Leave it to the geeks to use a little humor when detecting that a video game has been pirated. Companies typically record user information and match that information with a unique serial number. This allows them to monitor the number of unique installs for each game copy. When something awry shows up, they have several ways to deal with it, including but not limited to, criminal prosecution. In the examples below, the game designers decided to have a little fun with the player instead. Below are examples of video games that use some rather interesting techniques to teach the player a lesson in moral conduct.
Batman Arkham Asylum
When Arkham Asylum detects that a game has been pirated, the game dishes out a frustrating punishment to the player. Players of pirated Arkham Asylum games will find that Batman’s cape, an important piece of gear that the player uses to move about the game world, has suddenly taken on a life of its own. The game continues to play normally in every way except for the cape which becomes a useless rudder. Rather than possessing the normal gliding properties, the cape will suddenly begin opening and closing like flapping bird wings. The player has little control and flitters around in the air wondering what the heck is going on. In the email copy below, a player of a pirated game copy contacted technical support about the strange behavior of his character’s wings.
Hi! I’ve got a problem when it’s time to use Batman’s glide in the game. When I hold , like it’s said to jump from one platform to another, Batman tries to open his wings again and again instead of gliding. So he falls down in a poisoning gas. If somebody could tel me, what should I do there.
Technical support responded with the same sense of humor as the game’s designers:
The problem you have encountered is a hook in the copy protection, to catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free. It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code.
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
In this game players enter a unique serial key in order to advance to the next area in the world. If the wrong key is entered five times in a row, the player will be miffed to find themselves suddenly teleported to an airport jail cell. While sitting idly in the cell, a nearby prison guard lectures the player on the evils of pirating video game software.
Red Alert 2
Red Alert developers use a most interesting method to get back at illegal game pirates. At some point after the game detects it is a pirated copy, the game sends a strong message to the player. Within 30 seconds of starting your campaign, your base and all of your units will simultaneously explode without any provocation. Players are left with nothing but burning craters. Some have reported that their base exploded in as little as 10 seconds from the game’s start.
When the Cross Days game detects it is a pirated copy, it will prompt the player to complete a simply survey. The survey collects the players real name and address and uploads it to a public website. To further embarrass the player, the game takes an immediate screenshot of the player’s desktop and uploads it to the public website too. To date some fairly embarrassing screenshots have been uploaded. And if you think this sounds illegal, the game publisher explains that it is all explained in the Terms of Service agreement that every player must accept (but never reads) before starting game play.
Michael Jackson, the Experience
The entire soundtrack, a critical component of a Michael Jackson game, is erased and replaced with a orchestra full of vuvuzelas playing at full volume. Not only is the game neutralized but the player will want to commit suicide to block out the annoying sound.
More enemies than usual are added. You can still fight your way through them though but it’s much more difficult to reach the boss. If you do reach the boss, just as you are preparing for the final battle, the screen freezes and all games are erased.
The game tells you to buy the game if you like it and the characters is forced to wear a eye patch with a Jolly Roger on it.