Pause Button is an online publication about technology and culture published by the Milieux Institute at Concordia University in Montreal. The digital magazine aspires to produce high quality writing about technology and culture in a Canadian context, taking advantage of the connections and resources available within Milieux’s various research clusters.
For their fifth issue, Who’s User Experience?, I contributed a short article about the rights of players to own the games in their digital libraries. Entitled Ephemeral Games and Ambiguous Rights, I use the infamous Nostalrius World of Warcraft server as a case study to explore the limits of DRM and how players are negotiating ownership within online marketplaces. I’ve included a short excerpt of my piece below:
Since the advent of digital marketplaces, however, the idea of ownership has become somewhat enigmatic. Although new technologies offer us unprecedented access to game assets and algorithms – something that was nearly unheard of in the hard plastic days – sprawling End User License Agreements (EULA) and stringent Digital Rights Management (DRM) software are contesting and restricting our ownership. Browsing through a games library on Blizzard or Steam feels more like surfing the web than sifting through a collection. Every title has gained an amorphous quality, changing constantly through iterative patches and updates. In many ways we’ve relinquished control over the games we have purchased, as developers can add or subtract content on a whim. This raises a troubling question: do we even own the games that we play?