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Remixing vs. Reskinning: The Fine Line Between Inspiration and Imitation in the Games Industry


Lies van Roessel (Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society)
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Since digital games’ early days there have been conflicts about the fine line between objectionable imitation (i.e. cloning) and accepted inspiration. This talk presents the findings of a study exploring how game developers handle this tension. Results show that game developers are inspired by and reuse other games’ mechanics as well as audiovisual elements. Yet, wholesale copying is rejected and practices such as reskinning are deemed objectionable, even though it is legally hard to prove.
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This session is meant for game professionals who are interested in reflecting on game development and its (implicit) values and culture, especially regarding cloning, innovation and copyright protection. The talk will also provide best practices and strategies of how to handle this (legally) grey area. Moreover, Quo Vadis vistors interested in game research will be addressed by this talk.

Being inspired and remixing of existing game mechanics is a common and accepted practice in the games sector, although alleged cloners, i.e. people that cross the line, are condemned by the community. Developer norms are in some cases stronger than laws.
Indies have different strategies to navigate the legal grey zone than mobile and browser game developers.
Moreover, I will present best practices on how to protect game ideas while keeping the industry open.

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