Permanent Head Damage

May 1, 2006

More on the online gaming communities and the fan culture. Fans are not satisfied just to be heard, they want an outlet to contribute their creative works as well. According to Banks article, “A further important feature of the emerging online game culture is fan-created content”. The contemporary tech-savvy consumers do not just engage the games on a superficial level, but many like the ability to exercise creative freedom in creating content. Manufacturers provide such access by having open architectural software, and providing game editing tools for download from websites or along with retail release software package. The game thus becomes a virtual Lego set (and more), where the gamers uses the basic building blocks – the editing software – to modify the game and add new features.

In many cases, the product’s open-architecture also allows compatibility with other design software such as 3D Studio Max. Banks gave an example where Auran, developerof the online game Trainz, was “approached by a number of train and rail enthusiasts interested in the possibility of creating third-party content…” In time a fan by the avatar of Marlboro created and released a popular steam locomotive in collaboration with the Auran team. This means giving up certain level of creative control but it can turn out to be as a win-win situation for both. Manufacturers can tap into the vast creative resources from around the world and further enhances the value of the game. The gamers can have an outlet for creative expressions and showcase their talents.

The newly created content are shared and admired among the gaming community. Entrepreneurial gamers can even start a business by selling their creation to other gamers. Banks cited an example where Auran is discussing with fan groups the possibilities of turning their activities into commercial ventures. This trend gives rise to financial, ethical and intellectual propetry/copyright issues. Not all developers agree with Auren’s business practices. There are no industry benchmarks for reference. For every contributor willing to share his/her creations for no financial gain, there will be others who seek payment. Should this be left to the market forces to find a balancing point, or should the governing authorities step in to regulate? And how can standards and regulations function when the boundaries and rules of engagement in new media is constantly shifting and evolving?

Well…that’s food for thought. And my brain is bursting from all that confounding questions. It is literally, a PHD (Permanent Head Damage) issue…Mayday! Mayday!



2 Responses to “Permanent Head Damage”

  1. Courtney Says:

    Love your acronym PHD. you are right it is all food for thought, and you had a very good summary there of all the issues. Interesting though that you did not add your 2 cents to the lot. How do you feel, should developers be allowed to canvass fans in order to half their work.

    Personally the way i see it as long as two parties to a contract are both willing particpants and aware of all the mitigating circumstances and potential issues, than why not. Auran very successfully used fans to help better their product, that was ultimately serving the true customer need in their market. I also believed they did it ethically, which is not always the case for lots of companies using particpatory fandom.

  2. fongkee Says:

    Hi Courtney, thanks for your comments. The PHD acronym is a joke from Singapore.

    I agree with your opinions to let both parties work things out. However, the greater issue of a standard of practice or governance is not solved. It’s sad to think that for every good corporate citizen like Auran, there could be many more who practice the opposite doctrine.

    In my other blog entry “Grey is the new Black?”, I gave my 2 cents comment on the issue of copyright.

    Cheers : )

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