game) and a different ethic should apply to software that is only for artistic and or entertainment value.

I could not imagine feeling secure or free running my computer on anything that is not Free Software. I have sold my old video games and their consoles; and tried to adjust to just Free Software games. I miss the characters of the non-free games. Also, and not to be mean, but most Free Software games are not on the level of modern Non-Free games. Most Free Software games are doing now what was new back in the 90s to early 2000s. They really have nothing comparable to modern gaming.

What I want to do is be able to say that I support Free Software, run it on my computers, and be able to buy and enjoy video games on modern consoles. But is this a hypocritical desire? I guess my questions to evaluate this situation are twofold.

1: Should the ethic of Free Software apply to all software indiscriminately; or only to software that is for a practical use?

2: What freedom do I loose if I purchase and play a non-free video game?

My goal here is to see if my desire is logically sound or contradictory.

Thank you and I am eager to read responses.

quiliro@congresolibre.org
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Joined: 10/28/2010

> I guess my questions to evaluate this situation are twofold.
>
> 1: Should the ethic of Free Software apply to all software
> indiscriminately; or only to software that is for a practical use?

It is practical to be entertained. Don't you think so?

>
> 2: What freedom do I loose if I purchase and play a non-free video game?
>

You cannot install it on as many consoles as you like (if you can or
find somebody who can).
You cannot modify the game for your own likes (if you can or find
somebody who can).
You cannot give or sell the software to anyone you want.
You cannot give or sell the software you modified to anyone you want.

> My goal here is to see if my desire is logically sound or contradictory.

It is great to search for knowledge. It is everywhere and nobody should
tell you not to get it and do whatever you want with it even if it is
solely for entertainment. Entertainment is a bussiness in itself so it
could be considiered practical from that sense too.
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cladelpino
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Joined: 05/02/2010

2011/5/2 <name at domain>:
> I have ran my computer on Free Software Operating Systems for many years and
> enjoy them. They are intuitive and customizable in ways Non-Free cannot be.
> But beyond practical benefit is the ethic of freedom.
>
> I have also researched Stallman's views on Copyright and Community and find
> them very enlightening. I too feel that copyright has overstepped its
> original scope and no longer aims to fulfill its constitutional mission.
>
> However, I do have some questions for clarification on video games. I am a
> huge video game fan and have been sense I was about three. I have owned at
> least one console from each generation sense the NES and enjoy video games a
> lot.
>
> However, I have only seldom heard a clear viewpoint on Free Software,
> copyright, and video games. Where I have heard views they have usually been
> rather brief.
>
> Richard had made a point that is logical; and divided artful content from
> gaming engine. If I am understanding him correctly, he stated that the
> software that runs the game should be Free Software and that the art (such
> as graphics and music) can be treated differently.
>
> In practice, I have seen many Free Software Games either be both under the
> GNU GPL or have their engine under the GNU GPL and their art under a
> different license.
>
> Video games, especially now days, are very large productions. They have as
> much or more in common with making a digital movie such as Toy Story than
> they do with their ancestors such as Pong and Pac-Man.
>
> They are very expensive to make, requiring voice talent, music talent, 3D
> graphic artists; as well as the people doing coding on the engine for the
> game play.
>
> Companies expect to make a profit and Free Software is not about denying
> them this. In fact, Free Software brings with it a free market. Further,
> this is such a clear distinction that the arcade emulator MAME is not
> considered Free Software because it does not allow for commercial use.
>
> There is a third option outside of instantly making all of the game Free
> Software or making only the engine instantly Free Software. This option was,
> as far as I can tell, pioneered by ID Software with their hit video game
> Doom. It is the model of releasing the engines and the games on them as
> Non-Free until a new engines and new games are developed. This process takes
> usually about seven years. Then, after the new engine is released, they
> re-license the old engine as Free Software.
>
> This allows ID Software to profit from games it makes on its engine, as well
> as profit from licensing the use of its engine out to other companies so
> that they can make games with it too. By the time about seven years goes by,
> technology has advanced as such that it is time to create a new engine for
> new games. As such, releasing a seven year old engine as Free Software
> should have no commercial disadvantage. Or, in other words, the company
> shouldn't be able to be outdone by other companies should other companies
> choose to re-purpose seven year old work.
>
> This is similar to the point in Stallman's speech called Copyright Versus
> Community that copyright for different types of media should have different
> lengths. Books for instance should start with ten years; whereas movies
> would be fine at twenty. To me, video games should be somewhere starting at
> seven years and maybe going to twenty years.
>
> However, I have come to a difficult place. Most video games are not made for
> “PCs.” They are made for video game consoles. Outside of Blizzard games, the
> PC Market as far as I can tell has basically died. Most gamers seem content
> with seeing their computer as the tool for work and other media and their
> video game console for play. Yet, to be honest, a video game console is a
> computer just that same as a PC is. Just like a smart phone or a tablet
> computer are all computers.
>
> This is a point that Sony and others seems to want to fight against, and its
> is awful how they have been restricting users from installing whatever
> software they want on their PS3. It is especially ironic considering that
> the PS3 did have an option to easily allow just that. And then they take the
> option away and go after someone trying to restore it. I was shocked when I
> read this on Defective by Design. While doubtless the hardware is still a
> computer and should be free for its users to install whatever software they
> wish on it; I do have a question of distinction over video games themselves.
>
> In Stallman's speech called Copyright Versus Community he spoke about how
> copyright should not necessarily be divided by the type of media but rather
> by its purpose. A book that is a practical work, for doing a job, should be
> free to modify. Such as manuals, cook books, and instructions. Whereas books
> for pure entertainment are different. Richard placed them in a category
> where they should be allowed to be modified after a period of time. He said
> that he struggled with whether or not they should be able to be modified;
> and weighed artistic integrity of the original work against artist benefits
> derived from the folk process.
>
> I am still young and have only been researching and using Free Software for
> about five or so years. I am always learning that there is more to learn.
> But there is a question that keeps nagging at me. Should video games be Free
> Software?
>
> Perhaps the logical divide on video games would be better drawn not between
> the game's engine and its art. Perhaps the logical divide should be between
> software that is for a practical use and that which is for entertainment.
>
> VLC and other software should be Free Software; because even though it is a
> media player it is also a platform for communication. Thus; the software to
> edit and view audio and video should be Free Software because it is for the
> practical work of communication. And the programs that make up an Operating
> System, Office Suit, and so forth should be Free Software too. They all do a
> practical job. Having any software that is designed to do a practical job
> not be Free Software is inexcusable as it takes freedom away from its users
> and impedes their daily work and lives.
>
> But what harm comes from a video game not giving its users freedom? Why
> should a video game be Free Software at all? A video game is not an
> Operating System, pixel based image editor, or anything like that. It does
> not do a practical work. It's only purpose is that of entertainment and art.
> If I buy a Non-Free video game; what freedom concerning my ability to do a
> practical work have I lost?
>
> If my Operating System is not free I can be spied on. People can deny me the
> ability to open certain files. I can not modify something (software) that I
> use to keep personal records and do daily tasks in life and in work.
> Restricting my use of all computing, truly, and making me a surf to
> corporations. However, if my video game is not free; I do not have the
> ability to decide how high Mario can jump.
>
> The philosophy and ethics of Free Software are perfect and essential
> freedoms for software that does a practical job. For software that is a
> tool; tools we use in our lives and live by. But, is it wrong to view Free
> Software as not a best fit for software that is purely for entertainment
> value? Just as copyright should apply to different works for different
> lengths of time and with different restrictions based on the purpose of the
> work; perhaps Free Software should apply to software as a tool (basically
> any software that is not a video game) and a different ethic should apply to
> software that is only for artistic and or entertainment value.
>
> I could not imagine feeling secure or free running my computer on anything
> that is not Free Software. I have sold my old video games and their
> consoles; and tried to adjust to just Free Software games. I miss the
> characters of the non-free games. Also, and not to be mean, but most Free
> Software games are not on the level of modern Non-Free games. Most Free
> Software games are doing now what was new back in the 90s to early 2000s.
> They really have nothing comparable to modern gaming.
>
> What I want to do is be able to say that I support Free Software, run it on
> my computers, and be able to buy and enjoy video games on modern consoles.
> But is this a hypocritical desire? I guess my questions to evaluate this
> situation are twofold.
>
> 1: Should the ethic of Free Software apply to all software indiscriminately;
> or only to software that is for a practical use?
>
> 2: What freedom do I loose if I purchase and play a non-free video game?
>
> My goal here is to see if my desire is logically sound or contradictory.
>
> Thank you and I am eager to read responses.
>

My point of view is that, while I would strongly like to live in a
community where software used by the ruling of said community (aka
"goverment", "state") should be free, the use of free software in the
private environment remains a personal choice.

The benefits of having free software for a community are as obvious
and inmense for both games and what you call "practical" software
(this is a division that would require a discussion by itself).

But, in last instance, the person who looses his freedoms is you, and
that is a voluntary act over which I have no interest in intervening
.
I loose the benefits of you putting pressure on companies and
supporting the development of free games, but that is a very residual
loss for me.

I think you should reformulate if you have been suficiently exposed to
the benefits of free software / free culture. Perhaps you value
different aspects of these than I do.

Which ones do you value ?

Regards,
Claudio

quiliro@congresolibre.org
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Joined: 10/28/2010

I suggest you read my article on bussiness models on
http://quiliro.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/software-libre-o-privativo-la-de...
It is in spanish but you can translate it with apertium-tolk

sudo aptitude apertium-tolk apertium-en-es

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Michał Masłowski

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Most texts so informative and long which I see don't contain interesting
questions.

> I am still young and have only been researching and using Free
> Software for about five or so years. I am always learning that there
> is more to learn. But there is a question that keeps nagging at
> me. Should video games be Free Software?

There is no problem in writing/using any free software, I interpret your
question as "should all video games which we write or play be free
software?".

> Perhaps the logical divide on video games would be better drawn not
> between the game's engine and its art. Perhaps the logical divide
> should be between software that is for a practical use and that which
> is for entertainment.

I'm not sure if there is software for entertainment on which no software
for practical use could be based (ignoring code quality or licensing
problems).

> But what harm comes from a video game not giving its users freedom?

Any program in a system like Unix or GNU can do many bad things like
removing user's files or sending spam. If using a nonfree program you
cannot learn what it does or change it to do what you want. And if
others cannot share it with you, their opinions if it does these bad
things is less helpful for it.

(Technically, you can use a single-purpose virtual machine with no
network access to play a game avoiding most security issues, I believe
it won't work well with a modern nonfree game.)

> Why should a video game be Free Software at all? A video game is not
> an Operating System, pixel based image editor, or anything like
> that. It does not do a practical work. It's only purpose is that of
> entertainment and art. If I buy a Non-Free video game; what freedom
> concerning my ability to do a practical work have I lost?

Many algorithms used in games could be useful in practical programs.

Some modern games support some network communication with other players,
it has a more practical use.

> If my Operating System is not free I can be spied on. [...] However,
> if my video game is not free; I do not have the ability to decide how
> high Mario can jump.

And it can spy on you and do other bad things.

> 1: Should the ethic of Free Software apply to all software
> indiscriminately; or only to software that is for a practical use?

Some security issues don't depend on software use. Free software can be
modified for unforeseen uses.

> 2: What freedom do I loose if I purchase and play a non-free video game?

Freedom to share it among your machines and your friends, freedom to
learn how it works and adapt it for other uses, maybe sharing the changes.

> My goal here is to see if my desire is logically sound or
> contradictory.

Depending on what your desire is, it possibly could be done without
using nonfree software, e.g. playing games with free engines and free or
nonfree data.

tului

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While their engines aren't free software, Paradox Interactive's games, at least the grand strategy ones I play have nearly all of their data in text or LUA text files. It's created a huge modding community where they often fix and find bugs. I hope one day they'll actually move to make the engines free as well, but I don't know if that will ever happen.

arielenter

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> ...Also, and not to be mean, but most Free Software games are
> not on the level of modern Non-Free games. Most Free Software games are doing
> now what was new back in the 90s to early 2000s. They really have nothing
> comparable to modern gaming.

I started using free software about 5 years ago. It has been relatively
easy so far because of the efforts and work of all the people fighting
for their freedom in the past. I love video games too, maybe is our turn
to fight for our freedom. It is true, we are far behind, but if we
contribute and help as much as we can, we will catch up.

I saw this video the other day and I'll like to share it and hear your
opinions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ct36u8RPIU

Good bye.

robsanchezjr (non verificado)
robsanchezjr

Nice share!

quiliro@congresolibre.org
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Joined: 10/28/2010

El 02/05/11 17:12, ariel escribió:
>> ...Also, and not to be mean, but most Free Software games are
>> not on the level of modern Non-Free games. Most Free Software games are doing
>> now what was new back in the 90s to early 2000s. They really have nothing
>> comparable to modern gaming.
> I started using free software about 5 years ago. It has been relatively
> easy so far because of the efforts and work of all the people fighting
> for their freedom in the past. I love video games too, maybe is our turn
> to fight for our freedom. It is true, we are far behind, but if we
> contribute and help as much as we can, we will catch up.
>
> I saw this video the other day and I'll like to share it and hear your
> opinions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ct36u8RPIU
>
> Good bye.
>
>

I couldn't watch it.

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Michał Masłowski

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>> I saw this video the other day and I'll like to share it and hear your
>> opinions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ct36u8RPIU
[...]
> I couldn't watch it.

It should work with most programs for downloading YouTube videos (tested
with WatchVideo) except for TinyOgg (already reported this bug).

arielenter

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About the art and media, I share the ideas of the
http://freedomdefined.org/Definition . But that's just a personal idea.

Magic Banana

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Whatever the "content" (software, art, manifesto, etc.), the public should be given the freedom 0 (use as you wish) and 2 (share unmodified copies and I am here talking about non-commercial sharing). Commercial video games do not satisfy the second point and that is bad: sharing is one of the basis of a society!

quiliro@congresolibre.org
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El 02/05/11 20:11, name at domain escribió:
> Whatever the "content" (software, art, manifesto, etc.), the public
> should be given the freedom 0 (use as you wish) and 2 (share
> unmodified copies and I am here talking about non-commercial sharing).
> Commercial video games do not satisfy the second point and that is
> bad: sharing is one of the basis of a society!
>
Free (as in freedom) software games can also be commercial. When there
is no monopoly there can be commerce in an ethical way. People are free
to share as well as to sell.

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tului

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As Quiliro above stated, commercial games can be ethical. Again I'll mention Paradox Interactive. Their games come with absolutely no DRM. Merely a serial number you register for their forums with. You can't access the support sub-forum without it. Sure people use it for free, but they don't gain the official communities support knowledgebase. Win on both sides.

I'm honestly not a shill for PI either, I just really enjoy their games and think their business practices are some of the best in an industry dominated by vile companies like EA and terrible software like Steam.

Magic Banana

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You are right. I should have written: "most" video games cannot be copied and shared with your friends and that is unethical.

gobusto

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For a long time, I tried to convince myself that games were an exception to the Free Software philosophy, because they were for entertainment value and were not really a "tool" as such. However, there are several reasons why I feel unhappy about this.

Firstly, these programs cannot be altered or shared with friends - something of an anti-social idea, given the multiplayer nature of many games.

Secondly, Digital Restrictions Management. There is never an excuse for this.

Thirdly, these "non-tool" programs can sometimes be used as tools.

As for the comparative lack of Free games, I'm of the opinion that this is mainly due to a lack of media rather than a lack of time/money. A programmer might create an excellent game engine, but lack the necessary textures, meshes, music, or sound effects required for it to actually work and/or look presentable.

This last point is one reason why I was overjoyed to discover the Open Game Art project, and also why I mention Open Game Art dot org at every opportunity I get.

Additionally, projects that aim to replace the original media files of a game with Free equivalents can sometimes be raided for media files, although this should probably be avoided unless we want to end up seeing the same things being re-used over and over in every single game. "Oh, hey, it's wall texture #27 again."

There are several excellent APIs available to the bedroom programmer, and a GNU/Linux system is certainly capable of running 2D games, at least. Using either Nouveau or the Intel graphics drivers, 3D rendering is just as viable - even older systems that lack shader functionality can produce some nice effects with a bit of craftiness.

Coders who want to make games will do so - not because they are getting paid for it, but because they enjoy it.

Magic Banana

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I completely agree with you when it comes to the freedom to use the game as you wish (hence no DRM) and the freedom to share it with your friends (and that is the test most advanced games fail to pass). I do also believe (although I am not 100% sure) that the engine of a game should be Free software.

However, when it comes to the artistic content (the textures, the sounds, the storyline, etc), I do not see why the user not having the freedom to change them may feel restricted. I mean: do you feel restricted because you cannot change the book you are reading, the picture you are watching or the song your are listening? If you are not only a user (well, for artistic content, "public" or "audience" looks more appropriate) but also an artist, you may think of the wonders you could do by improving upon the artistic work of somebody else. However I believe Free software is abut giving freedoms to the users and so should be the free art. Of course, if the author wants her work to be freely modifiable, she has to be able to do so (e.g., using a Creative Commons license without the ND clause). And of course, in the long term, the artistic content should become freely modifiable so that other artists can reuse/improve it. And when I write "long-term" I do not mean 70 years, which is completely stupid given the commercial life-time of the great majority of the artistic contents, but 10 years or so.

f13ticket
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True, video game should be Free Software. Thank you.

arielenter

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When I see things like this I just feel sad:
http://www.defectivebydesign.org/nintendo
And then I realize why is so important to support free software gaming.

slackjaw
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Thanks for the link, arielenter. I had heard of the "brick nintendo" campaign but hadn't read the details until now. Those terms are ridiculous. I agree with you.