About the Project

The research group Internet Policy and Governance conducts a 2-year study (mid 2014-16) into the tension between innovation and imitation in the Digital Games Industry. In this project, we understand imitation as a basic social practise that informs our learning and making. This seems to be particular true for the gaming industry: Entire game genres (think platform sidescroller games or first person schooters) have emerged by re-making and extending on great games. While the view that imitation is a constituent part of innovation seems to be shared throughout the industry, recent tussles over alleged »clones« have sparked lively discussions about legitimate and illegitimate imitation practises in game development. Given a legal context that is far from being clear on these issues, studios and publishers face a considerate amount of uncertainty regarding the question which practises are deemed fair or legitimate.

Are there implicit norms that are shared across the industry or within specific communities? How do designers, programmers, artists and marketers themselves draw the fine line between legitimate inspiration and illegitimate plagiarism? How do they react when seeing their ideas being taken up? What is the role of legal instruments (copyright, patents, trademarks) in this matter? Building on pre-studies analysing online discussions and industry handbooks, the study investigates these by means of qualitative interviews with different stakeholders from the sector.

Journal Publications

Katzenbach, C., Herweg, S., & van Roessel, L. (2016). Copies, Clones and Genre Building. Discourses on Imitation and Innovation in Digital Games. International Journal of Communication, 10, 838-859. Publication details

Roessel, L. van & Herweg, S. (2014). Van Pong tot Ridiculous Fishing: Over imitatie en innovatie binnen de gamesector. Homo Ludens, 2014, 1-6. Publication details

Lectures and Presentations

Playing without rules? An empirical study into imitation and innovation in the games industry.
Monthly Internal Lecture Series ‚Spreektafel‘ . Institute for Information Law (IViR). Oost-Indisch Huis, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: 22.01.2016

Lies van Roessel

Playing without Rules? Regulating Imitation and Innovation in the Games Industry
Annual Conference: European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) (Session: Creativity, Re-Use and Copyright). University of Glasgow / CREATe. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK: 03.09.2015

Christian Katzenbach, Lies van Roessel

From Pong to Flappy Bird – Copying and Genre Building in the Games Industry
re:publica 2015 . Station, Berlin, Germany: 05.05.2015

Christian Katzenbach, Lies van Roessel

Innovation and Imitation in Game Development
Digital Summit 2015 . Magical Startups. Hotel W, Santiago de Chile, Chile: 14.01.2015

Lies van Roessel

Negotiating the Boundaries of Game Imitation: From Pong to Ridiculous Fishing
Annual Conference: DiGRA 2014. . DiGRA / The University of Utah. Snowbird, Utah, USA: 06.08.2014

Sarah Herweg, Christian Katzenbach, Lies van Roessel

Stabilizing and Contesting the Instable through Discourse: Attributions of Imitation and Innovation in the Digital Games Sector
ISHTIP Workshop 2014 . International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP). Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden: 03.07.2014

Sarah Herweg, Christian Katzenbach


International Cultures of Creativity and Imitation
DiGRA 2015: Diversity of Play. Leuphana Universität. Leuphana Universität, Lüneburg, Germany: 15.05.2015

Copies, Clones and Genre Building – Innovation and Imitation practices in the Games Industry
Quo Vadis 2015. Create. Game. Business.. International Games Week Berlin. Café Moskau, Berlin, Germany: 23.04.2015

Organisation of Events

Innovation in der Gamesbranche – Zwischen Schutz und Freiheit
09.06.2015. Game Science Center, Berlin, Germany. Co-Organised by: Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg (National)