Abandonwarez: the pros outweigh the cons

Posted by Jeremiah Kauffman.
First posted on 24 July 2000. Last updated on 10 September 2013.
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Warning! The views expressed in the following article are those of the author alone and not of this website.
When a person creates something, whether that creation is a building, a novel, a poem, a song, or a film, that person is doing so for 2 reasons. First, that person is satisfying a personal desire to create. It is not possible to point out exactly what it is that drives creation, but if you ask someone who creates the answer you probably receive is that it is somewhat like an itch that demands to be scratched. Ideas float through the head that must become reality, and the seasoned creator knows just how to turn these ideas into reality and which are actually worthy of the process. Second, that person creates so others may experience and possibly enjoy the creation. Every creation requires an audience and it is not enough for some creators to capture the attention of merely contemporary audiences. Some creators wish for their creations a prosperous life so that hundreds of generations after their deaths people are still experiencing them.

Here is where abandonwarez enters the picture.

Most forms of media are guaranteed a long life, especially books. The unfortunate thing about computer games is that they have only recently begun to find a popular audience, and all the newcomers to the computer gaming scene—specifically, the adventure gaming scene—are unaware of the great treasures which have once existed and do not undoubtedly care less. Unlike books which continue to be reprinted over and over long after their debut release, older computer games are inevitably lost and forgotten without the voluntary help of individual collectors because the computer industry is technology driven and computer games are unrecognized as valuable past their prime as classic novels and old films are considered. This especially threatens the adventure gaming genre, seeing as the majority of these old games is constituted by adventure games.

When I speak of abandonwarez, I am sure that most readers are familiar with the concept. For anyone who is not, I shall explain it briefly. Abandonwarez trading is the illegal trading of computer games which have not been seen on the shelf of a single computer store for ages and yet still retain a copyright which prevents unauthorized distribution. Abandonwarez are games so old that they cannot even be found in the bargain bin. The defense of people who trade abandonwarez is that they are pirating games with a relatively nil market value. I am not going to go too deeply into the issue of pirating itself, since I think that is not what is most important here, but I must say that the defense sounds reasonable. The computer industry does not endorse older games, nor does it continue to stock the shelves of computer stores with these games. There are those like myself and others who have grown up with these older games and may go to the trouble of specially ordering these games directly from the company, if the company even produces the game anymore! Yet, for anyone who is not around when these games are first released, their existence is invariably unknown and the game companies can never hope to extract any profit from them. In the end, however, I prefer that computer companies agree with the abandonwarez view and even support it (it does happen very rarely; for example, Sierra On-Line has released Red Baron and Betrayal of Krondor as freeware), and that is why an article like this must exist.

Sometimes I think about the world in which my children are growing up. I have been playing adventure games since 7 years old and they have had a profound effect on my development as a person. I play them when the realm of computer gaming has been mostly reserved for the nerdier types (although I do not really consider myself a nerd), and I always feel like my experience with adventure games so young has given me an edge over the other children who are too busy being groomed for a pop culture related social life. I want my children to have the same I have had and this is why I so strongly support abandonwarez—prosperity!

By now you may be wondering whether I am discussing abandonwarez to the point of overshadowing adventure games, but that is not the case at all. Most adventure games are abandonwarez, so when I speak in favor of saving abandonwarez I am speaking of the protection of some of the best adventure games ever to be programmed. The issue is about archiving the past and making all those great games easily accessible to those who come after us.

When a ship is sinking, people escape that ship and leave it behind; when a building is burning, people escape the building and allow it to burn to the ground. The classics are huddled right now in sinking ships and burning buildings—copies of them are limited and the Floppy Disks and CDs which they inhabit are destined to some day be lost or deteriorate. Like endangered people, the data on this media must be allowed to escape and take shelter in the large expanse of the internet, allowing volunteers for the cause to build collections, trade collections, and maintain collections at any cost. Under the regulations of the computer industry, however, these classics are condemned to die, and some day when people think of computer games the term "adventure game" is going to either be a part of a vestigial game vocabulary or some unholy game hybrid which includes terms such as "action/adventure", "RPG/adventure", "action/RPG/adventure", or some other abominable combination.

The question is whether or not you care if your children ever know about a little thing called Space Quest. Even if you belong to the optimistic group of people who believe the adventure game genre may soon pull itself out of its cadaverous state, the fact remains that the computer industry is not taking measures to ensure that the games which have made them what they are today are recognized and enjoyed in the next few decades. Individual collectors of original copies are only a partial solution. Free trade of abandonwarez over the internet ensures a loftier home for the adventure elders and it makes it easier for the unseasoned gamer to stumble upon them. Otherwise, how can we expect there to ever again be a market for adventure games in the future? If the classics are forgotten then people is going to quit demanding quality adventure games, and, instead, they are going to be brainwashed into buying the sort of hi-tech, 3D, graphic show which computer game companies, like the movie industry, use to flood the market with products which contain more package than they do substance.

The movie industry has been around for more than 80 years, literature has existed since humanity becomes civilized, and we have been making music ever since we can stand upright. The computer game—and most importantly, the adventure game—however, is an infant medium which has not been with us much more than 25 years. In that short amount of time it has already learned the same commercialistic corruption which taints every other medium in today's society, and if the classics, the greatest intellectual feats of the medium which prove it has a serious side, removing it from the derogatory term "video game", are allowed to become forgotten, then the computer game—the adventure game—is destined to die an unfortunate and premature death.

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