Hating BitTorrent (or How To Spoil Three Years of Anticipation)


Hating BitTorrent (or How To Spoil Three Years of Anticipation)

Like Napster and every other file sharing service since, BitTorrent has altered (some would say scarred) the digital landscape immensely. I’m not going to go into the legalities here – we all know people who use it, a noble few for genuine legal file sharing, vastly more for getting the latest Coldplay album without having to shell out for it (I’ve heard it, I can sympathise).

It’s part cause and part by-product of the fact that the Internet has hugely magnified the hype and speculation around new albums, movies and games, to the extent where we often know far more than we need to about something before we experience it.

Simon over at fanboy site Den Of Geek makes the point well here, with even seemingly innocent Facebook walls proving a minefield before a much anticipated film release. I can understand this to a certain extent – I read previews and speculate about films more than is really healthy. But I stop there.

The people I simply won’t ever understand are those seemingly intent on deliberately ruining their own enjoyment of the thing they’re so desperate to get hold of. I’m talking about the pre-release hounds, feeding on dodgy leaked movies and unfinalised games. Why? Just, why?

There’s an interesting interview here with SCEE President David Reeves, in which he drops his guard for a moment and comments honestly about the scourge of BitTorrent, particularly with regard to a company like Sony which often staggers releases across different regions. I quote:

“We are a PAL market and we are going to do it in PAL and we are going to do it properly, you can wait for it and you can have it in good quality, you know you can get the stuff from Bittorrent if you want to and download PSP games, it’s up to you.”

Aside from the fact that it’s so refreshing to hear a high-level Sony executive acknowledging that people are going to use BitTorrent and there ain’t much anyone can do about it, it’s the tone of his quote that really hit home.

In essence he’s saying, yes you can download the dodgy leaked version before it’s ready, but why on Earth would you want to? If you’ve waited so expectantly for a game or movie that’s going to knock your socks off, why don’t you want to savour it in all its glory, rather than seeing it as filmed by a bloke in the back row with a handycam?

A quick check of one popular torrent portal gives a depressing chart of the current top searches, with cracked copies of Wanted, the new Mummy film, Hancock, and even PSP games – the subject of Reeves’ resigned comments. But the worst is at number three.


Why why why oh why would anyone in their right mind wait three long and tense years for The Dark Knight to finally arrive – a film so mindblowingly perfect that scenes are still hurtling round my head days after witnessing it – only to download a dodgy copy to watch on a laptop? Whether it has the back of someone’s head in view for the duration is irrelevant – I doubt its $180 million budget was spent to be watched at 1,280 x 800 while you’re on the lav.

I can just about begin to understand some of the reasons behind it. Yes, the cinema is increasingly expensive, and bafflingly few people seem capable of holding their bladder for two and a half hours these days. And games that arrive across the pond months before they do so here can be infuriating when reviews are gushing with praise.

But the popular argument that these people then go on to buy a ticket or a copy of the DVD upon release just doesn’t cut it for me. You only get one first time. Rewatching a film when it then arrives in the cinema won’t let you unlearn the plot twists, and you’ll never get the same exhileration as the first time you sat in a crowded cinema and saw Batman turn his [SPOILER REMOVED] into a [SPOILER REMOVED] before [SPOILER REMOVED] into [SPOILER REMOVED] all in glorious HD. (See, I’m better than that.)

It’s like watching Match of the Day when you already know the results – you may as well just fast-forward to the goals.

But it’s human nature that some people would rather be the one to spoil the plot twists for others than to actually enjoy them for themselves, and the great shame is that innovations like BitTorrent have, unfortunately, given any spotty oik the means to do it.

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