Laws of Innovation

Michael Movsum 27205961

MicroEssay 2

Innovation is the ability to take an existing product and making it better. Computers have been and still are updated to hell and back. Each month a newer, stronger and faster model replaces an older and weaker model. Franchises are built on this very concept. It isn’t uncommon for the updated product to suit the needs of the consumer far better than it did previously. However it is important to note that there are moral implications and perhaps even legal ones that are associated with innovation or even with modification.

The laws which protect a certain IP are convoluted. Modding games for example, is the action of taking a certain game and changing a variety of its components. As said by Sarah Coleman and Nick Dyer-Witheford “most mods are thematically conservative, undertaken by technically accomplished fans who love a particular game and want more of it [..] in variants that don’t stray far from the spirit of the original”1. A great mod which encapsulates the quote is “Brutal Doom” a mod for the original “Doom”. In it the blood, gore and carnage are dialed up to 11 along with several other graphical enhancements. The original developer ID software are fully aware of this mod and support its development. Along with the graphical updates also come some mechanic updates such as mouse support. The original game forced the player to play only using the keyboard to aim (the norm for first person shooter at the time), but “Brutal Doom” allows a modern player to enjoy a previously less accessible game. In many ways this game is considered to be the father of modern FPS games, and it is no wonder that due to its success the original name for first person shooters was Doom clone. This mod revitalizes the game for the newer generation.

Brutal Doom isn’t the first mod, there have been others. The movie Aliens vs Predator was suppose to have a mod built from “Quake. The game Quake has the perfect setting for an “Aliens vs Predator” game: dark gloomy corridors, 80’s sci-fi, creepy modeled weapons etc. But ultimately the game was shut down by the 20th Century Fox for copy right infringement. This was well within their rights as owners of the “Alien vs Predator” IP, but at what cost? The modders had to destroy all their game files, destroy copies remove websites etc. Essentially an entire piece of art was destroyed… whether it would’ve been good or bad is irrelevant, in fact we can’t know…

In the game “The writer will do something” by Tom Bissell and Matthew S. Burns, they explore a day of a writer in a game development studio. The game starts off, in a tense meeting where everyone are stressing over the now near release date of one of the studios incomplete game. Throughout the game, the people attending the meeting keep referencing works by other companies in the hopes to implement some changes into their own game. Changes that will improve the overall reception of the game. Such changes make the game feel more like Dark Souls or more like Star Wars. The problem with this is that the overall game doesn’t bode well with these works. The mechanics and systems already implemented in the game don’t compliment the narrative that the games game designers are striving for. From this it isn’t farfetched to reason out that the addition of successful content from other media won’t assure the success of yours.

Restricting someones creative vision is a crime. The Mona Lisa is arguably one of the most iconic paintings in the world, but it isn’t the first of its kind. It wasn’t an uncommon practice of painting the portrait of a woman. In fact it is wildly suggested that the painting consists of the right side being the painting of a male and the left of the female. This could be viewed as a form of modding, where Leonardo Da Vinci took the existing idea of painting women and changed it in to the iconic painting that it is now. What if he had his creative vision ripped? Why can’t games be protected by the same laws as those that protected the Mona Lisa?

References (MLA)

  • Coleman, Sarah, and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.”Media, Culture & Society 6 (2007): 934-53. Web.
  • The writer will do something. Tom Bissell and Matthew S.Burns. 2015. Videogame


Laws of Innovation

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