Should Video Game Patents Be Legal?

Over on Gamasutra, designer Ernest Adams has posted an interesting piece on video game software patents. He argues that not only are such patents morally gray, but that they are too encompassing—citing an example from Namco's PSOne version of Ridge Racer in which they patented, we kid you not, load-time minigames. He explains:

The US Patent and Trademark Office has taken a much more vague approach to determining what may or may not be patented. Its guidelines for patent examiners requires that the invention produce a concrete, useful, and tangible result, and gameplay patents are being allowed.

Then he later continues:

[Video games]are not inventions at all in the normal sense of the word. They are imaginary systems. Unlike mathematical theorems (which cannot be patented), game rules don't even have to be coherent — though obviously they should be for playability reasons.

It's an interesting point. And even from my limited perspective on programming, patenting any software-level features distinctly tied to gameplay (like the Namco example) feels like a canvas manufacturer patenting the use of certain paints on their material.

The Designer's Notebook: Damn All Gameplay Patents! [Gamasutra] [image]


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