The question of what is commons and what is a commodity in the realm of video games is an on-going debate. The article Playing on the Digital Commons: Collectivities, Capital and Contestation in Video Game Culture by Sarah Coleman and Nick Dyer-Witheford discuss each side of the argument. The arguments are that players should have the freedom to use video games as a source of inspiration and in opposition the publishers view games as intellectual property that cannot be encroached.
The game Flappy Doge is a version of the popular IOS game Flappy Bird which received criticism for its visual and auditory similarities to that of the Mario games. Flappy Doge gives rise to the question of whether Flappy Bird is a rip-off of the Super Mario games as well as that of Flappy Doge being its own respective work separate from Flappy Bird. The criticism towards Flappy Bird concerns the use the of the green pipe, backdrop and coin sound effect synonymous with the Mario games. The game does take inspiration from the Mario games however the game offers a unique experience that is different from that of the Mario games. As stated in the article, fans regard games not as fixed properties but rather as raw materials for continuous collective authorship and the repurposing of games. In turn, credit should be given to the games from which inspiration is taken. In the case of Flappy Doge, it is a copy of Flappy Bird not because it is similar in looks but because it operates on identical game mechanics with the inclusion of some new ones.
In reviewing Flappy Doge, Flappy Bird and the Mario games one could question the application of End User License Agreements (EULA) and how they relate to players and the usage of the games. The boundaries of a games influence according to the industry and their enforcement of the US copyright laws make it unclear of what is fair use and whether there is such a thing. The fact that copyright laws can be enforced for a period of 95 years creates an imbalance the gaming community giving companies absolute say. The authors mention the players’ bill of rights which is a response to the strong legal positions taken by game companies. As mentioned in the reading, “The industry sees no difference between piracy and warez…taking software is stealing.” The definition of piracy is too broad which can lead to condemnation of a genuinely unique game. Perhaps one could question the perspectives of the legalities as being generational.
In conclusion, there needs to be a consolidation between the rightful ownership of a commodity and the ideal of the hackers ethic as stated by Steven Levy that “information wants to be free.”
Coleman, S. and Dyer-Witheford, N. “Playing on the Digital Commons: Collectivities, Capital and Contestation in Video Game Culture.” Media, Culture & Society (2007): 934-953.
Flappy Doge (2014)