No Time To Play
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Weekly Links #32

I have a short week again, due to a dearth of news and not much to comment about those I do have. But then I figured out an angle for the first link of the week, and it all rolled out from there.

The Speccy Jam is, as the name suggest, a game jam where developers gather to make games that look as much as possible as if they were made for the eponymous 8-bit microcomputer. Interestingly, the games don't have to be genuine Spectrum software -- which reminded me of a friend who, seeing Spectral Dungeons and Escape From Cnossus, thought they were just excellent immitations rather than the real thing running on emulation. And you know, I can see the appeal of adopting the graphical style while doing away with some of the more annoying limitations. But then the purist in me starts yelling, "but it's so easy to make genuine Speccy games!" And it fills me with doubt.


In completely unrelated news, an indie gaming site from the UK is running a feature showing how much certain famous games have morphed from design document to finished product. And some of them have landed surprisingly far. Which is great to hear: flexibility is one of the things I preach the loudest around here. My games usually just end up with fewer features than I wanted, but otherwise close to the original concept; it's my fiction that tends to stray from the initial plan. But either way, I end up with a much better product than if I had stubbornly followed my "vision".

And now for this week's big topic. I've been a vocal supporter of free software and free culture for about fifteen years now -- since I started my career in IT -- and my games reflect that, being published under various open licenses. But lately I'm beginning to think that all these legal hacks we use just serve to create even more confusion -- people don't understand copyright in the first place -- and their very own brand of chilling effects. In a recent article, Question Copyright warns against license proliferation. And they're right: I cringe every time I see a wiki using a different license from Wikipedia, thus making it impossible for the two to cooperate. But that's only part of the story. Take Creative Commons for example: even the basic attribution clause can be too onerous in some situations. And I want attribution! It's very important for artists. But is it more important than the ability to reuse culture? Or see this concept art I uploaded on Open Game Art. At first I wanted to put the images under my usual CC-BY-SA, the way they appear elsewhere. But then I thought, what does a derived work mean when you're making your own 3D models or whatever, taking only inspiration from existing art? Even today's excessive copyright laws don't protect ideas. And it was disheartening when people confused the content license and the (much more liberal) software license on WabiSabi Wiki...

I'm increasingly tempted to just give up and do like Mike Masnick of Techdirt fame, who eschews explicit licensing in favor of simply inviting people to reuse his articles and not worry about the details too much. In fact, I'm doing just that on my new personal blog on Tumblr -- a platform that encourages informal sharing by design. Or maybe I could do like the SQLite project and put my work in the public domain. (Well, CC0, because under European law I can't renounce authorship.) It sure didn't seem to hamper their reputation: even very high-profile users of the library are proud to admit they're using it.

Then again, I'm nowhere near as famous as either. But still.