Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Loading Law is back! Keep checking in over the next few weeks as we’ll be updating constantly from what has become a backlog of articles.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). For the uninitiated, C2E2 is a fan convention held annually in Chicago which celebrates comic books, video games, movies, toys, and pop culture. First held in 2010, C2E2 has rapidly grown and this year is expected to have exceeded last year’s attendance of over 53,000 guests.
In addition to wandering the never-ending show floor and taking pictures with cosplayers, I attended several discussion panels hosted by industry professionals. Topics were diverse, ranging from literary workshops to a panel reuniting actors from the first season of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers television series. Three panels in particular caught my eye. They were of course, related to video games, their legal complexities, and their ongoing technological development.
The first panel which gained my attention was entitled Publishing Your Indie Game and was put on by indie game companies Lunar Giant and The Amiable. The panel, taking questions from the audience, discussed marketing strategies for indie games distributed through online platforms like Steam. In particular, the panel stressed the importance of utilizing recently discounted or free software utilities in game design such as Unreal Engine 3 and Audacity. These tools can remove the need small developers have for expensive software licenses, and can help them pass their savings on their consumer base.
A more legally focused panel, creatively entitled Legal Cosplay, was put on by one of Chicago’s own intellectual property and social media firms: Saper Law Offices LLC. Associate attorney Chris McElwain led the panel and walked the group through several legal cautionary tales related to comics, films, and video games. Mr. McElwain had the following to say of C2E2 and the nature of his practice with young entrepreneurs:
Now more than ever, the people churning out the content that fuels events like C2E2 are referencing one another’s ideas and creations and brands. That brings issues like copyright, trademark, right of publicity, and defamation to the forefront. It’s so much easier to get your stuff out there now–the cultural gatekeepers are so much less important–which is great, but it means that creative individuals and small teams of collaborators, many of whom can’t afford to go a big traditional law firm, are suddenly navigating these complicated legal waters on their own.
It is fairly safe to say that Mr. McElwain is correct in his assessment and that more indie developers will try to legally protect their intellectual property on their own or with the help of a less expensive boutique firm. They simply don’t have the capital for large retainers. Still, law firms shouldn’t shy away from representing them. Indie games can be a great gamble for a smaller firm. Indie games can leave a large footprint in the marketplace because they are made on a small budget and can yield vast profits. Mega titles like Braid, Super Meat Boy, and Minecraft spring to mind. Each of those titles sold millions of copies in the last few years. It’s clear from Mr. McElwain’s comments that Saper Law takes these kinds of clients seriously and other firms would do well to do the same.
The last video game panel I had time to visit at C2E2 was simply titled Future of Video Games and was led by Garrett Fuller of MMORPG.com The panel touched on several topics such as the rapid expansion of mobile gaming and how the youngest generation of gamers are so competent that they seem more comfortable in the digital world than the real world.
However, the primary focus of the future of games panel was the Occulus Rift. The Occulus Rift, of course, is a virtual reality head-mounted display which was recently acquired by Facebook and should be shipping to consumers in the next year. The unit’s technology is truly impressive and only time will tell if it is truly the future gaming or the latest incarnation of a failed attempt at making virtual reality gaming an actual reality.
On the whole, C2E2 is really a spectacular forum for the sharing of ideas across a myriad of topics and technologies. It is truly impressive to see just how many talented entrepreneurs in so many fields are ready and willing to jump into their work with both feet. This gamer will definitely be in attendance next year, and I may even get into the cosplay myself.
Maybe it’s time the world was reminded of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer?