Monday, December 10, 2012

The Plain Side of DRM

Context, it is the most important thing to consider when analyzing most anything. To ignore it would be to ignore a major part of the authors thought process. When Colin Campbell typed “A Crime Against Consumers” he was well aware of whom he was writing for and acted accordingly. Typed for the popular gaming website IGN, the article was aimed towards the consumers who may be subject to the “crime” at hand. He assumed (judging by literary devices) that his readers are intelligent, tech savvy, and have previous gaming knowledge. It would be hard to argue against that assumption.

He opens the article with the tired practice of rhetorical questions, but does so well, comparing used video games to the many other used products in the world today. This strategy helps to put his argument into the context (Hey, there it is again!) of the current market system in the US and therefore strengthens the argument he is about to make by making the situation more understandable. Without parallels, it may be hard for even gamers to understand what is taking place, but with parallels to markets more concrete and established than the gaming market, more readers will be able to process the article. If few people understand what is being argued, the point of plain style is lost.

He then uses the imagery of Microsoft as an evil, charging army: “But hark, the thundering hooves of evil approach. Microsoft and its busy little pals in games publishing want to put an end to the trade in used games, or at the very least, make it so difficult that it's not worth the effort.“ The language used (“hark”, “thundering hooves”, etc.) taps into the comical side of gamers and their common obsession with medieval warfare. By connecting with gamers on a personal note, Campbell’s opinion is viewed as more valid in the eyes of the gamer. Similar tactics can be seen in political campaigns, where candidates use colloquialisms and phrases of the common folk to connect and get votes. The difference is, in the case of this article, Campbell is not vying for or in a position of power, so the humor is unquestionable shared with (and not made at the expense of) his audience.

Hand-in-hand with the medieval language is the level of professionalism in Campbell’s language. Most would not consider his use of the term “screw” appropriate in professional works of writing, but classiness isn’t what he’s aiming for. That is not to say he desired to write a sloppy, slam piece on Microsoft either. Campbell balances between a professional and casual tone in order to appear informed, but not robotic. If he was to come across as to politically correct, many gamers may assume that he is a shill. After all, a respected company wouldn’t allow someone with such a dirty mouth in their ranks.

A literally strategy found throughout “A Crime Against Consumers” is apposition. The listing items like, “The fact is that we have been buying, selling, trading, swapping, lending and gifting used boxed games for over 30 years…” fits very well into the world of technology. On any computer hardware, the specifications are listed in a bullet-style format. Appositives mirror specification listings well because the shoot the information to reader in a quick way, allowing him/her to move quickly to whatever is next. This desire for quickness can be explained by the informative nature of technology-related writing; getting to literary would only be an obstacle for the average techy.

Campbell also established a little credibility with those who may believe him to have a heavy bias by giving concessions to game developers. Concessions such as:

“There is an ethical issue at the heart of the used games business that's well worth contemplation. When you buy a used game, none of the money goes to the people who actually made that product. You are, in that solitary transaction, depriving a game developer of royalties, wages, investment bucks that he would have gained had you bought the game brand new.”

This section isn’t simply an aside to give the false impression of equal consideration on the part of the reader; it is a strong argument that could potentially sway a gamer to side with game developers. The potentially offensive part of this section in the eyes of developers is that Campbell makes the assumption that all developers are males (based on pronoun choice). He hasn’t escaped the bias forest yet, however, the devil’s in the advertising.

It’s hard to feel that Campbell’s opinion isn’t shifted when considering the non-written elements of the article. For example, the picture above is found between paragraphs.

One may argue that GameStop is the largest used game retailer in the United States, so it would be appropriate to mention the company if the subject is discussed. That would be a sound argument if GameStop didn’t sponsor IGN with frequency. Video game websites have had a long history of writing favorable reviews about games/devices with “generous” developers. Though Campbell makes a great case and shows the other side of the argument, any hint of monetary influence makes it harder to believe the author is being objective (especially when he/she is discussing corporations protecting their pockets).

Colin Campbell knows his audience and writes appropriately. His use of colloquialisms, curse words, and honest tone work well to inform the average gamer (young, intelligent, and knowledgeable) about the potential future of console gaming. The 9.6 average grade level makes sure that the vast majority of readers have no trouble perceiving what he is stating. The main trouble that Campbell encounters is advertisement, which is almost surely out of his control. That said, however, it is unclear whether there is monetary influence behind his words. It only takes that one loose thread to unravel the sweater.

-Ryan Churchill

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