In the Gaming Industry, developers and producers face many problems when designing a game and how it can affect the target audience. They have to consider ethical, legal and regulatory issues in order for their product to survive in the gaming world.
Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism
Finally when designing the game it’s important to understand that the initial thoughts on when creating the brief for the designers is that it’s original and not a copy of someone else’s work, this stands for everything from brief to the producing of the game. Copyright protects people’s work from others who dares to commit plagiarism, meaning that there are people who try to steal the original work of someone else because they haven’t given credit to the original owner, or proclaim the work is theirs when it isn’t.
A recent example of this is the plot behind Assassin’s Creed III which is supposed to be released in North America on 30th October 2012 under the PS3 and Xbox 360, later being released on 18th of November as a Wii-U platform and the same for Europe but on the 30th of November. John L.Beiswenger, who’s a research engineer and sci-fi author, claims his book ‘Link’ shares various similarities as the game- insisting Ubisoft are ‘allegedly ripping off his novel’ .
The book ‘Link’ explores an idea of memories recorded by an ancestor that eventually get brought to life only by using a special device known as: ‘Bio-synchronizer’. Another reason for the claim, made by plaintiff, is the book talks about assassins and assassinations which at one point in the novel, someone is trying to fit the pieces of the past together. Finally spiritual and biblical tones with references of Jesus, God, the Garden of Eden, forbidden fruit and a reliance on historical moments portrayed through ancestor’s memories all lead identical occurrences in Assassin’s Creed series.
"Ubisoft have directly copied, and directly and contributorily infringed on the whole of Plaintiff's copyrighted work" with the release of games, guides, comic book series and trailers”
Quoted from John L. Beiswenger
In addition to this Beiswenger is currently suing Ubisoft for nothing less than $1.05 million with an increasing sum to $5.25 million depending on the judge’s decision. Also he hopes to prevent the release of Assassin’s Creed III and all related franchise. If this works in his favour it will not only disappoint millions of fans across the world, but it will leave Ubisoft possibly bankrupt if one of their best-selling games were to crumble right before their eyes due to copyright infringement issues.
An additional case would be EA’s copy right infringement lawsuit against Zynga not so long ago. ‘The Ville’ created by Zynga allegedly shares identical reactions with EA’s ‘Sim Social’ game. Normally copyright issues are exceptionally rare because it could cost a gaming company everything they’ve worked for, sending them bankrupt and making the opposition richer and seem more ‘innocent’ to the public eye.
‘The [games] industry has developed a dysfunctional culture of copycattery’
Quoted by Prof. James Grimmelmann
Prof. James is correct in a way because the technology and the stories have developed that much in such a short space of time, people are running out of original ideas and are turning to features they’ve experienced in a game and enjoyed or just simply taking a lot of things from an older version of the game and tweaking a few bits. An example of this would be Pokemon (not Ranger, Link, Dash, Pokepark or Mystery Dungeon versions). From personal experience I’ve noticed each game starts the same, contains the same plot with the same goals and it became ominous as I grew up. The only things that change in that game is the character names and designs, regions and the extra 150 new Pokemon that appear every 2-3 years, leading me to go off the new versions and play ‘old-school’
However going back to the original topic this is way some people and wander unknowingly down the path of copyright. Under copyright law everyone if free to possibly copy a basic game concept as long as some details are altered during the development stage which is what Zynga did during the development of ‘The Ville’. However the EA complains that Zynga didn’t do enough to change some of the detail, and evidence has been shown of this, even though it’s minor identical details which don’t create a very strong complaint for EA.
However their plan is to create aggressive arguments about copyright law to fit legal beliefs to its facts. In the end it will either seek protection for its game concept-losing proposition under copyright law or if EA does make progress on that, the new legal precedent would undermine the current industry-standard practices about imitation. EA is no doubt going to argue that Zynga needed to change its execution further if they wanted to avoid infringement issues, on the other hand it will also mean EA have to work in more development when they want to imitate someone else’s game meaning the cost of development for them and Zynga will rise.
It is known however Zynga has built its business on imitating other people’s games meaning if EA did win this lawsuit; it will harm Zynga’s business significantly as well as eroding EA’s profits because they’re threatening to destabilize the current industry’s rules on imitation. In my eyes and other people’s it’s a battle Zynga can’t afford to lose and EA can’t afford to win.
In the end it’s believed that neither company will win with the case being settled on the outcome of Zynga making some low-cost changes and keeping their basic implementation, giving EA a certain victory, even though some believe when looking at the bigger picture about legitimacy and the boundaries of game imitation are not going to be resolved during this case.