Van Roessel and Katzenbach (2018)
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|van Roessel and Katzenbach (2018)|
|Title:||Navigating the grey area: Game production between inspiration and imitation|
|Author(s):||Lies van Roessel, Christian Katzenbach|
|Citation:||van Roessel, L. And Katzenbach, C. (2018) Navigating the grey area: Game production between inspiration and imitation. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media and Technologies.|
|Key Related Studies:|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The study consists of 20 semi-structured interviews with German game practitioners (including game designers, artists, programmers, producers, and market researchers). The interviews were primarily in regards to perceptions of game “cloning” (or copying) and knowledge of IP law/industry norms. Thereafter, interview data was coded resulting in 11 identifiable subcategories of perceptions of cloning.|
|Data Type:||Primary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:|
“This article addresses the tension between inspiration and imitation in game production based on semi-structured interviews with 20 German game professionals. Building on empirical copyright research and game production studies, we look into how game professionals draw the line between illegitimate imitation and accepted inspiration in their daily practice and professional routines. Our findings show that developers disapprove of the wholesale copying of one of a game’s main components – even in the case of the game’s rule set, which is not protected by copyright. However, as soon as a component is slightly adjusted, a complex mix of game features and external circumstances guides their evaluation. In contrast to prevailing copyright debates, though, game professionals reject stricter intellectual property protection, as, from a systemic perspective, they are concerned about innovation and genre development.”
Main Results of the Study
As game design and production is largely based on imitating previous works, identifying instances of copying is complex:
• Wholesale copying is generally condemned, particularly in relation to artwork (“reskinning”) and programming code (“ripping off assets”).
• Copying of game rules and mechanics present the fuzziest area for determining game cloning, and may result in differing opinions within the community (see e.g. Ninja Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing). Circumstantial factors, such as whether the creators are paying tribute or homage, may serve as mitigating circumstances for how cloning is perceived.
• Interviewees largely agreed that as a rule, core gaming mechanics should remain akin to “public domain”, regardless of originality. This is particularly so as the development of the games industry is dependent on the combining of, and advancing of, existing mechanics.
Unlike other negative space areas of IP, the games industry apparently operates on a case-by-case assessment of cloning, and unlike other areas (e.g. haute cuisine, or fashion) no hard lines appear to exist. The authors ascribed this phenomenon as arising from a tension in the cultural “roots” of games which have a fundamentally un-protectable nature, verses the evolution of games into a commercialised product.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
Whilst the study does not make an explicit policy recommendations, the authors suggest that, as with many instances of “negative space” IP, introduction of further regulation in this area is likely to have a detrimental effect in regards to innovation. Currently, in this area, copyright rules play at best a marginal “guidelines”, with other ethical and circumstantial factors playing more important roles.