14 Sep 2011
Games as Cultural Products: A Legal Assessment
A presentation to the 5th conference of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA): THINK DESIGN PLAY, that took place in Utrecht, 14-17 September 2011.
In the global games industry we are seeing increasingly ‘spatial competition’ between countries and regions offering industrial development policies and laws to attract footloose games companies to locate within their borders and to support local game production e.g. Canada, South Korea and France. This is causing other countries, particularly the UK, to lobby hard for preferential financial supports. In the US there are a number of lesser known supports at state and local level. Digital games are variously conceptualized in these countries as creative industries, cultural industries, creative content industries and software industries and the variety of supports mirrors this general definitional confusion. However defining the digital games industry as cultural industry or as audiovisual or software industry is much more than an academic exercise. These definitional battles have very real economic, political and cultural implications with potential spillovers beyond the game industry. Important definitional arguments are being discussed and modifications negotiated in the offices of the European Commission, in bilateral trade agreements and under the auspices of the World Trade Organization. As part of a panel of industry and academic speakers and in an attempt to speak to a non-legally (but games) savvy audience, the presentation offers a legal assessment of classifying digital games as cultural products.