If we lookup the dictionary, plagiarism is defined as an act or instance of using orclosely imitating the language and thoughts of another author withoutauthorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as bynot crediting the original author.
In other words: stealing of someone else’sideas. Therefore, if you don’t want to be caught in plagiarism, you must beoriginal and inventive. First ofall, what is invention? Some may say that invention is about taking the toolsaround us and putting them together in different ways. There is somepercentage of people who invent, and bigger percentage of those who copy andremix. This is true of every other artistic and industrial pursuit, there is noreason to expect videogame industry to be an exception.Most gamesthese days’ merge elements from very different games in the past.
You have togo back to nearly the dawn of videogames before you start finding something purelyinnovative, and even most of those can be traced back even further tonon-videogames.In the very beginning, 70s and 80s era, due to technologicallimitations, video games were so simple and straightforward, that it wastrivial to create clones of games for other systems and even get away with this,as during that time copyright system didn’t quite respect work of computersoftware. So again, many of the genres of games we know of todaywere spawned by widespread “plagiarism” of good elements from previous games toform an industry standard. It still is uneasy to say what elements will be orare already common with all games because the language of the medium is stillbeing developed and it’s changing with every year and every genre.you may think that every genre has to start somewhereif someone didn’t rip off a fighting game would we ever have games like StreetFighter? This is a complex conundrum and we simply can’t take a side when weconsider it. You can’t copyright an idea.
All you can do iscopyright the execution.So question is, what exactly we can count as aplagiarism in videogams? And which elemenets arenon-copyrightable. While specific assets from gamescan be protected, like character design or names, the actual gameplay is a lotharder to protect. They way by which you interact with a game or the featuresthat it has can be hard to prove to be original.Still, much of the copying seems to go well beyondmerely taking ideas, gameplay mechanics or foundational elements. Often timesinvolving source code, artwork, sounds and other copyrightable elements.
And that, in turn, is where the law comes in.Copyright law makes it very clear that expressions of ideas are copyrightableand that includes many of the elements that make up video games. This is whywe’re likely to see more and more video game plagiarism cases end up in court,not because of the fluctuating ethical standards of plagiarism in the medium,but due to the more concrete copyright rules surrounding them. However, it’s in the gray area between what the lawexpressly forbids and what ethically feels wrong where many clones, remakes andports will reside. That is where the debate is going to take place and theindustry is going to have to set its own rules about what is right and wrong,hopefully before the flood of imitators and knock-offs destroy the video gamemarket a second time.