Inspiration or dulpication, what constitutes plagiarism in gaming industry?


In the world of gaming, copying ideas or deriving ‘inspiration’ is not new. Every game has a genre, which means there are bound to be similarities within the genre. The level of similarities though differ from case to case.

There are many kinds of copying within the world of gaming. The common scenarios include reworks for a game or modifications, sequels, games inspired by an older game, and in rare cases games that very closely resemble an older game.

Reworks and modifications are a very vast category and possibly the most common scenario that takes place. The reason for this again varies from case to case, the most frequent reasons are to help expand on a special experience that the game was missing or to expand on a certain element of the game and offer it as an experience of its own.

In most cases, this ranges from taking a part of the original game and making a mini-game out of it to creating a variant of the game with a new difficulty setting. Some great examples of games that have been taken from a certain aspect of another game include Defence of the Ancients from World of Warcraft (WOW) and Gwent from the Witcher franchise. In the case of games that are meant to allow players to play at a different difficulty, they are mostly fan-made modified variants of the game. Great examples of this include remakes of various Pokemon games made over the years by fans.

Sequels are self-explanatory; they are, obviously, a continuation of the story or game plot in some way. In some cases, sequels are just an updated version of the game, built to keep up with advancements or changes that have occurred in technology or society since the creation of the previous edition.

Games inspired by an older game are not a new thing. As a matter of fact, it is possible to say that every game falls within this category in some regard or the other, one only needs to look deep enough to prove this point. Games always take some features from previous games of the same genre. The degree to which the similarities occur vary between games. To cite an example, the game known as Defence of the Ancients inspired many of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre of games, DOTA 2, League of Legends (LoL), and Heroes of Newerth (HONE).

The final category is the one that is often looked down upon. Games that are too similar to an older game are often called blatant copies of the game they claim to derive inspiration from. In many such cases, the developers who own the original game may even see it fit to file lawsuits against the offending party. A good example of a game that many believe to be within this category is Global Offensive mobile that has recently launched as a beta version in Thailand.

This game shares an uncanny similarity to the popular PC game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). This has certainly raised some eyebrows and the reactions from the game range from some excited fans finally feeling that this is their chance to enjoy an experience similar to CS:GO on their mobile phones too many others commenting how the game is going to be drowned in lawsuits.

Looking at the examples above, a question that comes to mind is, at what point does taking inspiration becomes plagiarism?

The answer to this question has many grey areas. This is since the law only recognises plagiarism when copyright is proven to have been infringed upon. Given the fact that copyright infringement differs based on how the copyrights for games are set-up, there is no definitive answer.

To explain this better, one needs to only look at the examples of LoL and DOTA 2. Both these games are based on Defence of the Ancients, which is a custom game made within World of Warcraft and hence a property of Blizzard Entertainment. The reason that both Valve Corporation and Riot Games have escaped legal problems is the fact that according to the law they did not use any property owned by Blizzard Entertainment. While Blizzard did manage to raise some complaints related to names of characters (which were circumvented by renaming the characters) they were unable to prove much else. The incident resulted in Blizzard Entertainment copyrighting all aspects of games they have developed since.

The incident related to Blizzard is only one example within the gaming industry but shows a clear fact that plagiarism within the gaming industry is just a matter of what a game developer is careful enough to copyright and not the complete set of ideas that they are creating for their games.

Times2 Desk
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