Legal issues in games development
Copyright and intellectual property:
“Copyright is one of the main types of intellectual property – others include designs, patents and trademarks. Intellectual property allows a person to own things they create in the same way as something physical can be owned. It is the right to prevent others copying or reproducing someone’s work.
The main legislation dealing with copyright in the United Kingdom is the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.”
This can be used both against me and in my defense. For my FMP or in my career if I was to steal or plagiarise someone else’s work then they could take me to court of where if they won the case there would be dire consequences for me.
“Upon conviction in the magistrates’ court the maximum term of incarceration in the UK for copyright infringement is 6 months and/or a fine of up to £50,000.
Upon conviction in the Crown Court the maximum term of incarceration in the UK for copyright infringement is 10 years and/or an “unlimited” fine.” (Feb 04, 2016)
Copyright is there to also protect my intellectual property and in my FMP and my career will come in handy in the case that someone steals or plagiarises my work. In the UK copyrighting is free, it becomes copyrighted as soon as it’s committed to a fixed form as
“It is the expression of the idea that is protected and not the idea itself. People cannot be stopped from borrowing an idea or producing something similar but can be stopped from copying.”
Contracts and Commissions:
A contract is a legally binding agreement between employer and employee that will list the conditions of employment, the employee’s rights and the responsibilities or both the employer and the employee. The contract is set by the employer but is open for negotiation and is not set until the employee signs it. There are different types of contracts: Freelancer, fixed term and permanent. A freelance contract means the employee is allowed to have other contracts and work on other projects and their work is not allowed to be used until they are paid (they are paid on the work they produce).
A fixed term means that an employee works for a company for a set amount of time and will do any work given in the time they are given, this contract can renewed at the end if the company wants to keep them on but this contact assures that they are paid for a set amount of time.
Another way the employer can try and keep them on is to hire them as permanent member of the team, meaning that they work for the company and under correct reasons can quit or be fired. They will be paid until they are gone.
A commission is an agreement between employer and employee to produce work within a set amount of time, this is similar to how freelance contracts work but in this case the employee will not receive any of the benefits that a contracted employee would receive.
This is relevant to my FMP and my college life due to the contract signed between me and the college which means they have to support me if I need it and they are responsible for my safety but I must do the work I’m given and have good attendance. etc.
This will be relevant to my career when I go out looking for a job, I will know what I need to look for and that I can negotiate contracts given to me and that my employment is protected, I have decided it is probably best to avoid commissions as these can come with potential risks to me and my work.
Representation and Regulations:
In games there are many representations of religion, race, gender. etc. And these can cause problem for companies as they can anger many consumers. There have been big issues with games such as Assassins Creed as it portrays Christianity (Templars) to be the bad guys who are out there to control the world with power which is quite offending to Christianity as that is against their customs, Ubisoft even have a disclaimer on their games saying that the events of the game are fictional.
Another issue of representation in games is race as most times games are dominated by white people and often follow stereotypes which can cause a lot of trouble. Sometimes what can seem racist isn’t actually racist but will still be called out for it, for instance; Bioshock infinite and its slaves, which is a very touchy issue in the west due to historic events like the slave trade but in this case it was being authentic and contextualising with how society was at this time.
There are also issues with Gender equality in games and how females are represented in video games, although their has been an increase in female main characters with titles such as Mirror’s edge, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Portal and Tomb raider. There is still some misrepresentation in games about females having to be slim and be good looking and used to be widely seen as just damsels in distress or simply sex objects like in GTA games.
Sometimes games can represent these in graphic ways, especially when it comes to discrimination and sex. So before a game can be released it will undergo an assessment by certain regulation Associations, the most prominent one in Europe being PEGI and in the UK they are also UKIE, TIGA and AIME. All of these regulate games over content to determine what age rating they are what tags they require, such as Discrimination, Drugs, Gambling, bad language, Online, sex, violence. etc.
These are all good things to be aware when creating any interactive media product as it would be wise to avoid controversy over any products I produce but sometimes the controversy can be used in my favour to raise attention to me and my product like GTA does with it’s very stereotypical gender and race roles. Regulations may cost but they are also there to protect me and my work from angry consumers who are against the contents of my products as they were warned by any tags it received.
Health and safety & Risk Assessment:
I need to be aware of health and safety within any environment especially any place of work in games. Some of the basics that I should know are to be aware of any trip hazards, fire hazards, electricity etc. When it comes to fire
“Those responsible should:
- take steps to prevent and reduce the impact of fire on the workplace and carry out a fire risk assessment of their workplace
- identify the significant findings of the risk assessment and the details of anyone who might be especially at risk in case of fire (these must be recorded if more than five employees)
- provide and maintain fire precautions necessary to safeguard anyone using the workplace (including visitors)
- provide information, instruction and training to employees about the fire precautions in the workplace.”
Work Place hazards
but employees must also be aware of what causes fires, how to avoid them, how to deal with them and where fire exits are.
All trip hazards should be noted and covered if they can be (Wires), signs should be placed where the floor is slippery so employee know to be careful and where to avoid, most employees should have common sense to look where they’re going and not fall.
To avoid electrical problems, all food and drinks should be kept aware from hardware, sockets shouldn’t be overloaded, training within the workplace around electricity should be provided and any electrical dangers that can be covered up, must be.
Electrical problems and loose wires are big problems in a games studio but there are also other risks that are less noticed at first within those works places. These include: Damage to eyes due to monitors and this can be avoided with breaks every hour and short breaks every 20 mins of just not looking at a monitor. A lack of sleep due to crunching can be a risk to an employees health and is something that the company should be preventing with at least 12 hours between shifts and good organisation. Sitting down for prolonged amount of times without much movement can really start to ruin posture and cause back pain.
There should always be risk assessments where the hazards are identified, who could be harmed, the severity of said risks, what measures are being taken already to stop them and what further measures could be taken to prevent the risks. Usually this will be undertaken by the company.
Project type Ideas
In this post I will be covering the skills and requirements needed for my final major project. This includes what skills I’ve learnt already and how they will help, where this project would fit in the production processes of a game, what I need to/key production stages, if I have to improve or learn new skills and the hardware and software I will need for the project.
In my FMP I will be working as an, audio engineer so the skills I will write about will be focused around that.
Audio engineer: I have a good understanding of how to use audacity to record and edit tracks using it’s many tools to alter the sound entirely or mix 2 different sounds together to create a new one or a better one but despite this I feel that I really will need to improve or learn new skills to get really crisp and clean sounds, I will also need better recording hardware as what I’ve got at the moment isn’t great. I have the hardware needed to run the software I need available to me as well as the software itself, but I might get new software that is more advanced or easier for me but that requires more research. I also enjoy experimenting when it comes to sound which will be useful as a lot of sound is experimenting to get good authentic and clean sounds.
What I want to do would fit within the main production process of a game, after the environment and characters have been implemented, an audio engineer would have the role of getting sounds to fit those environments (as they got build), editing and then inserting them into the game themselves as long side the programmers/coders so that when a character is seen talking, dialogue is heard and the same with other sfx, but ambient and atmospheric sounds would also be put in.
Our FMP Ideas
Me and my friend originally had the idea of creating a 3D environment where the player would come across a body in an abandoned boathouse and would try to figure what happened. It would have been a first person horror suspense and detective game. A full game would be much more in depth and took inspiration from Amnesia: The dark descent with the plot of not really knowing anything at first but the character is being hunted, somethings happened and the player learns more as they progress. It would probably do quite well as there is always an interest within a vast amount of players to figure out the mysteries of games. The threat to this idea is trying to accomplish so much within our time frame and we came to the realisation that we probably won’t be able to do it.
Our second idea was a first person hack and slash set in the Sengoku period of Japan, taking it’s main inspiration from Chivalry: Medieval Warfare/Deadliest Warrior.
The idea was that there would be 4 Clans in Japan battling for control, the players could join any clan they wanted and then there would be matchmaking PVP and whatever clan won the most battles after a week would win the game; this idea takes inspiration from Heroes and Generals. Obviously we weren’t planning on making a whole game so our idea was to make a small 3D environment that effectively uses sound, good 3D assets and detailed textures to portray the atmosphere of war-torn Japan, with heavy focuses over the aesthetic look of Japan in that time period. This idea had similar problems to our first idea where it did not seem like a possibility within our short time frame with our limited skills, we’d be able to improve to the point where could do this but to also accomplish such fine detail on a 3D environment as well did not seem possible.
We really liked the idea of setting our project around Sengoku Japan and Japanese culture in that time and with feedback from the tutors we set on doing an experiment where we play around with concept art that can be interpreted in multiple ways but not clearly. Charlie will create pieces of concept art and then I will use sound to create multiple atmospheres for that piece of concept art, this would be done with multiple pieces of concept art.
The tracks I create for the pieces will be short around 10-20 seconds long depending on how much time is needed to portray the effect I’m after. There is the threat of not having enough to do while I wait for him to create atmosphere so I am currently thinking of what else I can do independently and I will update this when I think of something. We believe that this is achievable in the time frame we have but my biggest problem will be finding/creating sounds to fit the pieces which is where I have to develop my skills and track that as I go along using printscreens and photos.
What has inspired me?
Not really sure what to say when it comes to what, I’ve always enjoyed just listening to soundtracks and the smaller sounds within games and sometimes the real world depending on how closely i’m paying attention, I used to think I was more interested in coding and 3D but that was before I was properly introduced to audio, now I actually really enjoy audio work. I don’t really have an inspiration specifically for sound, I just needed to be introduced to it for me to start realising that I prefer it to other areas of games.
Who has inspired me?
No one who caters specifically to sound has really inspired me but I would never have started this course or even been interested in what happens behind the scene in games if it wasn’t for my family, with 2 of my brothers being game developers themselves; hearing about and seeing some of their experiences and what they make really inspired me to go down the route of games development. I guess my main inspiration and person who’s got me most interested in audio is my tutor Adam, who has taught us everything we know about sound (both recording and editing) and it’s interesting and fun to hear about some of the ideas he gets when he’s trying to create a sound using foley.