Activity 1 – Impact of technology and technical developments
Game companies are on the cusp of unlocking the true potential of the Internet for video games. The way we play games will be completely different, again, just two or three years from now. You can play high-definition games through the Internet, there are very successful companies that let you play console-quality games through what is essentially a web browser, cloud-based gaming service. The gameplay experience of internet gaming is comparable — even a little better — than playing the game on a console or on a high-powered PC. You get the added bonus of being able to play those games on any Internet-enabled device.
Games are dirt cheap
Back when the Super Nintendo, Playstation and other home consoles dominated gaming, video games would cost anywhere from $40 to $60. Nowadays, you’re likely to get pretty angry if a game on the Apple App Store costs more than $1. Bite-sized game prices on the Apple App Store, and subsequently other online stores, have attracted a whole new breed of buyer that is willing to pay a few bucks for a game. And just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a terrible game. A game on a smartphone has graphics rivaling recent consoles.
You play with your friends over the web
Nowadays, gamers don’t even play against each other at the same time. Playing a multiplayer game usually meant inviting friends over and beating up each other in a quick round of Smash Bros. Now you can play against your friends — and people you didn’t even know — at the same time through the Internet.
Many online games today are asynchronous — meaning gamers play whenever they get a chance, even if their opponent isn’t playing, and are still competing against other players.
Games work in both bite-sized chunks and hour-long sessions
Zynga’s players log into FarmVille and CityVille for only minutes at a time.
That’s a pretty drastic change from a few years ago, when even shorter play sessions would still be upwards of 20 minutes. Play sessions could be as long as 10 hours for bigger online games.
Those kinds of play sessions still exist, because traditional games persist and they demand longer attention spans. But companies like Zynga are able to attract millions of players (Zynga has 277 million alone) with bite-sized play sessions.
Touch- and gesture-based controls dominate the gaming space
Everyone thought the Nintendo DS was a wacky piece of hardware — it had two screens, and the bottom screen was a touch screen.
Fast forward a half-decade and every home console features some kind of touch or gesture-based control scheme. Nearly all modern smartphone games have touch-based controls.
You can play 3D games without glasses
The Nintendo DS changed mobile gaming by introducing touch-based controls and two screens. Nintendo did it again with the next version of its console, which has a 3D display that you don’t even have to use glasses to view.
The Nintendo 3DS screen uses what’s called a parallax barrier, which tricks your eyes into seeing specific pixels. Your right eye sees a specific image while your left eye sees a different one, and it gives off the illusion of a 3D image.
The technology is still in its infancy, but it shows a ton of promise and is the first major leap forward in displays in gaming since high-definition displays were finally affordable.
Most modern top titles are designed to be cinematic thrill rides
It’s rare these days that the most popular games do something incredibly innovative with graphics or controls or have a really unique gameplay mechanism.
Instead, the best-selling games are highly-polished cinematic thrill-rides that take you on an emotional rollercoaster and never let you take a breath. Franchises like Mass Effect, Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed all set the standard with absolutely gorgeous graphics, incredible storytelling and superb voice acting.
The cartridge and disc are on their way out
Valve, the makers of first-person shooting games Counter Strike and Half-Life, shook things up once again in 2003 when it released digital distribution service Steam.
Steam ushered in a new era where game discs are increasingly less relevant and most players just download a game directly from the Internet. You can even download games on home consoles like the Xbox 360 instead of buying a hard copy of a game (though the hard copy is still the more popular option for consoles).
Digital distribution became even more popular when App Stores came out and made it even easier to get games. Electronic Arts launched its own high-profile game digital distribution service called Origin. Discs and hard copies of games are basically over.
You can make a game on a tiny budget
It’s easier than ever to create a game that will go on and make millions. Take Doodle Jump, for example. Igor Pusenjak and his brother Marko built the game and it took the Apple App Store by storm, becoming one of the most popular paid apps. Since then, gamers have downloaded Doodle Jump more than 8.5 million times.
The lower barriers to entry mean developers can experiment with more innovative and creative games. If it isn’t successful, they can quickly start developing a new game for a small cost and try again and again.
Then there’s indie sensation Minecraft, which has been downloaded more than 10 million times. Developer Markus Persson doesn’t have a publisher and relied on viral channels to promote the game, and it’s a runaway success. Mojang Studios, the game developer behind Minecraft, also launched an iPhone app for the game.
Activity 2 – Legal and statutory controls
A typical software license grants an end-user permission to use one or more copies of software in ways where such a use would otherwise potentially constitute copyright infringement of the software owner’s exclusive rights under copyright law.
In addition to granting rights and imposing restrictions on the use of software, software licenses typically contain provisions which allocate liability and responsibility between the parties entering into the license agreement. In enterprise and commercial software transactions these terms, such as limitations of liability, warranties and warranty disclaimers, and indemnity if the software infringes intellectual property rights of others.
Copyright laws and practice
Copyright protects artistic and literary expression. It covers a broad variety of creative expression from email, to websites, to video games.
Generally speaking in games, the underlying code is protected as a literary work, and the artwork and sound are protected as an audiovisual work. While you don’t need to have the work (ie your video game) registered to be covered by copyright law, there are advantages to registration.
Certain artwork in video games falls under the doctrine of scenes a faire. This references particular artwork and elements of a videogame that are necessary to execute a particular idea and are NOT copyrightable. That includes things like the scoring system, the lives, the coins, and the sky/ground. Scenes a faire also applies to certain genres of games. For example, if you have a golfing game, you would include certain design elements like holes, golf balls, golf clubs, golfers, grass, trees, and water. While you can’t copy these elements verbatim from another golfing game, you have the right to include such elements in your game because otherwise no one else could create a golfing game.
Intellectual Property rights (IP)
One of the biggest factors contributing to this is that many game developers do not develop comprehensive strategies for protecting the valuable intellectual property that they create. This is generally due to several reasons. One is that historically intellectual property just not been a big focus for many in the industry. The other is that many people are not aware of the range of options available for protecting IP in the game space and what aspects of games are protectable. This often is due to some common misunderstandings about intellectual property, particularly with respect to the patentability of game features.
While it is true that one can not protect the “idea” for a game, this does not end the inquiry. Many aspects of games are protectable by patents, copyright and trademarks. Of these, patents are probably the most overlooked and least understood. While this applies to all types of games, there are particularly compelling opportunities to patent many of the innovative aspects of social and online games. This is due in part to the many recent developments in the relevant technology and business models for these games. Prudent developers and publishers will seize these opportunities to develop a comprehensive IP protection strategy.
Overview of Forms of IP Protection
Games are basically software and content running on a platform. Other applications of software and technology platforms are patentable and are frequently patented. The patentability of software and technology platforms does not change just because the application is a game. Yet, many game developers overlook this and forego patent protection. Additionally, the content, source code and other creative aspects of a game can be protected by copyright. The name and other brand elements of a game can be protected by trademark.
Tax and national insurance
Chancellor George Osborne said he planned to introduce corporation tax relief from April 2013 for the video games, animation and high-end television industries. The industry has lobbied for such changes for several years. The chancellor said he wanted to make the UK the technology centre of Europe.
Mr Wilson predicted that tax relief for the video games sector should generate and safeguard 4,661 direct and indirect jobs, offer £188m in investment expenditure by studios, increase the games development sector’s contribution to UK GDP by £283m and generate £172m for the Treasury.
Activity 3 – Health and Safety
There are six main obligations on employers
The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 set out six main obligations on employers of those who work with display screen equipment.
• analyse workstations and reduce health and safety risks
• ensure workstations meet minimum ergonomic requirements
• provide information about risks and measures
• plan daily work routine for users
• offer eye tests and special glasses if necessary
• provide health and safety training
The Regulations only apply where there are ‘users’ or ‘operators’. Although both these terms are common in the computer industry, the Health and Safety Executive has chosen to give them specific meanings under the Regulations. A ‘user’, in terms of the Regulations, is an employee who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work. Some of the employer’s responsibilities extend to users employed by others (eg Temp agency staff) who are working on the employer’s premises or equipment.
The Regulations also apply to the self-employed. An ‘operator’ in terms of the Regulations, is any self-employed person who habitually uses display screen equipment as a significant part of his normal work. As a self employed person, some of the obligations are their own responsibility e.g. training. However, other responsibilities fall on the employer who has hired them for display screen work.
There are health problems associated with working with computers, which include repetitive strain injury, eye strain, back pain and stress.
The regulations require employers to carry out a risk assessment of users’ workstations, which should consider the entire workstation, including equipment and furniture, as well as the work environment, eg lighting, temperature and leg room. The tasks that are being performed at the workstation should be considered as should any special needs of individual staff.
Display screen equipment (DSE) risk assessments should also consider those factors that may contribute to repetitive strain injuries such as:
sitting in the same position for a long period
awkward positioning of the wrist and hand in relation to the keyboard
high workload for a prolonged period of time
excessive use of the mouse.
Checklist for workstations
The DSE Regulations detail the minimum standards for workstations, which are summarised below.
The display screen
display well-defined characters of adequate size and spacing
have a stable image
have easily adjustable brightness and contrast
tilt and swivel easily to suit the user
be free from glare and reflections
use a separate base for the screen, or an adjustable table.
be tiltable and separate from the screen to allow the user to adopt a comfortable working position
have a space in front to provide support for the hands or arms of the user
have a matt surface
have clearly legible symbols on the keys.
The work surface
The work surface should:
provide adequate space for the user
have a low reflective surface
be of adequate size to allow the screen, keyboard, etc to be flexibly arranged
have a stable, adjustment document holder, which should be at the same level as the screen and at the same viewing distance.
The work chair
This should have a seat that is adjustable in height, with a seat back adjustable in height and tilt. A footrest should be available.
The workstation must do the following:
provide sufficient space for the user or the operator to alter position comfortably
lighting must be adequate with suitable contrast between the screen and background
glare and reflections on the screen should be avoided
windows should be fitted with adjustable coverings to alter the daylight level.
When a workstation is shared by more than one person, it should be assessed in respect of each person.
Training in using computers
Employers are obliged to provide information and training on the health and safety aspects of working with computers. This should cover:
the importance of good posture, changing position and good keyboard technique
how to avoid glare or bright reflections in the screen
cleaning and adjusting the screen
the importance of frequent short breaks
using a mouse
who to report symptoms to or to contact for help
information about the right to eyesight tests.
Under the regulations, users have a right to eye sight tests upon starting computer work and at regular intervals thereafter, at the employer’s expense. Where tests show that the user requires special spectacles/lenses for computer work, the employer must pay for the cost of a basic pair.
The work of laptop users should be properly assessed. As some laptops can be heavy, the assessment ought to include the risk of manual handling (ie lifting and carrying).
Laptops should be used in proper workstations and not on one’s lap, especially if large amounts of data need to be inputted. As prolonged use is likely to cause ergonomic problems, it is even more important for users to take regular breaks, position themselves correctly, flex their arms, etc.
Activity 4 – Business & Financial Support
Grants and loans
Scottish Enterprise would be a great place to get a grant from as they already support one of the largest video game based companies in Scotland and that is Rockstar North “the internationally recognized video game development studio based in Edinburgh”, has been awarded an R&D Grant. The grant of just over £1 million is a 15 percent contribution towards an £8 million R&D project, and has, to date, created 25 new high value jobs in the Edinburgh and Scottish video game sector”. Since a massive, successful company like Rockstar is partly funded by this grant it is safe to presume that it would be a good place to receive some help when starting a business.
IDEAScotland is a business accelerator programme designed to help start-up digital economy entrepreneurs of any background or experience attract valuable investment to build a sustainable and profitable business. The programme is sponsored and run by DC Thomson, brightsolid, the University of Abertay Dundee and the University of Dundee.
Activity 5 – Unions, services, professional associations
The Scottish Games Network (SGN)
“ The Scottish Games Network now offers a single unified and strategic contact point for Scotland’s diverse games sector, as well as opening the sector up to the wider cultural and creative industries, both nationally and globally. The Scottish Games Network is open to every company and organisation involved in the video games and interactive industries. Not simply developers, but technology companies, animation specialists, audio companies, publishers, retailers, media, freelance staff, contractors, academic institutions and the government.”
“The organisation pro-actively identifies new projects and opportunities to enable the games sector to grow, evolve and prosper, moving beyond advocacy and representation to pull together the individuals, companies and organisations across the country, providing strategic insight, research, create new opportunities and organise events”. They are looking to find new projects and opportunities to showcase to others so that the gaming sector will grow. This is needed for the smaller companies/ people in Scotland who are doing amazing things but are not getting noticed, it will shine a light on their talents.