I don’t know if you’ll recall a little debate I had about five years ago, on my old blog, with the games editor at The Age, Jason Hill, in which I referred to him as a “corporate shill” for defending Sony’s anti-consumer war on modchips. He was greatly offended at the time, but I assumed with the passage of time he’d forgiven me for impugning his journalistic integrity – particularly given that he even published an article I’d written for his Screen Play column in The Age a few years later.
So I was a little surprised by his piece in the Sydney Morning Herald today:
Jason Hill, corporate shill
I guess “Corporate shill” is one of the more unpleasant names I’ve been called over the years.
Oh, Jason. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings so badly! I feel really guilty now. I didn’t intend you to spend years running that beautifully rhyming insult over and over in your head.
Look, I still don’t agree with the line he’s still running on the subject of modchips, of course: he still argues that if “the majority” of their use is piracy, it’s irrelevant what lawful purposes they have, and they should be banned – logic which would’ve banned the cassette tape, the VCR, the home PC, the internet and so on.
And as to the present issue – Jason is revisiting the subject today because of the PS3 modchip that Sony is trying to get banned in the Federal Court. I hope they fail, not because I wish to pirate games, but because I’d like to see some decent media player software developed on the HD consoles to replace the brilliant open source Xbox Media Centre from the last generation, which has never been bettered by the commercial products. The idea that increasing the functionality of a piece of hardware I’ve bought should be a crime is absurd, and offensive, and I hope those defending this action are able to win through despite the vast reserves of money that will be thrown at defeating them.
But I suspect Mr Hill’s approach to the issue is more to do with the relentlessly one-sided propaganda to which he’d be subjected as he liaises with the games industry – I doubt very much he chats often to the EFA or other public domain lobbyists, for example – rather than anything dishonest or cynical. So, with the benefit of hindsight, and the cooling passions of fading youth, I regret using the term “shill”.
Even though it did rhyme.
Those gamers who’ve never tried “jailbreaking” their hardware to increase its functionality – an AR-Max to enable backing up saves from the 8MB PS2 memory cards, an Xbox modchip to run XBMC, homebrew on the DS – does having that option available to you appeal? Or do you not mind if the people who made your console can artificially limit your use of it – and send you to jail for dare trying for more?
UPDATE 4/9: The Federal Court has apparently banned the chips permanently. A sad day for Australian consumers. Meanwhile, the necessary code has hit the internet, potentially rendering Sony’s victory somewhat pyrrhic.