Chicago Video Game Law Summit 2016 (CVGLS ’16)

I had the honor of being a speaker on two of the panels at CVGLS 2016, and as always (well, they’re two for two) it was a great time and I met a lot of cool people. First, congrats to Ross (@loadinglaw) and Suzanne (@zedthegamer) for organizing another great summit. Thanks for inviting me and I hope we do it again soon!

To briefly review the panels:

The Changing Scene of eSports

I was on this panel, so it was great. You can find the written materials I referred to several times at this link: MarcWhippleCVGlS2016

Thanks to my fellow speakers Jason Greenglass, Ryan Morrison, and Lydia Picknell. I covered the basics of gambling law in the US and talked about just a few ways you could run afoul of them when developing video games, and why the Daily Fantasy Sports operations like FanDuel and DraftKings were kicking up a lot of dirt that might land on us. Jason and Ryan talked about the legal aspects of eSports, player contracts, et cetera, and Lydia talked about them from the perspective of a player/coach/owner. (Yes, she’s a female eSports team coach and owner. Fear her!) We had a lot of fun and everybody seemed to enjoy it very much.

Recent Developments in Video Game Law

I was on this panel, so it was great. :)

I was on this panel with Greg Boyd (who also moderated, to the extent we let him,) Patrick Sweeney, and Ryan Morrison, again. (Ryan and I were on stage literally all morning and people still stayed!) We covered the basics of intellectual property law, always a hot topic in video game development, as well as advertising and other matters of current interest. We also got into crowdfunding a little bit – just enough to reveal that it is fraught with peril, especially if you want to give backers equity or a right to some of the revenue stream, so you really, really need a lawyer!

Privacy, Harassment, and Free Speech in Video Games

I was not on this panel, but it was still pretty good. :)

While this panel covered a lot of important issues, it focused on the problem of harassment in the video gaming world. Lydia told some powerful stories about the things she’d encountered as an eSports professional. Sadly, a lot of the really excellent questions more or less boiled down to, “How can we use the law to make people nicer?” To which the legal answer is ultimately, “We can’t.”

Video Games and the Right of Publicity

I was not on this panel, but it was still pretty good. :)

This was probably the legal-iest of the panels, with lots of actual case law and real-world examples of using other people’s likenesses (not just their faces – their names, their voices, you name it) and the trouble it can cause. “Don’t, unless you’ve talked to a lawyer,” was probably the takeaway from this panel.

The History of the Video Game Industry in Chicago

I was not on this panel, but it was still interesting. :)

While I won’t try to recount the stories, I will point out something that was said multiple times. One of the developers worked for Bally when they were making arcade games – the typical dev time was a few months! It was very much a pipeline process: electrical engineers and the first game artists would come up with a game, program it, make master copies, and then it went to the assembly line for mass production. What he said was, “If you didn’t finish your game on time, people got laid off.”

That’s still an important concept for developers to keep in mind: the publishers have marketing slots. If you don’t finish your game on time, they lose the slot. Somebody else gets the spot on the shelf or the promoted marketing page on Amazon/Steam/etc. It’s not a question of whether your game is good or it sells: those are equally important but different questions. You have to finish on time or somebody who was going to try to sell your game has no product. That’s never good. If you finish on time and give them the product, you make their lives a lot more pleasant. Even if the game isn’t great (so long as it doesn’t suck) that’s worth a lot for next time. Relationships and reputation are still important, even as assembly lines lose their importance in the world of gaming.

Thanks for reading, and see you next year!

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