The Death of Culture: Restricted Sharing

Microsoft recently made a huge mistake that had Annie and I discussing the culture attached to media, and we realized that while Microsoft is the most recent example, it is not the only example: companies are trying to kill the sharing of media and thus, by extension, culture.

People are passionate about media such as movies, games, music and books, and as such, they want to share the things they enjoy with like-minded people or those that they care about. Unfortunately, this is quickly becoming difficult, and creating a society where the only thing you can do is create word of mouth about what you like, and hope that each person pays for the opportunity to read, watch, listen or play the various things out in the world.

Growing up, if I wanted my best friend to check out a game that I owned, I would lend it to him, and he would play it through. We would trade games between us, and in doing so, we would strengthen our friendship by creating a relationship of sharing and the opportunity for engaging conversations about our experiences.

This same experience was common with books and music tapes and eventually CDs as I got older. This same experience has been shared by friends and families since the first books were written and shared over a thousand years ago.

Microsoft discussed their plans for their Xbox One, a console coming out later this year, and the biggest frustration in the gaming community is that they aren’t just restricting digital content, which many people are sadly used to, but also the sharing of physical media. Want to let a friend borrow an Xbox One game you’ve purchased in disc form? You can’t.

With new limitations being imposed daily on the sharing of e-books, MP3s, movies, and video games, we are quickly coming close to a world where only those with money will be able to enjoy the wide array of entertainment being created on a daily basis by millions of creative individuals.

One of the biggest losses is the library of cheap media for those that can’t afford the original retail price for media, and trading in content you’ve experienced for something new allows for people with less money to enjoy the same content as those with more money. It also allows those trading in media to access new content and share their discoveries with a reduced risk of financial loss. I know I’m much more likely to purchase a game I know little about if the cost is mostly subsidized.

It is sad that many computer gamers have already become accustomed to not being able to share games thanks in large part to Steam, a great digital download service for video games, and before that the license keys that didn’t allow you to install a game more than a handful of times.

Many people have also gotten used to not sharing music thanks to iTunes, and lately I’ve heard many people say “you should subscribe to Netflix if you want to check it out” with regards to both movies and television shows.

Where would society be without the sharing of media and culture created and curated by movies, video games, music and books? Despite many gamers being angry with Microsoft, and their choice to restrict the sharing of game experiences, I fear we may find out during my lifetime.

3 responses to “The Death of Culture: Restricted Sharing”

  1. I found the huge contrast between Microsoft’s E3 announcements around Xbox One and Sony’s E3 announcements around PS4 fascinating in regards to this sharing of media (as well as other aspects).

    Sony used the ability to share media as a selling point, with a knowing smile in Microsoft’s direction.

    • It was really strange to me that something we’ve been able to do forever is a “feature” for an upcoming console release. Sony knew what they were doing, and I can only hope that Microsoft backs off regarding this issue and that people continue to try to fight for the ability to legally share media within their circles of close friends and family.

      • Yeah, exactly. It was pretty strange. Which, as you say, Sony knew and that was the point.

        Companies get a little over-zealous with these things at times.

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