Shawn Guse, software thief

In the article “Some game thieves pay for their crime” I reported how Activision was taking people who stole their games to court. One of these people was Shawn Guse of Federal Way, Washington who agreed to pay Activision $100,000. As a result of the article he has now contacted me. Here is his email:

My name is Shawn Guse and you have my name posted on your web site without my permission and I want it removed or changed to “A Washington man”, and I also want the link to the settlement removed if you have one. Please don’t contribute to the crucifixion of my name. If you are so kind as to remove the whole article that would be great. I have contacted many other web sites that are posting this and they are gladly removing it due to my request.

And here is my reply to him:

Surely the publicity is part of society’s punishment of you for being a thief?

Just a few years ago I was working at a game publisher towards the end of the PS1 generation. When people like you started copying games on a massive scale we had a huge drop in the income we needed to the pay the people who made the games. About 60 people lost their jobs with massive personal trauma. The whole company suffered and we all went through terrible times. It was awful to see my friends and colleagues suffering in such a way.

So it was a great delight for me that I was able to publish the names of the thieves caught by Activision.
In your email to me you show no contrition for your actions and the effect that they had on the people who work in the industry. All you are concerned about is yourself.
The “I want” tone of your letter is, frankly, despicable.
Perhaps you should have considered the consequences of your actions more thoroughly before you started stealing games.


  1. A couple of the thieves caught by Activision have gone public despite signing confidentiality agreements. Which gives you some idea of their ethics and morality. They have revealed that Activision, out of its own good nature, did not seek the full settlement from them. Silly Activision, these thieves will have no respect unless properly punished. As can be seen by this quote from one of them:

    “I wasn’t doing anything more than an average college student does with torrents or MP3s, so it’s surprising companies like this are wasting time on people with little money.”

    So having little money justifies being a thief. And he was stealing because other people were stealing.

    The mind boggles at the stupidity of these thieves. I hope Activision catch loads more and this time punishes them in full.

  2. You’re getting scary now.

  3. Bruce, I’d be a little careful – as they were never convicted, the classification of ‘thief’ could (although it’s highly unlikely) lead you with a libel suit on your hands.

  4. Belay that – I didn’t realise it was an in-court settlement. As you were…

  5. “When people like you started copying games on a massive scale we had a huge drop in the income we needed to the pay the people who made the games”

    I am sure it had nothing to do with the subpar content you guys were putting in a generation of games that was absolutely booming.

    Way to pass the buck. Next thing you know you will be complaining about minority immigrants taking you buddies job.

  6. Jason, presumably you are talking about games like TOCA Race Driver, Colin McRae Rally and LMA Manager.

  7. That’s the thing that irks me the most about folks that steal games. They don’t care about the real harm that they are doing to the folks that create the games in the first place. Creating a game is a hard, laborious, and expensive process, and the folks that work on them do it out of a passion that they have for the games. I’m glad that Activision is going after these thieves, and I hope that they catch a whole lot more.

    Thanks Bruce for highlighting these people. I think the more exposure that they get, the less likely they will be to steal the work of others for their own gain.

  8. Bruce, way to go. The hypocrisy of the thieves tells us a great deal. So many of these people rationalize their actions by claiming that their stealing is justified (or that it is not really stealing at all). So if the stealing is okay, why complain about seeing their names and activities broadcast to the public?

  9. So the guy asks you nicely to remove his name and then you do another post to make it worse. You are very rude Bruce.

  10. So what did this guy do exactly? Download a game? When people say “stealing” i am assuming they are actually taking a product rather than “copying” which is entirely different. I am not going to justify piracy – purely because it is illegal – but i do not regard it as immoral. There is too much trash being sold for far too high a price and piracy is the natural counterweight to this. Games developers seem to be under the delusion that people who pirate their games would have otherwise paid for them, which shows their the state of denial instead of taking responsibility for poor products.

  11. Bruce, why don’t you post yourself up there too. I’m sure you download all your software and download music too.

    You single out one person yet millions of people do the same thing and I’m sure your one of them.

  12. So I guess none of you have ever used any torrents, never downloaded any mp3s, tv episodes, movies. You never stole anything in your entire life, never cheated on a test or cheated on a significant other, never lied, never abused anyone or thing? America is filled with hypocrites and you talk like your high and mighty in here and better than these people but going by statistics everyone has done at least one of the mentioned things in my message here and that makes you guilty as these people as well just of a different moral or criminal sin. I am not condoning any of this stuff but if I were to condemn all the people who download mp3s illegally then the only people left would be old people way past my age. I dont talk about others or judge them and I dont believe people should because they are just as guilty but maybe in a different way or crime.

  13. Well this is hilarious. Such short memories all you ‘holier than thous’ have.

    Wasn’t there an article circulating LAST WEEK that talked about how despite piracy, the games that should do well, do well?

    Has anybody else noticed that when a movie sucks, it does badly? Why is that? Piracy? Maybe it’s just a bad movie?
    Maybe games don’t do badly because of piracy, maybe bad games suffer because of piracy.
    Maybe if games focused on quality, and weren’t afraid to release demos, there wouldn’t be so much piracy, and there wouldn’t be so much bullshit flying around.

    Why sue your customer base, ruining your reputation as a game developer, when you can focus those resources into ensuring that the next Spiderman game isn’t a rehash on the same engine, with the same movements, and the addition of some goofy designer’s ideas on what Sputterman was about (wait, what? His name is Spiderman? OH! I should rewrite those pages…).

    It’s waaaaay too easy to just say, whoop! Piracy is to blame.
    It’s not the shoddy load time, the limited licensing you get after paying for a product, or the four year development time with lack of marketing. Nope, gotta be the piracy. Sue somebody, that’ll make it All better.

  14. Bruce, great post. Did you receive a response from Shawn Guse? As long as the barrier to pirating is low, it will continue to happen. You have to either make the barrier to pirate higher, or reduce the barrier to purchasing legitimately (a la amazonmp3, XBLA, etc).

  15. What is wrong with some of these people, trying to make excuses for stealing other peoples work. To Mr. Dude, no I have not used bit torrent or Napster. I pay for what I want. I am sick of people making excuses for stealing. why to go on publishing the ass’s name there should be a website posting all the names of people that stole peoples work or music or whatever.

  16. As someone who uses marketing jobs to pay the bills, I’m laughing out loud here. Talk about a field built on honesty.

  17. To that John guy:

    Your arguments are embarrassing, to say the least.

    1. If the game sucks, don’t buy it. No one forces you to get it.

    2. If it doesn’t suck enough as you still want to play it, buy it as an used game from someone who already bought it first, or wait until the price goes down.
    Poorly noted games generally see their prices fall.

  18. Stone Bytes:

    Where’s the guarantee the used copy isn’t “pirated” (either the original owner kept their copy installed, or it’s a bootleg cd-r in the first place)?

    Buying used is taking only slightly less risk than torrenting.

    When you torrent, you know you’re a pirate.

    When you buy used, you could appear to be a pirate to the publisher, because you could now own a pirated copy.

    Unless you keep immaculate purchase records — which most people don’t — you might have a very hard time provably differentiating your “used, but unintentionally pirated” copy from a torrented copy (especially if the “used” copy is burned from a torrent in the first place).


    Calling him a thief is running a libel risk: he’s not convicted of theft, and the worst you can say is he settled a case out of court.

    If he gets serious and contacts an attorney you will be changing your wording to be a little tighter; if you were part of a proper media organization this “article” probably wouldn’t have cleared legal, as it’s a textbook case of libel.

    You should take this seriously, too, instead of laughing it off: what’s good for the goose (healthy respect for the laws of the land, including intellectual property laws, erring on the side of caution even when unlikely to suffer consequences) should be good for the gander (healthy respect for the laws of the land, including slander and libel law, erring on the side of caution even when unlikely to suffer consequences).

    In the long run it’s not going to matter much if Activision is in the right: businesses that get into the habit of suing their potential customers — or people their potential customers can relate to — tend to lose customers over time, as consumers will gravitate towards substitutable goods with less liability risk (viz the migration of consumer spending from music to videogames over the last decade).

    And blaming these guys for breaking the confidentiality agreement is a cheap shot, and shows more than a little naivety as to how the law actually works.

    If the confidentiality agreement is even enforceable — which seems unlikely on the face of it — it amounts to no more than an ‘if/then’ clause: “I agree that if I fail to maintain confidentiality I will open myself to the chance of some additional liability”. Similarly, the counterparty is agreeing to “I agree that if I engage in certain activities despite your maintaining confidentiality I will open myself to the chance of some additional liability”.

    Both sides maintain freedom of conscience to act as they see fit, at risk of whatever consequences have been agreed to; assigning a moral aspect to choosing a particular branch of the ‘if/then’ clause — without at least pulling in a lot of outside context — is more about rabble-rousing populism than any considered opinion…one can just as easily fault the counterparty (Activision, in this case) for inserting an unconscionable and unlikely-to-be-enforceable clause into the contract in the first place.

  19. Piracy is… well piracy and in no way ‘theft’. Theft involves physically taking something from the owner and therefore depriving them of it. Regardless of what those awful MPAA adverts say, piracy is *not* theft. Please learn the distinction and stop misrepresenting this poor guy, as others have said you’re in real danger or libel.

    Actually I think you owe him an apology – he asked you (quite politely – ‘please’, ‘if you would be so kind’) to redact his name and you not only refused but published another scathing attack on him. Is not the justice of the law and a $100,000 loss on his part enough punishment or would you like to organize a lynch mob to burn down his house too? This guy is obviously traumatized and upset enough, I really do think you should leave off.

    As for your colleges loosing their jobs as a direct result of piracy – that’s simply a (poor) assumption made on your part, I’d love too see some proof. Studies have shown that piracy has a small impact on the final number of sales of a project.

    The problems at the publisher you were working with were almost certainly caused by a poor strategy, lack of planning or indeed expected by the management. There is always a dip in profitability between console generations – it’s a part of the generation cycle and a well known part of our industry (yes, I’m a game developer). As a veteran in marketing you should know this.

    It’s thought that people put off purchasing games as they save up to buy their next console. Games also tend to be discounted towards the end of a console lifespan and also have to compete with a (healthy) second hand market.

    Having said all that the end of life of the PS1 (specifically) was actually pretty healthy. Publishers actually wanted titles that were cross platform with the PS1 and the newer consoles as there was such a strong PS1 market still. Perhaps because the installed user base was so high.

    It’s sad when people lose their jobs – in this industry it’s happened to me enough times with whole studios closing and all the staff having to relocate. You lose friends and have to move families and it sucks. However I’ve never heard anyone misguided enough to blame it on piracy.

    I grew up playing video games and copying them for my friends in the playground – as did nearly every other developer I’ve spoken with. I honestly don’t believe that the games industry would be where it is today without piracy.

  20. Whoa, I’m happy I dropped your blog. I got from a link here from google, and saw that you even went to the trouble of making this (libel?) post the first item in your sitemap.

    What a mean spirited thing to do. He paid the price. He got what he deserved (well, that’s debatable). I see that’s not enough for you. You probably wanted justice to hang him. After waterboarding him. For months.

    Go on with your black and white vision of video gaming. Just be careful it doesn’t cause you an ulcer. And happy new year, if that’s even possible for you.

  21. Wow, you’re a righteous dick. Don’t you think $100,000 is a strict enough punishment for him? He probably had to file for bankruptcy.

    About the 60 people who lost their jobs at your workplace- that’s a result of poor management. Sounds like upper-management gambled with the lives of employees while not anticipating that the game might not sell millions of copies.

  22. Josh if you call me names then I would like to point out that you are pretty ignorant and need some education.
    1) Shawn Guse never had to pay that fine. It was all a deal were he pleaded guilty and they will only collect if he does it again.
    2) Piracy has cost lots of people in lots of companies their jobs. And all those companies weren’t badly run. And those people often had families and mortgages to support.

    Anyone who copies a game instead of paying for it is total scum.

  23. Piracy itself doesn’t cost anyone their jobs, Bruce. Especially not the minimal piracy of original Playstation games. Piracy is an epidemic affecting people of all types, they’re not all “total scum”. I can understand your anger for the people who copy the games and distribute them, but most of the people who download them are very young kids.

  24. Josh, of course piracy costs jobs.
    If people don’t pay for the game where are the wages going to come from?
    And piracy on the original Playstation was massive. The pirates were even selling them door to door. Sales collapsed.

  25. Well, looking at the games you listed i assume that you were working at Codemasters at the time when this company fell prey to rampant piracy, yes?

    Well then, let’s talk about Codemasters, shall we? and if not..let’s talk about them anyways.

    During the NES reign Codemasters started making and selling the rights to their games for a company called Camerica, this company had a penchant for bypassing the lock-out chip on the NES and releasing unlicensed NES games. The Dizzy series of games released for the NES? unlicensed. Naughty, naughty.

    You see, Codemasters wanted in the market that was the NES but they didn’t feel like working within the system or paying Nintendo, instead they went behind the back of Nintendo and started releasing games for the NES without Nintendo’s permission to do so…even after Camerica shut down.

    Does your heart bleed for the Japanese developers your sterling and oh-so-abused-by-the-nasty-pirates company you worked for stole from?

    So Brucie, do tell, what would you call a developer who would do this sort of thing?

    Maybe this isn’t enough for you, perhaps you need more proof of Codemasters shady ways of selling a product, well that’s not a problem because there’s more where that came from.

    Codemasters would review their own games then pan it off as a quote from anothner source, the game Fruit Machine Simulator has a quote saying “This game is absolutely brilliant!”..that quote was from David and Richard Darling, the founders of Codemasters.

    Next time you decide to point the finger,Brucie it would be wise to brush up on the company history that you were trying to’ll prevent you from looking like an ignorant prick.

    Actually i take that back, i don’t think anything can prevent you from looking like an ignorant prick save for maybe God or a large bag.

    I expect this comment to be deleted and never seen by the community that has the expertise to see through your bullshit. Lay-off’s, dismissal’s and walk-out’s in a development house are as common as mud and you know it.

    Codemasters, Tengen, Camerica, Active Enterprises, American Game Cartridges Inc, American Video Entertainment, Caltron, Color Dreams, Home Entertainment Suppliers, Odyssey Software, S.E.I. and finally Wisdom Tree all have one thing in common…they were development houses that didn’t pay a single cent to Nintendo..and Tengen? that was a subsidary of Atari.

    Time to get off your soap-box now, spanky…oh, and leave yourself-righteousness at the door next time, k?

  26. I know for a FACT that Shawn Guse SOLD games, he sold a TON pirated 360 video games and started selling them for $10 a piece and then raised his prices to $20 a piece. Yes 20 bucks for a burned copy of whatever game you wanted. He ran a modding operation out of his apartment in Federal way, and currently owns and runs the website: That is Shawn Guse’s baby. He mods consoles then sells the games. How Do I know all this? Because I too modded gaming consoles ( judge me if you will) and he flagged my adds on CraigsList RELENTLESSLY. I had many customers that got riped off by him and he sold them all games. I NEVER sold games.
    These are the reasons Shawn Guse is in trouble, nut cuz he downloaded a simple game and played it. cuz he made a HUGE PROFIT off selling illegal copies of games.

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