Remember the drama when the makers of Candy Crush Saga tried to trademark the word “candy?/” And then they wanted to put a claim on “saga” too. Of course, trademarking a name isn’t the same as owning it. Regardless, a new game shows you what it would be like to have everyday words become verboten someone else “owns” them. Spoiler: it would really suck.
TrademarkVille is a new asynchronous multiplayer browser game by indie agit-prop dev studio Molleindustria and statistician Mikhail Popov. It takes the kinds of legal maneuvers deployed by companies like traditional gaming publishers as well as social gaming giants like King and Zynga — who make Candy Crush Saga and Farmville, respectively — and throws players into a system where the excesses of trademark and copyright brinksmanship run rampant. You start by choosing to guess or rename a word. Doing the latter is easy, for the most part:
Can’t use the word “spike” here. Hmm…
And, damn if it doesn’t make a sinister chill run up your spine, when you re-name something. “Hey, everybody, you can’t use this unless you submit to my weird-arse logic, empowered by forces you can’t understand or see.” Both you and the person who deciphers your clue get points when a correct guess happens.
So, yeah, you’d feel pretty powerful if you could stop people from using a word you wanted to trademark. But, the opposite — guessing what the words behind someone else’s weird re-naming — is terrible:
The sense of frustration builds quickly when you realise that everyday words you’d use to describe things are walled off from you because someone else “owns” them. And why? Because they gamed the system first. The creators call TrademarkVille a “(d)evolution of language. Play it and you’ll get the absurdity behind all of the recent trademark and copyright drama.