The People Who Upload Torrents
On a popular torrent site, Fallout 4 has been downloaded nearly 140,000 times. Nearly 200 people are downloading right now, as I write this. AAA or indie, Fallout 4 or Super Meat Boy, it doesn’t matter. Piracy is inevitable. But a torrent doesn’t appear out of thin air.
There’s a person at the start of that process, an individual who decides to share a game with the world for free. I’ve talked with a few of them, and here’s what they had to say.
I recently sent private messages to more than 30 uploaders at KickAssTorrents, ranked by Torrent Freak as the most popular torrent site in 2015, hoping some would talk to me. Only three responded. The vast majority of uploaders ignored my request—not exactly shocking—but those that did were more than happy to talk about being part of the piracy community. One told me his dream was “sharing games with the world,” while another declared piracy as just “part of the game.”
Torrents are the most popular way to share pirated material these days, though the technology is hardly exclusive to piracy. Rather than a website hosting a file and paying for bandwidth as each individual downloads it, torrents allow groups to collectively shoulder the burden. It’s a much cheaper and more efficient way to distribute large files to a lot of people.
Every uploader in this story declined to provide their real name, choosing to be addressed by their pseudonym used on KickAssTorrents.
mercs213 has, as of this writing, uploaded 1015 torrents, including ones for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Stardew Valley. (Between writing a draft of this story and hitting publish, he’d uploaded 10 more. )
He’s a 23-year-old working for a “company that provides networking opportunities for CEOs” and spends most of his time fiddling with tech. When he’s not building computers for friends or family, he’s playing games. (Mostly RPGs.) He estimates spending about five hours per week creating and uploading torrents.
“When I was young I always enjoyed the games people would provide which I could not afford but wanted to experience,” he told me. “I promised myself I would become a torrent uploader and do the same. So here I am sharing games with the world.”
Some of the games he’s uploading come from the piracy scene, others are ones he’s legitimately bought. He prefers buying games from GOG, which prides itself on selling games without DRM.
What makes mercs213 different from other uploaders is his constant communication with his…well, fans. KickAssTorrents is not merely a torrent repository; there are comments, message boards, and other social hooks to foster a community. There are even achievements to unlock, including Fake Killer (report 100 fake torrents), Last Man Uploading (upload a torrent just before a new year), Spamtastic Reporter (uploaded more than 1,000 torrents), and others.