Video Game Law
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Video Game Law

Everything you need to know about Legal and Business Issues in the Game Industry

S. Gregory Boyd, Brian Pyne, Sean F. Kane

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  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Video Game Law

Everything you need to know about Legal and Business Issues in the Game Industry

S. Gregory Boyd, Brian Pyne, Sean F. Kane

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About This Book

Video Game Law is aimed at game developers and industry professionals who want to better understand the industry or are in need of expert legal guidance. Given the rise in international competition, the increasing complexity of video game features, and the explosive growth of the industry in general, game developers can quickly find themselves in serious trouble, becoming vulnerable to copyright infringement claims, piracy, and even security breaches. Not every video game company has the financial resources to retain in-house counsel–which Video Game Law seeks to address by discussing many of the common pitfalls, legal questions, and scenarios facing the industry. S. Gregory Boyd, Brian Pyne, and Sean F. Kane, the most prominent, sought after, and respected video game attorneys in the country, break down the laws and legal concepts that every game developer and industry professional needs to know in order to better protect their game and grow their company.


KEY FEATURES:
• Provides a solid understanding of intellectual property (IP) concepts and laws, including
copyright, trademark, trade secret, and other protections that apply to video games and
how each can be employed to protect a company's unique and valuable IP
• Explores cutting edge legal issues that affect the gaming industry, including gambling,
virtual currency, privacy laws, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, tax incentives, and
relevant piracy laws
• Provides an overview of legal and privacy vocabulary and concepts needed to navigate
and succeed in an industry that is constantly growing and evolving
• Provides illustrative examples and legal concepts from the video game industry in every
chapter

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Year
2018
ISBN
9780429892394
Chapter 1
Introduction
Getting Started in the Game Industry
Everyone that worked on this book is frequently asked how to get into the video game industry. This chapter will attempt to answer that question, including some potentially interesting side questions like: Is the game industry worth working in, and are you sure you want to do this to yourself?
The Historical Importance of the Game Industry
It is hard to overstate just how important video games are. Certainly, they can be mindless and poorly made, but that should not disparage the art form as a whole. Books, movies, and plays can also be mindless and poorly made. Like any art form, quality games are often drowning under layers of dreck. Still, games are becoming humanity’s culturally and economically dominant art form for the economically advanced societies on the planet. An easy and commonly made argument is that video games now account for more than 100 billion dollars per annum in global revenue. Their dominance as an art form is also shown by the many hours consumers devote to games at the expense of previously dominant media like books, film, music, and television. As suggested above, economically, games already surpass any other entertainment industry and that trend looks to continue unabated. Many other entertainment arts are moving toward games to gather some of that success as well. Art that was previously not digital and not interactive is now becoming digital and more interactive. Still, beyond the dollars and other more commonly made arguments, games themselves as an expression and human invention have an independent importance when viewed on the historical axis.
It is rare to live at a time when an entirely new art form is born. In the 2 million years of human existence, this has only happened a few times. As we develop new media and new distribution methods, art will grow to fill that gap. In terms of live entertainment, music and storytelling are probably the oldest. Ancient flutes are more than 40,000 years old and we were probably banging sticks together before that. Six hundred years before the Common Era, people were putting on plays in Greece. Mechanically printed books and oil paintings came in before opera was invented at the end of the 16th century. Photographs came about in the late 19th century. Film and recorded music, including jazz, ushered in the early 20th century. Television and rock and roll were broadcast into households in the 1950s, demonstrating new variations on prior art forms as well as new distribution methods. All of this was passive for the audience. The audience participated in this art, but mainly in their imaginations.
The participatory nature of interactive entertainment is one of the attributes that makes it so special. In the 1970s, when Pong was first introduced to the public, it is hard to describe to younger audiences how different this was from all other forms of entertainment. Each passing year makes the story less personally descriptive and more of a historical curiosity. Remember that color television was not yet widely adopted in most parts of the United States, and that the remote control was a luxury as well. Suddenly, with Pong, you could talk to the television! Not actually talk, of course, but that is how people discussed it. Prior to games, the television, like other art forms, was a one-way entertainment device. Games fundamentally changed the device itself and entertainment forever.
Now, there are thousands of game companies in the United States alone. Those companies directly or indirectly support hundreds of thousands of jobs in games.1 The first step to getting into the industry is finding a job with a game company and learning the business.
Games: Where Do You Fit In?
Getting a job in the game industry is easier now than ever before, but that does not mean it is easy. There are more jobs in the game industry now than at any other time in history. Sony Interactive Entertainment has 8000 employees. Many of the top publishers and game developers have thousands of employees. There is also more to do than ever before. In the early days of the video game industry, you were essentially required to have skill in programming computers. Now, people work in legal, marketing, sales, business development, production, art, audio, community management, and human resources as well as programming. The vast majority of people working in games do not have a programming background. So, the first question for you is: What are your best skills and where do they fit within a game company?
Develop Concrete Skills and Industry Knowledge
Just because there is wide variety of jobs in the game industry does not mean they are low-skilled or easy to get. In fact, essentially every job in the game industry requires a college degree in something. It does not have to be computer science, but there are very few people without at least a college education working in games, especially at senior levels. As a first piece of advice, stay in school and get a degree, or even two. As with starting out in most other industries, you should try to find an internship at a game company while you are in school. Beyond the skill set you will bring to making games, you need a functional knowledge of how the industry works.
Starting a Game Company: Look Before You Leap
If you have worked in game companies for a few years and you have made several games, then you might think of starting a game company. It is even better if you have worked in a couple of different game companies, working in different roles and working on different game types. For instance, you will know more if you have done both art and production for a console game company and a mobile game company. How about working for a year at a publisher to get to know that side of the business? Publisher contacts are enormously important for the funding and development of your own games down the road.
People often want to start a game company immediately out of school. And students often ask me how long before they can or should go out on their own. If you have not worked for five years on at least three completed games, you really have no business starting a game company. You should also have worked on at least one hit game and one failed game. You learn different skills from each type of environment. I am writing this with the kindest of intentions. And I know it is hard to hear. But I am saving you a lot of pain. Please, go put the work in first, then come back and make the greatest game the world has ever seen. Think of it this way: Why learn how to do something using your own money? It is better to use someone else’s money and have them train you in a skill that you can later take to found your own game company. I know you are smarter and better than everyone else you know, but this is still my advice. Everyone is teaching you something all the time, even if it is what not to do.
Playing games is not the same as making games. There is something relatively technical and mysterious about how games are made that has led to a misunderstanding on this point. Even in the early 2000s, you often heard people say that they had “an idea for a game.” Over the years, there have been many great responses to this. My favorite is that I once heard Brenda Romero answer this statement during a conference and say, “Thank God, because I was fresh out of ideas.”
You think you have an idea for a game? Let me tell you, confidentially, as your friend, it is terrible. Really, it is terrible. How do I know your idea is terrible? Because they are all terrible. All game ideas are terrible. Only detailed game design, writing, art, character development, programming, software tools, and execution make the game good.
When someone walks up to you and says, “I have an idea for a game,” remember that the idea is the cheapest ingredient in making the game. Everyone that has had a shower has had an idea. I would almost go so far as saying an idea for a game is a detriment to actually making one. You are much better off having or developing amazing programming, art, management, or fundraising skills. Any of those is far superior to having the “best” idea for a game.
Starting a Career in Games
So, how do you get this first job in games? I was fairly stupid about this for a long time. People were asking me for years and I did not know. I did not really have anyone tell me how to do it. In truth, I stumbled upon it by trial and error mixed with some good luck. After many years of working in games and teaching about games in universities, law school, and at conferences, I am now certain I have “the formula.”
Here are a few thoughts on the formula:
• The bad news is that it is hard and relatively unpleasant. Not everyone is going to do it. But, that does go a long way toward explaining why there are about 10 people who “want” to work in games for each person that actually gets a job in games.
• The good news is that it works 100% of the time. I am certain about this. I have been talking to people about versions of this for almost 15 years and have never had anyone that went through the process below fail to get a job in games.
There are only five steps:
1. Meaningfully participate in industry groups in-person: Find every game industry group that meets where you live or within a reasonable driving distance. These include the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and every other local group you can find. This also includes conferences that meet near you or that you can get to easily. Put these meetings on a calendar. Update that calendar regularly (at least twice a month) and then go to the meetings. Find a leadership position in these groups. You don’t have to be the president, but try to get on a committee or three. Aim for committees that are actually doing work and that need help doing that work. In a major game industry city like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Boston, Raleigh, or Montreal, this should give you two meetings a month or more. Importantly, you have to be willing to move to one of these cities if you want a real shot at working in games. All the industry organizations such as the IGDA are affordable. Conferences vary in cost, but some conferences will give discounted rates for students, volunteers, or press covering the event. There is no better way to meet speakers and other conference attendees than by working for the conference.
2. Meaningfully participate in groups online: Participate in the online forums where these groups meet as well. They almost always have some type of online area where you can productively discuss the industry. You should be reading these places daily, reading game industry news daily, and participating in online areas on a weekly basis. Posting on IGN or Gamespot does not count. The IGDA and similar places have helpful forums.
3. Write about what you are learning: There are literally thousands of blogs and other areas where you can write about the things that interest you most in the game industry. Take everything you are learning from all of these steps and put that down on paper. If it is good (and even if it is not very good), you can find a place to publish it. Get your work into the best publication you can. It should be better than your own blog, but it does not have to be Gamasutra.
4. Do informational interviews: Take everything you are learning and start to talk to people about games. You are going to meet those people by doing the steps here and doing internet research. Do not ask them for a job. Only ask them for three things: AIR. A is for “advice.” Do they have any advice for someone in your position? I is for “information.” What can they tell you about themselves, how they got there, and what they do? R is for “referrals.” You enjoyed talking to them so much, is there anyone they can introduce you to that they think would be helpful? Would they mind sending an email introduction for you, and perhaps copy you? If not, can they give you the contact information? Again, don’t ask them for a job. If they have a job, they will tell you about it—I promise. Very important—if they offer you a job, take it. One of my students was talking to the CEO of a Californian game company. The CEO asked him if he would ever consider moving to California, and he said no way, he loved New York. Big mistake.
This is the other key to informational interviews—they only “count” if they are with a person that could give you a job or if they are one person removed from someone who could give you a job. Talking to junior employees or other “wannabes” is important, and you should do it, but it does not count for the purposes of this paragraph. Why am I talking about counting? I’m talking about counting because you are going to make a spreadsheet. It will include names, contact information, and notes on all of your informational interviews. You will use this to keep score and follow-up with the informational interview contacts. You will send these people “personalized” emails with articles and other things you think are interesting. Each email should include a couple of genuinely personalized sentences. You should reach out to these contacts every two to three months. The best follow-up should be important and relevant—perhaps even an article written by you. That spreadsheet should be numbered 1–100 of relevant informational interviews that “count,” as I described above. I have never had anyone make it to 100 before they got a job. Usually, people get a real hit between 30 and 75 names. Other people worry about finding people to talk to. Trust me when I say that you will not have any problem getting to 100 if you make the effort because each person will ideally give you 1–3 referrals. The first 10 are the hardest. You will find it gets much easier to get the interviews and they will start to get easier/better because you will know a lot more after the first 10. In addition, just going through steps 1 and 2 above are going to get you near some people to do informational interviews.
5. Start working even if you are not paid: Look at everything above and think about what you can do. All of those organizations above and many companies need good free (or cheap) labor. Busy professionals are often part of those groups. You can impress them through your work there and turn that into a job or a warm recommendation down the road. There is a reason I mentioned joining committees that need work done. In the cour...

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