Wednesday, 18 January 2012

It was Acceptable in the 80s...

So sung Calvin Harris in 2007, but when it came to cloning popular games, never a truer word was spoken.
Today we are told to look on copying in any form, even intellectual copying, as a bad thing, but without that first wave of bedroom coders sitting up all night trying to write their own versions of the popular arcade games of the day there would be no games industry. And that’s not a ‘maybe there wouldn’t be a games industry’ it’s an absolute certainty, because that spirit of free innovation is where the modern industry directly hailed from, and not from any corporations, they only really got involved much later, when they saw a market developing that they could make real money form.
The fact that some of these same bedroom coders are now heads of companies that seem to wish to stifle innovation in favour of market forces now baffles me. In many cases they started by cloning Space Invaders and Pac-Man for the 8bit home-computers, and now they are churning out the same old FPS wrapped up in (slightly) different skins... Ok so I suppose there’s certain symmetry to that, but it’s the innovation that has been lost. The games market of the eighties was all about taking the big-game concepts and running with them, advancing the concepts and trying to come up with the next new big thing. Very often this innovation led to completely new and innovative games. Games that now form the very bedrock of a stagnant pool of FPS sameness.
It seems that there isn’t enough profit in innovation for the big-name companies to risk any game that hasn’t been proven to have a ready made mass market audience, although the recently developing on-line Independent games market is making good inroads into bringing back innovation to gaming. Unfortunately this could all be set to change.

Along with gaming the Internet and on-line gaming has also spread like wildfire from those heady days of the eighties up until present day. Also like games, the internet’s infrastructure in general along with its services and major sites have grown organically, fuelled by free willed innovation to become big-business. But this is also under threat from the corporate censors, although this time it’s much more of a full frontal attack by the corporate law-machine.

Today we live in a world where big business corporations are trying to push for the SOPA and PIPA legislation what could be used, for all intents and purposes, to close down the internet as we currently know it, making it a corporate tool, effectively forcing the stalwart services like Google and YouTube, amongst many other ‘big names,’ in America to be shut down overnight!  Not ‘almost overnight’ or’ forced to make changes’ but just BANG, CLOSED, GONE with immediate effect, without a trial or any inquiry. Simply because some faceless corporation goon claims these sites are infringing their copyright. The Internet could become little more than a simple storefront for ‘official’ corporate and sanctioned seller sites. I don’t want the internet to follow the Apple model. To many the internet is not just a shop!.

Am I making too big a thing out of the proposed new copyright laws? Honestly I don’t think so. I’m not prone to scaremongering, but these changes could be far reaching and devastating to the current Internet, and definitely not just for the Pirates, as those pushing it say.

Personally I’d rather lose Sony, and any other big corparate input, that lose Google and all the other free search engines, along with any other semblance of a free and open Internet. Remember, it’s consumers that hold these companies up, and it’s consumers that can bring them down. And many of their customers are the same people that want a free internet. They may do well to remember that.

Are the days of innovation and opportunity in the electronic publishing area in general now drawing to a halt, strangled by the big corporation’s paranoia about loosing their bottom-dollar?
Are we now prepared to loose the spirit shown in all the innovations; design and thoughts first shown in those games of the eighties, and continued into the developing internet world; to the greed of big-business?

Is the innovation started in the games and networks of the eighties now out of vogue? Was it just a case of it being as the song said ‘Acceptable at the time’ but now ok to let the corporations sacrificed these freedoms at the altar of greed and profit.

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