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IMGDC 2.0: Government Interference Print E-mail
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Written by Matt "snorkle256" Nolan   
Tuesday, 01 April 2008


It was my extreme pleasure to attend another round table entitled “Government Interference: How Much Can You Take?”  This session was delivered by Dr Richard A. Bartle.

Dr. Bartle presented to the group a few different situations of government interference in game development, some real, some fiction.  He then posed to the developers the following question: "How much would it take before you would quit making games?"

Our first situation takes place in a fictional world called “China”, where gaming addiction is rampant and the government wants to curb excessive gaming.  If developers were forced to add mechanisms in games that limited gaming time per user per day, would developers quit developing?

Across the table the answer was pretty much a no; they would keep making games.  Of course, it was pointed out that gamers themselves would find ways around this by possibly creating multiple accounts (an already common practice in some games).  Digging deeper into the situation, Bartle altered the parameters slightly: instead of restricted hours per day, games will only give in-game experience (XP) to the player for three hours, but would allow continued play.  At this point, a female attending the discussion pointed out that there was already a game on the market that did this. 

And again, if this was a mandate, the developers felt they would be unhappy with the limitation, but they would still make games.  Any such restrictions might drive development outside the country even though the fictional country pushing the mandates would still try to enforce this regulation.  At any rate, one man felt that developers would just become more creative with these restrictions and find a way to make the games enjoyable in spite of such governmental restrictions.

Situation number two was a little different.  Bartle brought up the idea of political ads inside of games, for example, campaign messages.  This brought a very negative response from the group, as nobody liked the idea of a game being halted to deliver such a message, but others suggested that they could be delivered in-game.  One gentleman suggested it would be an excellent bathroom break.

Bartle then presented situation three: consumer protection.  The idea would be that the characters and items that are created by a user are intellectual property that would be owned by the users.  This brought up a host of problems.  First of all, liability would be huge.  If something were to happen and the data is lost the developers and publishers would be responsible for the loss of value.  There would be tax considerations with micro-transactions between users as it would be their property to sell whenever he/she so desired.  Developers would be responsible for bugs in the system that could allow users to duplicate items, which would cause a loss of value for other's items.  In the end, the severs would have to be run forever as the user would be entitled to that property, which cannot be destroyed without compensation for their loss.  This seems to be the point where developers would stop producing games.

Lastly, Bartle introduced the concept of player power.  If the government were to step in and give players a say in what happens to the game based on the idea that developers make money off of gamers' efforts, a whole slew of problems would arise trying to create a democracy of player representation.  Who gets to be in this group?  What powers would they have?  While a sounding board is not a bad idea for game developers to have to help correct something that is a problem with a game, if developers were forced to implement any idea that this group of empowered players suggested, the developers felt they would stop making games.

All in all, while most developers felt they could work in or around most of the situations presented, but preferred a world with none of these limitations.  Truly though, it was evident it take much to destroy the passion of indie developers.


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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 April 2008 )

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