The Chicago Video Game Law Summit was approximately one month ago. For the uninitiated, CVGLS was the first video game law event of its kind in Chicago. Organized by myself and my colleague Suzanne Jackiw, with help from the John Marshall Law School’s Video Game Law Society and the Chicago Bar Association, attendees experienced a full day of panels devoted to legal protections for video games. The following words are by no means an exhaustive summary of the full day’s events, but serve merely as a preservation of my experiences, impressions, and reflections for posterity. The official agenda of CVGLS, its speaker list, photos, and eventually video, are/will be available at www.cvgls.com
The day kicked off strong with opening remarks given by yours truly and then went straight for the jugular with a panel devoted to the Video Game Violence Debate. Our discussion focused on the history of legal regulations of violent media, public misconceptions of social science, and the public policy of media regulation and censorship. Professors Ford and Monahan tag teamed the history of game regulation, and Dr. Wright explained misconceptions of video game related social science. Doc Mac contributed his unique perspective of being an arcade owner to the mix, and we all speculated on how games are regulated for their content now, and how they should or shouldn’t be regulated in the future.
The second panel, simply titled Recent Developments in Video Game Law, has come to be known in the last month as the main event of CVGLS. Our all-star panel of video game law attorneys combined their powers, forming a game law Voltron if you will, and solved a hypothetical legal quagmire of adopting a card game to a mobile app. Patrick Sweeny and Greg Boyd addressed transactional aspects of the video game industry, while Ross Dannenberg spearheaded patent analyses. Ryan Morrison brought the panel home with common sense business tactics and sound legal judgment. The panel was brilliant, educational, and dare I say entertaining.
Lunch time during the Summit could hardly be called a break as there was still plenty to do, see, and experience. Attendees and speakers mingled during lunch and talked shop over sandwiches and homemade potato chips. In our own video game museum, attendees had the chance to see and play games that shaped the industry’s current legal status. In addition to reading seminal court decisions, seeing innovative game patents, performing fatalities in Mortal Kombat, or navigating Suzanne’s Video Game Law Dungeon Crawl game, attendees also listened to Marty Goldberg explain the history of video games. Representatives from the Chicago based nonprofits Video Game Art Gallery and Chicago Loot Drop were also there to support CVGLS and interact with attendees.
After lunch, CVGLS had its journalism panel. Given the unfortunately high profile of harassment and chaos in the gaming press in the past year, our presenters attempted to set the record straight. Florence Chee of Loyola University moderated a passionate and informative panel that covered a broad spectrum of game press issues ranging from the origins of the industry all the way up to Gamergate. Russ Pitts, Julian Dibbel, Johnny Wilson, and Lauren Faits each contributed their own perspectives and by the end of their discussion the room had a much deeper appreciation for gamer culture and its footprint on culture.
Next, CVGLS hosted the Business of Video Game panel. Moderated by Patrick Sweeny and featuring Greg Boyd, Marc Whipple, and Sam Glassenberg, this panel dove even deeper into the transactions and business tactics of the game industry. The panel literally made everyone raise a glass as it offered unique insights into how game makers, game studios, and publishers make and distribute the games we love and manage to turn a profit.
CVGLS last and most engaging panel was simply titled Game Development 101. Suzanne Jackiw moderated some of Chicago’s most recognizable game developers through an explanation of how smaller game makers make games. The lawyers in the room were thrilled to learn the ins and outs of the game making process, and what kind of legal protections game makers crave most.
Overall, CVGLS was a fascinating and rare opportunity to mingle lawyers, game makers, artists, and businessmen. The nuanced ways they all work together to create such complicated art and then protect them in business and legal frameworks were fascinating. As an event organizer there is nothing more satisfying that seeing your hard work pay off and seeing it all come together. Seeing the speakers so enthusiastically share their knowledge and engage with the attendees was the high point of CVGLS for me. I hope that our speakers, organizers, and attendees enjoyed it as much as I did and I want to thank them all for their contributions.
We have very big shoes to fill for next year!