Video Games and Government

Video Games and Government

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8175-0.ch006


Video games do not live in a bubble of just the game, they also exist within the larger society, and because of that existence within society, there is a connection with different governments. The largest connection that video games have with government is through copyright protection, as is afforded to other pieces of media and art. Along with this comes talk of censorship and labeling. Video games are also moving into new realms of connection with governments with the rise of eSports. South Korea is one of the most influential when it comes to connection between governments and video games, passing many different laws and having different policies that are connected to video games. This chapter explores video games and government.
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Copyright presents one of the biggest issues for both game producers/developers, and also for players themselves. There are no specific sections of copyright law that directly address video games, but because of their status as media, and intellectual property they are copyrightable. Also, because of their digital nature, video games fall under the purview of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is the most recent update to the 1976 Copyright Act. Video games can be considered when talking about copyright because, as Lipinski (2003) notes, “copyright law was designed to be technologically neutral. Its principles, such as fair use… are designed to apply regardless of the technology used.” (p. 825) Video games are copyrightable, and in most, if not all cases, video games are copyrighted by the creator, which is generally the developer or publisher of the game. In the case of large AAA games, it is the company that owns the copyright (e.g. Electronic Arts).

One of the biggest problems that most video game companies state having is the problem of piracy. With the ease of being able to access botnets/torrents and download most games desired, there is a great fear among many companies that this is how gamers will get their games at all times. This is supported by the ideas that Downing (2011) put forth, “subcultures believe that the games they appreciate should be experienced by all ‘true gamers’; piracy provides access to such media, which would otherwise be unavailable to a larger audience.” (p. 751) With piracy comes access; access to all games for all gamers. A very utilitarian ideal, and one that scares copyright holders.

With this threat of piracy, the legal restrictions from copyright and the DMCA are brought forward to try and deter it. The presence of these legal restrictions can, at times, have an impact (Peace et al., 2003; Higgins et al., 2005; Yang et al., 2007; Wolfe et al., 2008; Chiang & Assane, 2008), but there are also studies that exist that say legal restrictions have very little impact upon piracy (Al-Rafee & Cronan, 2006; Gillespie, 2006). Downing (2011) even moves further from this idea, believing that it does not really matter what legal protections there are, because “subcultural members who respect the producers of the media they consume may be less likely to engage in pirating this same media.” (p. 761)

The Association of UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) reports, according to (Whitworth 2011), that illegal copies of video games or modified consoles (i.e. specific forms of piracy) cost £1.45 billion in lost sales for 2010. That economic loss from pirating is pretty significant, and would have a great impact upon the industry. Adding that amount of money (per year) back into the video game industry would change it completely. The UKIE also estimates that the loss of money resulted in 1,000 fewer jobs. Interestingly, these figures are also only from consoles, and not from PC piracy. If that were included, the number would be much higher. Because of this large amount of profit loss, it is no wonder that the video game industry is looking to combat or eliminate piracy.

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