How Software Piracy Became an Art Form

Let's say, just for argument's sake, that you happen upon a hacked version of a PC game and run installer.exe. To the plonky sounds of synth music you might read, "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 (c) Aspyr. Enjoy another nice game from your friends at Class." After that, you open the accompanying .nfo text file. Beneath an ASCII art graphic, you read details about how the game was ripped, and a 'help wanted' section, seeking partners in crime like suppliers, distributors, and the elite of videogame lawbreakers: crackers.

Back in the day, cracker groups were borderline famous. With names like Criminal Disguise, X-Static, G-Force, Now5 and Automation, they sounded like south London grime crews - but instead of laying down 'wicked rhymes', these posses gouged out the guts of PC games, wedged a few personal mementos inside, then sewed them back up again. Some pirates have little more than mischief in mind you see, in stark contrast to their public image of morally repugnant individuals who somehow manage to fund terrorism.

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