Stop Killing Games – Why Care?

Earlier this month the Stop Killing Games campaign launched. It started as a campaign around one particular game – The Crew, which was shut down by publishers. Now, I never played the crew, and don’t miss it, but I still care deeply about the success of this campaign, and here I’ll explain why you should too.

The Stop Killing Games logo - A gamepad that is breaking up and dissolving

In the past, before internet access was ubiquitous, games were sold in a physical fashion. Either on cartridges or storage media like CDs. The meant that once the game was out in the world, the publisher had no ability to interfere with how people played it. It also means that, providing you still have the hardware or a suitable emulator, you could still play those old games today.

But the rise of online game sales has flipped that dynamic. Now the publisher and distributor have an unprecedented level of control over how you interact with your purchase[1]. They can require online connectivity, even for local single player games. They may include DRM or Anti-Cheat systems restricting how the software operates. They can move components of the game online so they can be streamed to players instead of players having all functionality on their own device.

There are many ways the internet and modern technology can be used to enhance games, and many of these decisions are valid business or creative reasons. But…

Killing games is wrong

The fact that internet connectivity and publisher control is present in so many games means that at any moment, a publisher could decide to drop support for a game. The Stop Killing Games campaign is asking for assurances that when you buy a game, you can keep playing it for as long as you want.

If a publisher has decided to drop support then they are effectively wringing their hands of responsibility to manage the game. This is perfectly acceptable as part of the lifecycle of modern technology. But it does not mean that every purchase people make should be rendered unusable.

The default state of a piece of digital media is that it can be read on any supported machine, that it can be copied infinitely, and that it can last forever. You have to go out of your way and put real effort into making something digital that has a limited shelf life. This implies intentionality in the destruction of digital purchases, and because these are purchases, this is either theft or destruction of property.

A Violation of Consumer Rights

If you bought a book from a high street shop, and a year later the publisher sent someone to break into your home and painted over the text in white, leaving you with only a cover and blank pages, I would imagine you would be pretty upset by that. That very much would be a violation of consumer rights.

Consumer rights for video games is a tricky issue. In practice, because no one has ever drawn a large legal challenge, and because this is seemingly not on legislative agendas, it’s not entirely clear whether killing games is a violation of consumer rights. Online sales often carry arcane EULAs[2] because digital consumer rights are unclear. This campaign aims to change that.

There is no reason why we should not apply the same principles of ownership after purchase that apply to physical goods to all digital goods as well. And if we can set a good solid precedent with video games, then that would be a good base to build on for the rest of technology.

I support saving games to save everything

Our lives are increasingly intertwined with technology, whether we want it or not. We need things like strong right to repair legislation – which brings environmental and economic benefits. We need the ability to modify the software and firmware on our devices – which brings us choice and increases the lifespan of our devices. We need assurances that our technology is going to function in the long term.

The death of games also has a cultural impact. Much of the early days of film, television and radio have been lost because they were never archived. A big cultural issue in the UK is the loss of early broadcast television. The only reprieve is when someone finds an old VHS tape in an attic which as a bootleg copy of the original broadcast. Moments like these are celebrated, showing just how much our society values old art. And yet, the nascent online publishing industry is now deliberately destroying art through these kinds of online requirements. Future access to games, ebooks, podcasts, and all art published online may be at risk.

This is important for games, and all digital art, but you might think that is frivolous. If that is the case, imagine the impact all of these issues have on things that undeniably matter. Internet connected medical implants. Security devices in your home. You wouldn’t want to wake up only to find the manufacturer had bricked your prosthetic arm. You wouldn’t want the manufacturer of an internet connected fire alarm to suddenly turn it off when they can’t afford to keep the servers running any more.

This is why I support the Stop Killing Games campaign. Yes, I’m a gamer and want to keep my games for the long term. But I also recognise the opportunity to rally for change and demand much stronger digital consumer rights. This is a powerful starting point and I really want it to succeed and bring about change.

What action can be taken

As of writing, the Stop Killing Games campaign only has two active campaigns. Owners of The Crew can take part in a collective challenge through the French DGCCRF (even if they don’t live in France). And residents in the UK can sign a petition.

The UK petition is not like an ordinary online petition. If it reaches certain targets it can require action of the government. This may not lead to laws being made but it would force them to investigate the issue and get the problem of digital rights on their radar. This petition has now reached the first milestone, and is 10% of the way towards the main goal of demanding an official debate on the issue.

If you would like to know more, you can visit the main campaign page here: Other government petitions will launch soon (hopefully), so you may want to bookmark it or join the mailing list.

And you can sign the UK petition here: – Please share this as widely as you can, and also take some time to explain to people why this issue is so important. The further we can spread this in the public consciousness, the better chance we have of building up a demand for meaningful digital consumer rights.

[] Footnote 1: Older games ran entirely on your machine and did not need the internet to function. Modern games may load data over the internet, or may run parts of it entirely in the cloud. If an online-only game has a connection interruption it may not work. Single player games do not typically need an always-online connection, but some features like leaderboards might need a network connection. Multiplayer games may run over the internet, or they could run “locally” over a single machine or home network.

DRM is a system that controls how users run software. It could require them to “check in” online, such as to prevent piracy. In practice, DRM is often eventually circumvented and has not halted online piracy.

[] Footnote 2: EULA, End User License Agreement. You may have seen these when you try to use something you’ve already purchased like a phone or a game. Despite already having purchased your tech, you get a big legal text you have to agree to before you can use it. These often mean you have to give up certain rights, and it absolves the publisher of responsibilities. The legal status of these documents is unclear.

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