The Perfect Game*
(*user experience may vary)
So, having read and discussed the Sony ToS controversy that says they can no longer be sued, I’ve come to realize that I had absolutely no idea how the law works in the U.S.. I used to think there was a reason that we all followed a single over-arching system to keep things in order, but in hindsight, I was being very naive. I know now that if you have enough lawyers to write you into an impenetrable fortress of legalese, you can make your own laws! Doesn’t that sound like fun? It’s so simple, whatever you want to do, you can just do it! There is only one minor hurdle keeping you from becoming the king you always knew you were: obfuscation.
You need something enticing, like, oh say a fancy treasure chest full of gold (or whatever you have that others may want), and a “gate” of some sort. The gate needs only be a bottleneck to funnel people through to pay admission and jot down their signature on a stack of paper. After they’ve done that, turn em’ loose! As they round the corner toward the magical mcguffin that you’ve laid out for them, club them in the head and take all their money, then throw them out the back. They don’t realize it yet, but they have no one to blame for this unfortunate transaction but themselves. In their haste to view the shiny object they noticed through the window, they neglected to read all 239 pages of the terms of service agreement they signed as they came in. I mean, they paid admission to walk in the door, so the expectation was that they paid for their time in the building, and this is simple capitalism at work. Unfortunately on page 238 was a clause that made every item in the possession of the “visitor” the legal property of the establishment they chose to visit. Fortunately for them, the establishment didn’t have something more malicious in mind, like stealing each individual’s identity, family, right to live, or right to freedom. All in all, the “visitor” should thank their lucky stars that all they wanted was money!
If you’re especially dense, you’re probably wondering, “what does this have to do with the video game industry”? Well, by using the incredible power of the human brain, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m exactly 3 steps from having a billion dollars. I’m here to tell you how simple it is, by virtue of the amazing “slippery slope argument”! Firstly, I need someone who can come up with an outstanding pitch for a first person shooter, preferably something to do with soldiers, and preferably something modern (keep it classy and prestigious too, work the honor angle). They would be responsible for illustrating this idea in both written and verbal formats, as well as expertly creating 12 pre-rendered screenshots and one cg video for the press. Once the press for this “perfect game” is starting to get hot, I will be ready for step two. I will require the assistance of a largely average programmer to create an engaging title screen. The contents of this screen will be largely ornamental with the exception of the “multiplayer” option. Upon selection of this option, we will be ready for step three. Enter my savant of a lawyer who can write an absolute masterpiece of a ToS agreement. It will be effective on a Sisyphean level. For the first time in gaming history, the legalese will be infinitely procedurally generated. The most important clause will always be just out of reach.
What makes this clause so important you ask? Well, it’s importance is two-fold. 1) The “user” may never sue, settle, or get their money back for this “game” and 2) may never discuss the contents of this “game” with others. To break this gag-order will initiate a mandatory $5,500,000 fee and allow the possession of everything the “user” holds dear by
EA the parent company.
You see, the real brilliance here lies in the fact that agreement with the terms of service will simply cause the game to lock up… and if there was to be any issue with that, well, that’s covered in there too. There was never any game, and there never will be. You said that was ok when you signed on to play. You have no rights, you waived them all. If you, the “user” hadn’t come to us trying to play our game, well, we’re normally pretty cool about this kind of stuff, but now that you accepted the terms, we’re really sorry, but our hands are tied.
This is the point where I feel obligated to mention that this article is supposed to be a humorous interpretation of how silly ToS agreements are becoming, and that I’m in no way planning on doing this and I don’t believe that the legal system in the U.S. really works like this (the whole article is intended to be read as hyperbole), it’s just starting to get a bit more shady in my opinion. It shouldn’t need to be stated, but you know, it’s legal stuff…
We all know lawyers do their lawyer-y things everyday, it’s their job, but what exactly is the point of creating amazingly detailed documents with the intention of having people not ever read them? That wouldn’t benefit the company with nothing to hide (there are a handful of those, maybe). Nor would it help to propagate links to the individual lawyers next job, since infractions would be much less commonplace if what constitutes an infraction were clearly laid out and made understandable by all.
I’d like you to keep all of this silly article in mind when you inevitably find yourself in front of the Battlefield 3 beta’s ToS (or whatever else you do, since it will probably also have a ToS), and I’d like you to take the time (as I have) to actually read (just this once) all the words they lovingly took the time to put before you. It will mostly likely take you somewhere around an hour, maybe more, to read through both agreements, but you can do it. I believe in you. Think about all the ways you (as a presumably non-lawyer type) could possibly condense the verbiage EA included in this ToS. There are hundreds (thousands?) of ways this could have been made simpler to read, yet, even with the undoubtedly intelligent, diligent, and meticulous lawyers EA employs, they simply couldn’t do it. Using every skeptical cell your brain may or may not possess, think about the implications of that new-found revelation.