In the very beginning, 70s and 80s era, due to
technological limitations, video games were so simple and straightforward in so
many ways ( design, game mechanics) , that it was easy to spot a clone and
accuse it as a plagiarism. During that time though, many small game development
companies were copying games for other systems and even managed to get away
with this, as copyright system didn’t quite respect work of computer software
Today, games are so much more than just what they were
at the beginning. Every aspect of the videogames become more thoughtful and detailed
– there may be complicated game play mechanics,
HUD and UI design which determines how players interface with the most core
systems of a game, visual aesthetics, themes, music, sounds, narrative and characters.
Videogames split into so many genres, which were actually derived by widespread “plagiarism” of good elements from
previous games to form an industry standard. Every genre has to start somewhere.
If someone did not rip off a fighting game, would we ever have games like
are so many cases when even copies did better and were
Bateman, a game designer who has worked on fifty published game projects , has
this to say about the case:
“The fact of the matter is, game genres by
their very nature become established because games borrow mechanics, structural
elements, and conventions from earlier games. To have a videogame genre is to
recognise a recurrent pattern of plagiarism that draws upon the successes of
earlier games as its bedrock. This is a good thing for players: few but the
most grizzled gamer hobbyists can face learning entirely original game rules
every time they play, most prefer to play something that (in broad strokes, at
least) strongly resembles an earlier game they have enjoyed. It means they have
less to learn, and it increases the chance that they will enjoy the later game.
As he later
points out, “what would be considered plagiarism in other media is the
backbone and lifeblood of the videogame industry”.
Still, much of the copying seems to go well beyond
merely taking ideas, gameplay mechanics or foundational elements. Often times
involving source code, artwork, sounds. And while specific assets from game
projects can be protected, like character names and their designs, the actual
gameplay is a lot harder to protect. They way by which you interact with a game
or the features that it has can be hard to prove to be original.