A Gamer's Stockholm Syndrome

Sony is being targetted yet again, and the community of /r/gaming falls over each other to prove who’s the biggest tool.

So, over at /r/gaming, reddit gamers have got their panties up in a bunch once they heard the news that a pseudonymous hacking group is planning to assault Sony once more.Apparently gamers are none too happy that someone is assaulting their preferred corporation and they are under the impression that any downtime as a result of those hacks, will be solely the fault of those dirty hackers. Some have even taken it one step further, laying the blame for any potential erosion of internet freedoms (as a result of corporate lobbying and media fearmongering) on the hackers as well.

The whole discussion is littered with playstation gamers who are outraged, OUTRAGED, that they may have to suffer more downtime on their precious online gaming as a result of a possible new breach of Sony systems. The amount of corporate suckup-ery is disgusting.

However, any possible downtimes or erosion of civil rights is not the hacker’s fault.

One has to consider, who brought down PSN the last time. It wasn’t the ones who cracked themselves into the system and it wasn’t a denial of service attack. If was Sony itself who did it, as a reaction to their system becoming compromised. I doubt that the original crackers were politically motivated anyway but even if they were and finding user data was an unexpected freebie, the reaction of Sony was the fault of nobody but Sony. Had they encrypted their data, they wouldn’t have to take down PSN for everyone. It was a gross failing on their part of their lax security practices.

It was also Son’s fault because they explicitly poked the hornet’s nest. Nobody forced Sony to take away the otherOS which made the hacking community actively interested in hacking the PS3. Nobody forced Sony to start legally assaulting the hacking community. Nobody forced Sony to participate in political lobbying to erode internet freedoms. And while the previous crack might not have been a result of any of those, but rather an fortunate exploit for monetary reasons, the latest attempts seem to be pure retaliation meant to cause harm and lulz.

Basically, the hacking community seems to be sending Sony, and anyone else watching a message. “If you fuck with us, we’ll fuck your right back”. They don’t seem very aware of this, but it does look to me as a form of solidarity in the internet age. Remember that all this was caused by Sony going after a few individuals who cracked their system for their own benefit, causing no harm to Sony whatsoever.

Finally we need to remember that the reason Playstation users are being inconvenienced by downtime of PSN is again Sony’s fault. PSN is a walled garden if you remember. That means it’s centrally controlled and managed by Sony and alas, such are the faults of walled gardens. Had Sony allowed an open ecosystem, where PS3 machines could connect to the internet directly and used one of the many available means to play games online there as pioneered by PC gaming, then the downtime of PSN would have been unlikely to affect a lot of people. Had they allowed dedicated servers or direct connections, people would still be able to enjoy their games online. But centralization means that there’s a single and large point of failure. If you don’t want this to happen again, tell Sony to open their walled garden.

But of course the PS3 fanboys won’t do that because they’re incapable of thinking outside the box. In fact, I guarantee they’ll make excuses on why such a walled garden is not only reasonable for someone like Sony, but that it’s in fact better this way. It will be like someone defending the AOL network.

All that said, I’m not exactly agreeing with the direct action of those crackers. I’m not sure how effective they will be in the long run. At best, they might achieve that corporations might think twice from going after individual hackers and they might let more hacks to their system slide and perhaps be more open in their dealings in the future. But this actions has a chance to cause political backlash as well. The reaction of /r/gaming is typical in fact.

Could there have been a better way? I’m not sure and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, but I can’t blame the hacking community from retaliating against an oppressive entity like a multinational corporation with a rich history of questionable actions, which put them in their target sights.

However to blame the kneejerk reactions of the one with a history of abuse, on the ones retaliating to them is very much akin to a Stockholm syndrome. It’s like a kidnap victim blaming their family for not procuring the demands fast enough and empathizing with their kidnapper who as a result had to cut one of their fingers.