Sponsored By

Featured Blog | This community-written post highlights the best of what the game industry has to offer. Read more like it on the Game Developer Blogs.

Cloning is the lifeblood of the industry. The problem isn't that things get cloned, it's that 'indies' are all mutually isolated and have to weep into their beer about it.

Sam Kite, Blogger

May 23, 2012

8 Min Read

Someone made digital tag for the PlayStation motion controller, and then someone else made it for iPhone, and now I guess we're supposed to be upset. 

I, for one, am relieved that the criminals who have been ruthlessly making their name off the beautiful music of Bach--without remixing, dubstepping it, or rerecording it using instruments they purchased themselves--let alone getting permission from his estate, or raising his spirit in the bathroom mirror by saying his name 100 times in the dark, are finally going to get their just comeuppance when this hip new platform for house music releases their ingenious new version of the public domain game known as tag (or keep away or whatever).

First they came for the classical composers, and I said nothing, because I already had my boxed set of their collected works. Then they came for blah blah blah; long story short, millions murdered.

You know why cloning is such a problem in the game industry? Because each time one of these 'brilliant' new games is released in the indie community, they rip off half a dozen ideas to get there. They're given a pass because the underdog/loner/mediocre artist is more lovable than someone with money, team, or talent.

But that's not what art or being a human is about. When you're in a room, and you say something that starts the ball rolling on, for instance, a great party--you don't get to own the people who you just provided entertainment for. What they 'owe' you is gratitude and well wishes, which aren't worth shit. In a world with billions of potential art creators, your 'unique' idea is priviledge of birth and circumstances aka pure dumb luck. Not an inspirational spark.

How many of these amazing indie games were created and then vanished into thin air during the last 3 decades on the fledgling internet, produced by authors who didn't want or care about their audience? What's more, how many long-forgotten Nerf or Hasbro products have come and gone on the theme of 'I try to poke your spot and you try to poke mine, and the first one who's successful wins'. Can't you play this game with a pair of microphones and amplifiers or eggs and sticks (or bicycles and broomsticks)?

I feel vitriol against people who user Poser to mimic 3d characters from their favorite franchises, not because they're copying an idea, but because they're doing it *badly* and getting credit for having talent. Why does that matter to me? Because I want to be excited and interested by talented people and track them--follow them. See the good stuff *and* the shit they produce and encourage them. I do not want to encourage half assed crap.

That's what's happening here, only the offending party is gute fabrik. JS joust, as an experience, is being forced to listen to distortions of good music while playing a version of 'don't spill my beer'. B.U.T.T.O.N. is a version of free for all crap between kids who are fighting instead of playing together. If you want to wrestle and tickle your friends as a way of figuring out who gets the remote control, or the best toy, or the last piece of chicken, do that. You don't need to pay this outfit for some lumpy pixel art animals.

The only thing gute fabrik makes that looks like an 'original' game is 'Where is my heart?', and I wouldn't call that a *good* game. Their 'art statement' that goes with it is the kind of crap that makes me hate the current machinations of the fine art world. Inspirations from japanese folk art and tableauxes of blah blah--the whole thing is a metaphor for the creators disfunctional family hiking experiences. 

If the fear at the core of the anticlone attitude is that good art will not get recognized because someone will beat them to the punch, then the indie community has to also invent some way to determine what 'good art' is, other than the market place, which is what we're using now.

Peer review in scientific journals is A) not applicable, because science is independently verifiable--a process of oversight which is, effectively, achieved by cloning in the game industry and B) fraught with copying, lying, ad hominem, and distortion for the purpose of advancing careers and cheating others! If our nutrition 'science' is so advanced why is there a diabetes and obesity epidemic? Because people are ignoring it? How many 'low fat' products do you see on the shelves? God damn near everything.

If that label means something, we should be getting healthier. We are not. The reasons why are becoming apparent, at last, and reveal a hideous crack in the supposed integrity of scientific peer review. There is no perfect method for shaking out the good from the bad, and the more voices there are, the harder it gets. 

Money is ugly and ruins everything it touches as soon as it looks like some may be out there to be had. It's true at funerals and it's true in pop culture. That's why making art in exchange for money gets so screwed up. The majority of the artists in circulation do not make money in proportion to what the public is willing to pay. Nobody should collect the level of profit of a Microsoft or Sony. On the other hand we need Microsofts and Sonys to provide the platforms and marketing to deliver these products.

Cooperation is the answer here. Instead of toiling away in indie hermitages until you produce your baby, you should join indie collectives along the lines of credit unions and play musical chairs cloning each others ideas and producing shotgun-like distributions and treatment of games on different platforms with small variations until something sticks, and then share the rewards to defray the risk. Instead of watching so many of these indies die on the vine.

Is someone worried all the entertainment capital will dry up? Why is everyone so goddamned backstabbing and jealous of their own creations? It's miserable to watch, and even more miserable to discuss.

Cloning is the lifeblood of the game industry--of all entertainment and craftsmanship. The term in language we have for the phenomenon is community.

Publishing conglomerations do this shit all the time. It's their business model. They fund variations on shooters until a franchise sticks, then they create a cash cow to milk for a while and start funding splinter products in the mean time.

The problem with indies getting ripped off is right in the name. Don't be indie. Be unified. Be an efficient not for profit ltd composed of a variety of small teams working on similar projects and taking suggestions from within about the next direction to go. Have drinks with each other. Play triple A titles together and talk about how to do it better.

The alternative to a bank is not stuffing your money into your mattress, or becoming a personal loan-shark who breaks legs to secure their interest, it's Credit Unions. The problem with bigness isn't bigness, it's inefficiency. Management is inefficiency. Cooperate without any CEOs or cash bonuses. If you want to secure a financial stream that will solve all your problems forever, collect enough people in one place to improve your odds of actually securing such a thing.

This argument about cloning being ok is mindless. It has nothing to do with cloning. This is about being turned against one another by mutual isolation, when it is built into the fiber of our being that we should sacrifice for the group, even when the group hates us. After all, if indies didn't care about other people they wouldn't be trying to get their games played by others. The sentiment is to spread joy--well, take that seriously and make the infrastructure to make it work.

Cooperation isn't perfect. Sometimes you end up dragging someone around with no talent. Maybe a whole team. If you can't figure out how to make things work while weighed down by some lodestones, then that's a shame. Much like not knowing how to determine 'what is art' except through the lense of the market, I don't think we know how to deal with the chronically untalented (but enthusiastic) with shame, recrimination, and exclusion--and that process is imperfect, due to the occaisonally discarded unrecognized genius. But given all that, without an alternative there still is no way to protect those people

A witch hunt conducted by the ill informed when they see two things that look the same is certainly not the way forward.

Cut up the buffalo carcass and share it. You'll never know when you'll have a bad day hunting and someone else will have a good one. 

Read more about:

Featured Blogs

About the Author(s)

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like