Reclaim Your Brain: What self-styled ‘consumer champions’ RYG DON’T want you to know!

During our hiatus, one of us took the time to do some investigating into an organisation called Reclaim Your Game that had suddenly developed an interest in The Sims 3 world, and were very anxious that everyone knew it.

From our point of view, it was decided that if we returned it would be best to keep a hold of what had been learned until the next Sims related release, as instinct told us these guys would suddenly be doing their best to be in a lot of Simmers faces at that point – and that would make it the best time to strike!

So What’s Your Aim, Reclaim Your Game?

Reclaim Your Game proffer themselves on the surface as a pressure group for consumer rights and having the finger on the pulse of gamers mounting concerns about invasions of privacy by software manufacturers use of security protection devices (usually referred to as Digital Rights Management – or DRM – which the latter do on the pretext of preventing piracy but are accused of doing so also for information mining/marketing purposes).

Yet they have waited until February 2011 to give their security opinion on a game released in July 2009.

All done in a very officious style, giving the suggestion of sober, professional analysis, albeit very old news, but there’s no escaping from the outset their main plank is to suggest ‘EA’s out to get you, woohoohahahahah!’


But have a look at the last two points made. their first concerning ‘outside parties’ having access to user information via the dreaded game launcher.

The fact remains that the game launcher isn’t needed to run the game anyway. As another figure of Simming uber-dread and the plotting of endless evil – Aarin – pointed out in the first week of the game’s launch all you have to do to circumvent it is click on TS3.exe instead of Sims3Launcher.exe (hardly rocket science) and the game runs as normal.

Before you say ‘so what?’, when people were having problems with glitches in the game launcher back in December 2009, Sim Guru Hydra and her mates were advising Simmers on the EA forum to launch the game in this manner so they could keep on playing – hardly the actions of an evil corporation wanting to snoop on your Simming activities for nefarious purposes!

If they were determined to snoop, wouldn’t they have coded the game to force gamers to use the launcher? Two years on, it is routine amongst the more paranoid of Sims 3 players to convert their Sims3packs into .package format so as not to use it at all. Again if EA were determined to snoop, why were they so determined to help people run packages – and ultimately mods (such as of course the Awesome and Twallan Mods so no CD need be used, a banned topic on the EA forum) – that would allow them to potentially run the game without ever using the launcher again?

Coming back to SimGuru Hydra and her mates brings us to the second point. You can save yourself a little bit of time in deciding how subjective RYG’s analysis of The Sims 3 truly is by their last point claiming that:

‘Customer and Technical Support is left to forum members to help each other out with games related or PC-technical issues. Much can be said about a company who leaves its own consumers to do the technical support for them.’

This of course is bullshit. True, so tends to be the official Customer and Technical Support proffered by EA that has become such a byword for bungling ineptitude that they relied first on Aarin and then Walden95 to be one step ahead of their own resources (and in more recent times Crinrict and Twallan!) in fixing their own game. The fact remains that the service  – faulty though it may be – still exists and always has done, contrary to what RYB claims.

Now you may at this point accuse the Mares of splitting hairs. But here’s a point to ponder: what the hell had any of that got to do with game security – the supposed raison d’etre of this RYG outfit – in the first place?

Ten minutes later, as if trying to make up for two years of lost time, another RYG article appeared.

More meaningless percentages in nice little graphics boxes, and an article first complaining about how expensive the World Adventures EP was on its initial release – two years ago! – before asking consumers whether in their view if it was worth the money… and proceeding to ‘answer’ that with a string of non-sequiturs in terms of what RYG claim are its security failings!

The truth is most gamers couldn’t care less if the World Adventures DVD sneaked downstairs in the middle of the night and buggered their dog, just so long as the game worked. That’s what counts as ‘value for money’ for a gamer, not whether its security is consumer-friendly. What Pham was attempting here to do was redefine what ‘value for money’ meant into the terms around their vague ‘Friendly/Not Friendly’ label that suited his spurrious line of logic. He may as well have claimed that it was ‘Not Friendly’ because the World Adventures DVD doesn’t sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and bugger the dog (you never know, maybe EA are saving that one for the Unleashed EP…)

Indeed many of RYG’s arguments are complete nonsense, complaining that there was no demo for World Adventures – since it was an Expansion Pack to an existing game, what did they expect? A level like you get in the shoot-em-up games they’re clearly more used to talking about?

A game video trailer was released, comparable with most other games like Crysis, Battlefield 2 and Half-Life 1& 2 all did when they released expansion packs, so why EA fell down there is a mystery: as is also why RYG feel fit to blabber on about issues (‘it cost too much… it had bugs…’) that whilst all true have utterly Sweet Fanny Adams to do with security issues or user privacy being compromised and appear more to do with courting popular sentiment, like the previous article’s attack on EA’s piss poor technical support.

The very next day, RYG returned to the attack on EA’s handling of Sims 3 again. Nothing for two years, now three at once. Wonder if this lot work for a bus company?

Three attacks in two days from Martin Pham, two years too late?

Oh the irony of proffering this last one as ‘news’!

But hey, at least the second one came with a nice diagram. And his girlfriend/wife/mum Lisa likes it, even if she admits she agrees with an article about a game she is yet to play!

The very title of that piece, referring to the Sims 3 as ‘a broken franchise’ regurgitates the choice slogan of many a serial-malcontent across forums such as Mod The Sims and More Awesome Than You/PMBD as well as daily on the EA forum.

It began to feel like RYG – far from giving their reasoned opinion – were a little too interested in saying what they believed disgruntled Simmers wanted to hear in order to build up a groundswell of support so that they could claim to be representing ‘the ordinary Simmer’ – in short, they were ‘appealing to the mob’.

The question was of course ‘why write this article now?’

Quite aside from the snake-oil tone (‘from a holistic perspective’ indeed!), there was a clue in the bottom of the article as to their real agenda, and it certainly isn’t making your Simming life any the sweeter.

‘For publishers, developers and DRM vendors (as well as EA) this is a crucial lesson… your business strategy must revolve around consumers… figure out how to increase their consumer retention…

…If you are a DRM or Publisher interested in developing Consumer Friendly products for the industry, you can contact us on…’

STOP THE BUS!

Does this sound any longer of concerned software users, or more like professional lobbyists aspiring to be co-opted onto a business committee or ‘think tanks’ where they will be handsomely paid for their ‘insight’ into ‘issues affecting consumers’ – doing it for ‘the ordinary people’, of course…

Before we go further, time to take a little look at the murky world groups like RYG really come from…

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

In the last 20 years, as spindoctoring scoured whole new depths of turning reality upside down and business ethics plumbed whole new depths, companies in the US and UK (or via PR companies with a sideline in ‘dirty tricks’) created phony ad hoc protest groups to nitpick some facet of a business rivals activities in order to generate negative publicity for them and encourage consumer boycotts.

For example, in the 1990s adverts for Britvic’s Tango and Barr’s Irn Bru were both subjected to completely feigned complaints to the advertising watchdogs about ‘offensive content’ that cost both companies thousands in campaigns that had to be scrapped and remade. It was no coincidence that at that time there was concern in the soft drinks industry as to the sudden rise of popularity of both brands due to health watchdog concerns about caffeine in drinks aimed at children (ah, those innocent pre-Red Bull days!)

Some might argue that any publicity is good publicity, citing the Sex Pistols original management company Glitterbest’s practice of flooding newspaper lettercolumns with over-the-top claims under alias about what a threat to civilisation the band were, ensuring two mass selling albums and a bucketload of hits from people desperate to know what all the fuss was about. But there’s a vast difference between investing a 1st class stamp in return for getting everyone else to do your publicity for you, and a company spending thousands of pounds on TV adverts only to have the adverts banned within days c/o malicious complaints by competitors abusing a system designed to protect viewers.

Eventually, the advertising watchdogs became a little wiser, less so those in charge of running the country and the media – let alone businesses (despite what they’d been up to!).

As everything (and everyone…)  ‘dumbed down’ in Tony Blair’s ‘Cool Britannia’ – where slick emotive presentation was everything and the truth was whatever Peter Mandelson wanted it to be – organisations began to rely on co-opting ‘experts’ from pressure and lobby groups, rather than bothering to do any original research for themselves – even so much as to double-check the credentials of those whose word they were about to take as authentic in the first place.

The result was a beanfeast for every snake-oil merchant with a talent for self-publicity, as all manner of groups mushroomed pertaining to represent ethnic minorities, the disabled, LGBTs, the mentally ill, environmentalists, faith groups (and ‘secularists’), and so on; in some cases pushing aside long established pressure groups that could legitimately claim to represent a consensus but who were slow to adapt to ‘the new reality’.

It was the world of student club funding writ large, where so long as you had a piece of paper with ten signatures on it and their matriculation numbers (without anyone checking their authenticity) the University Senate would give you a £100 grant that would inevitably be spent completely less than 2 hours later in the nearest Student bar. Except the stakes were far higher, with legislation – never mind multi-thousand pound block grants – being passed in order to further empower so many Marquises of Carrabas.

Just as the world of charitable organisations became bastardised by the career-bleedheart, so the world of the pressure group became prostituted as people began to set themselves up as both the highlighter of a problem and the ones proffering – to use that most odious of 90s Newspeak – ‘solutions’. For their ‘usual fee’, of course.

It was no surprise therefore that they weren’t the only ones that decided to take advantage of ‘the new reality’. Businesses renamed themselves as ‘Advisory Services’ in order to fool consumers (particularly the elderly) they were government sponsored organisations. Protests by consumer groups against what tantamounted to consumer deception were ignored by the law makers as creating unnecessary ‘red tape’ for ‘wealth creators’.

The point was that so long as these charletans could present a workable facade of ‘authenticity’ for the media (they in turn favouring self-appointed ‘experts’ for soundbites as more of them dispensed with employed journalists in favour of freelancers at the cost of their own knowledge base), both corporate and governmental bodies alike cared not a damn that they may have in practice represented no one but themselves, let alone any sizeable body of opinion.

The British disease swiftly spread abroad, as the worst elements in the English-speaking parts of our former colonies all too swiftly cottoned on to what was a rather spiffing idea.

Including it appears Australia.

The Real Face Of Reclaim Your Game: Your Misery Is Their Money Making Opportunity.

‘Consumer focused IT Solutions company.’

Let’s cut through their rocking-horseshit – this is a computer software engineering company touting for business in the same manner a disreputable glazier starts putting bricks though your window in the middle of the night when business is slack.

‘Vision’, ‘Roadmap’, ‘Comfort Zone’, ‘Strategies’, ‘Solutions’ – oh yes, lots of ‘Solutions’! – all the populist buzzword jargon of a fully-fledged corporate whore in fishnet-stockings, leather mini and f**k-me kinky boots.

Whoever else these guys may be appealing to, it’s more to fellow capitalist pigs than it is to you, muggins consumer.

If your nose is still too blocked to smell the coffee, look no further than the line to clear it:

‘Part of this is making sure RYG has the market presence, penetration as well as the willingness to enhance and adapt its current products and services such as Project RYG…’

The last four bullet points damn them by their own hand that RYG seek to exploit legitimate concerns and grievances of gamers by setting themselves up as their ‘champion’, then use that position as leverage to get games companies to take up their ‘solutions’, begging the question as to whether the companies in question will adopt them because they are ‘consumer friendly’ or whether it’s just to get an IT company’s pseudo-lobby group causing them a lot of grief in the media off their backs.

Still, if you’ve read the website, swallowed the bulls**t, now you can wear the t-shirt!

$43.20 – and they’ve the cheek to criticise the price of World Adventures?

RYG’s REAL Relationship With The Gaming World

So much for their boasts.

RYG first surfaced during the SecurROM debates, although to call themselves a ‘leading voice’ is a fine example of Goebbels dictum of tell a lie often enough and people will begin to believe it.

In reality they’re enjoying their first piece of street cred after they made claims on 10th March 2011 about Dragon Age 2 having SecurROM in despite  Chris Priestly explicitly saying on behalf of BioWare this wasn’t going to happen – a claim that was not merely rebutted by a furious Fernando Melo of BioWare (the producer of Dragon Age 2) but found RYG having their website taken offline until they toned down their remarks.

But by then they’d got what they’d craved four years for, credibility with ‘the kids’ by having their site taken offline by ‘The Man’. Bad move BioWare.

Martin Pham claimed in the above interview with The Escapist magazine on 15th March 2011, ‘we want to help, not just Bioware and EA, but also other publishers in correcting and remedying this rather simple process.’

Oh we just bet you want to!

Up until this point, Reclaim Your Game mentions in the gaming world had been reduced outside their website to being ‘discovered’ on gamers forums espousing their virtues. Sounds rather like a certain other little ‘soulful’ outfit we all know, eh?

For example, see what happened in February 2011 on the Total War forum.

Note that Scorpion226 ‘just happens’ to come from Australia, same as RYG.

Moderator Daelin4 for one was not impressed:

He was even less impressed when Scorpion226 spat the dummy in response, and took to pieces RYG’s ludicrous ‘evaluation’ methodology.

Scorpion226’s response?

Faced with someone that knew a bunco booth when they saw one, Scorpion226 fell back to a rather less than professional ‘nyah-nyah-nyah!’

Not that we’re suggesting that Scorpion226 was in any way connected with Reclaim Your Game, of course!

It certainly couldn’t have been Martin Pham, after all, he does claim to be a ‘skilful communicator…’

Ladies! He has Advanced K…

Now there’s no way that Reclaim Your Game would ever stoop to such a cheap pathetic stunt such as any of the above on the EA forum.

Would they?

If You Knew MaryLouSim, You Know Why We Feel Blue (In The Face!)

Joined 20th February 2011, at 11.13am, less than an hour before the ‘Broken Game, Broken Franchise’ post on their website, which MaryLouSim so helpfully ‘just happens’ to have in her signature.

Ho hum.

But perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Even the Norton Security website was not immune from concerned members of the public telling them how Reclaim Your Game had saved their lives.

When did this concerned citizen SoulProvider17 join that website?

Well imagine that! Joined and spammed all in one day, and never seen again, a story repeated all across the web, all roads leading back to RYG.

We’ll not even go into their antics on Wikipedia – especially concerning StarForce – or you’ll be reading a novel instead of a page!

But if you still need anyone to convince you this lot are out for profit before consumer protection, here’s testimony from one of those originally involved.

Pushed Over The Cliff75

A former member of the Reclaim Your Game team had put a little something on the web back on St Valentine’s Day two years ago, which showed back then a split in what the true objectives of this ‘consumer champion’ were afoot.

Yes, the focus was on copyrighting ‘Reclaim Your Game’ and ‘DRM Watchdogs’. Why on earth would they want to spend money on copyrighting these – unless it was as part of a venture to make money with?

Project RYG In Practice – Their Bark Worse Than Their Byteshield?

So what exactly is this Project RYG they wax lyrical about on their website that’s somehow going to make the gaming world a better place, where consumers and game makers will frolic merrily in fields of fluffy pink squee bunnies?

Much of it consists of ‘partnerships’ that appear to be little more than them ‘endorsing’ products as coming up to their ‘standards’, which as Daelin4 has pointed out earlier appear to leave something to be desired.

Their major boast is their ‘partnership’ with ‘consumer focused DRM vendor’ Byteshield (see again the ‘Germinating Inspiration’ section earlier), who spout very similar hyperbole to themselves as being anti-pirate but also consumer friendly.

‘Look mummy, RYG have given us a Gold Jaggy Star! I’m so happy I’ve just wet myself!’

Byteshield are very quick to point out the ringing endorsement they’ve received from Reclaim Your Game.

But for players of the one of the biggest selling games on the planet, Football Manager, their experience left them – like any good football manager faced with adversity – sick as parrots.

Taken from the FM-Base website.

Google the net and you’ll find that Football Manager fans are still finding occasional problems concerning Byteshield with the current version of the game – just as much as Sims 3 fans have problems with their game thanks to patches, the Launcher and so forth.

But don’t expect to read much about that on Reclaim Your Game anytime soon, even if by their own standards that ought to render them as ‘Unfriendly’.

Reclaim Your Brain!

With the release of Sims Medieval containing SecuROM, you can count down the days before the vultures of Reclaim Your Game swoop in hoping to make some capital (one day!) out of it, and perpetuating their claims to be a consumer champion and ‘DRM watchdog’.

Reclaim Your Game is a money-making venture just like the corporations they like to pretend they’re the watchdogs over. A bought watchdog is a tamed watchdog – if it was ever a watchdog at all.