I copied friends games, and don't feel guilty about it. But one thing that kept me honest, and buying original games as well was the existence of honest magazines with honest reviews; my disposable income was never great, and the idea that I could lower the risk on a purchase by getting an informed second opinion was a considerable positive influence. Obviously first hand information by playing a pirated copy helped, there were one or two games I purchased after playing them directly, but this just changed where money I would have already spent on games went... for blind purchases however magazines were essential. And for pleasant surprises, budget games were a worthy lucky dip... I too remember £1.99 Firebird/Mastertronic cassettes!
But I know full well there's a difference between the programmers and creative types and the Industry; the link to a post by the author of Worms is a good example of that. He may deserve to be compensated for his work, but Team 17 the publishers were shits. Remember their long running campaign against Amiga Power because they didn't rate every game fantastically?
Which is why I don't feel guilty today, because if the games industry was honest, and didn't try then and now to nobble reviewing media, and create an artificially unfair market place for the consumer, it wouldn't have been so easy to justify pulling so hard in the other, selfish direction. And it wasn't just games of course, the music industry got away with charging the CD format "premium" for decades after production cost became just pennies.
No, it wasn't piracy, but high prices, low quality control, and a shocking disregard and disrespect of the consumer that ultimately doomed the Amiga; The industry was itching to make the leap over to embracing all of those, by racing over to consoles instead, where they thought the locked into propriety system, with in-house reviewing, would generate more profits without needing to worry about quality product...
This isn't hypothetical; I've seen the change in my own buying patterns since. I'll often buy games on a whim from Steam when on sale for a low price (Plants V Zombies last week for £1 or so, that's cheaper in absolute terms, let alone 3 decades of inflation, than £1.99 tapes); the combination of low price, widespread awareness of quality, and availability of demos and youtube display means you can stay informed and happy to be involved in the market. But you can't trust a lot of the gaming media anymore; the last boxed PC game I think I bought at release was SPORE, 4 odd years ago now... and that was horribly bugged, something not caught by much of the media, and I've not done it since. I can't remember the last speculative PC purchase I made, to be honest I'm not even sure there ever was one. And that's the natural result of the path the industry has committed itself too.
The response? Now they are trying to destroy the second hand games market with online, one time use verification even for consoles. Were I to own one, you can bet your ass I'd be a pirate again. £40 games where I can't trust the reviews and may turn out to be a lemon with no online community and no way to sell it on? What part of that makes any sense at all from my point of view?
But back in the Amiga days, yes I'd have a physical copy of some lemon of a game. You'd have never got my money for it though because I knew it was a lemon. And I was actually playing Knights of the Sky and Ultima V instead, games I bought originals of... and then pirated back up discs of. Oh, and lots of games which actually were fun and I'd never paid for too, let's be 100% accurate. I only had so much money though... but it wasn't enough to have an honest take of that then. And they've only grown more rapacious since; those that haven't, like Steam, have a great reputation and flourish. Those that embraced greed, like Commodore who argued with Amiga Power that including crap games with the Amiga bundle "was a great incentive to go out and buy more games" went under. Or, like Team 17, just keep releasing Worms again and again and again (and never, ever fixing online matching making in any version of it).