Copycats and copy-paste: The influence of the gaming industry

by on April 12, 2013

I’ve recently read a piece about the upcoming reboot of the Thief franchise in the latest edition of EDGE Magazine (issue #253, May 2013) that got me thinking about the difference between two important terms gamers have been overusing nowadays: copycats and copy-paste.

The design lineage of last year’s Dishonored (co-creatively directed by Ion Storm veteran Harvey Smith) established a familial link with the new Thief. Seeing Eidos Montreal’s game running rams home the resemblance – the decadent Imperial aesthetic, the firstperson sneaking. Even Garrett’s new swoop from cover to cover solves a design problem in a similar fashion to Corvo’s Blink ability. Not that Eidos seems worried. The team is full of praise for Arkane’s game, and understandably so: it showed there’s still an appetite for serious, open-ended stealth, and Thief will be appearing on different consoles.

You see, everyone that learned about the fourth sequel of maybe one of the greatest stealth game of my time, had the same way of thinking: “hey this game is copy-pasted from Dishonored” or “What a rip-off of Dishonored”. This is sad, not only for the general public to realize that it is actually vice-versa, and that there’s no rip-off at all, but a mere important factor of all artistic behavior: influence.

Now don’t get me wrong readers, I’m a big fan of both Arcane Studios and the original Ion Storm stealth adventure, but neither game is a copycat of the other. Gamers nowadays have sadly to became your typical mass consumer, with no knowledge of the deep videogame history we mid-twenties and above have amassed. We were born and raised in the VHS and mix-tape era, we struggled to the likes of Super Mario Bros’ water world (and not New Super Mario Bros. on the Wii U), and our Gameboy cartridge needed a nice air blow to work properly.

My main point, is that we need to educate these young gamers, so that they can understand that there’s more in the gaming world than your typical Call of Duty or even Assassin’s Creed. There’s games that have helped fathering these multi-million franchises: Call of Duty came out of the womb of DreamWorks Interactive‘s Medal of Honor, beloved Uncharted series was born of Tomb Raider and even recently released Bioshock Infinite is a continuation of Ken Levine’s team first project, System Shock.

There’s no rip-off at all, but a mere important factor of all artistic behavior: influence

If we were of believing that videogames are a form of art, we should consider that the greatest artists of all time were all influenced by something, whether it is a novel, culture or even a song, but most importantly Artist influenced other alike: Paul Gaugin’s Spirit of the Dead Walking was inspired by Édouard Manet’s Olympia; Claude Monet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe was inspired by Édouard Manet… well… Le déjeuner sur l’herbe. Now excuse me if all these examples might bore you, but my studies as a Fine Art major follow me everywhere I go.

In the end, our job as gamer is to realize that videogame producers and directors have a hard job ahead, with bringing fresher innovations, new ideas and of course great stories… That’s the easy part. The challenge is to stop behaving like we’re part of some sort of political party, where the Call of Duty fans harass the Battlefield ones – or the other way around – and start understanding the industry in a mature way, and believe in this form of art, or it will mutate into something that will take advantage of all these feudal rivalries.


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