Video Games & Innovation

by on July 28, 2006 · 10 comments

I suppose you could argue that a 37-year-old father of two shouldn’t still be playing video games, but I love ’em and just can’t give them up. I’ll probably still be playing when I’m 80 inside a virtual holodeck down in some lame Florida retirement community. (God I hope my Golden Years are that exciting).

These days, I just don’t have the time to play the more sophisticated action & adventure games that I used to love the most, so I now spend most of my time with “single-session” games, especially sports games that allow me to play a quick game and then put it aside for awhile. Last night, while I was sitting in my basement with my kids playing an intense Michigan vs. Ohio State matchup on EA’s marvelous new “NCAA Football 2007,” my mind started drifting back to all the other football games I’ve played through the years on multiple platforms. In particular, I remembered the very first sports game I ever bought was “Atari Football” back in the late 1970s. At the time, I thought it was about the most cutting-edge thing ever invented. Today, of course, it looks absolutely primitive. Just look at this! …

Atari Football.jpg

… And then look at this beautiful screen shot from the new NCAA Football game…

NCAA 2007.jpg

We’ve come a long way in a very short time!

Indeed, as I mentioned in my write-up of this year’s video game industry trade show (“E3”), this is one heck of an innovative industry. There are some remarkably creative minds working in the electronic gaming sector producing some of the most amazing and entertaining intellectual works of our time.

Speaking of intellectual works and intellectual property… (and here’s where I try to turn a random rant about video games into a serious policy blog) … why is it that so few people talk about the role of strong intellectual property rights in the electronic gaming sector? After all, this sector is quite vocal about enforcing their copyrights. And they’re even big supporters of the DMCA. But they never get ridiculed as much as the movie or music guys. Could it be because many IP skeptics love their video games and are willing to give them a free pass while going after Hollywood on copyright issues?

Or, could it be because that, in their hearts, some IP skeptics realize that truly great games like “Halo 2”, “Medal of Honor,” “Oblivion,” and so on would never get created without strong IP rights? Indeed, there been have some interesting things written about the lack of really innovative games coming out of the open source community. (See this, thisand this, for example). What does that tell us? I think it tells us that to achieve the level of sophistication we see in modern video games, something more than first-mover advantage is necessary. Just look at what it takes to create some of these games. Is this going to happen in a world devoid of strong IP enforcement?

In other words, if we lived in this world, would any of these worlds get created?

Gran Turismo.jpg
Tom Clancy GRW.jpg
Tomb Raider.jpg

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