Nearly 60 years ago, a little blip on a cathode ray tube was used to create an imitation missile capable of firing a projectile at a target. Knobs were used to align a curved trajectory and adjust the speed. In the ensuing decades, that blip has evolved in stages from a ping pong ball to space invaders and barrel-hurling apes and finally into today’s endless variety of games calling for virtual mouse-ing, punching, guitar-heroing, and grand-theft-auto-thieving players of all ages, from every part of the globe.
The relatively new multi-billion-dollar video game industry has been growing exponentially to the point where it has already eclipsed the motion picture industry and, in some instances, even joined forces with it. This expansion has been continuing from year-to-year without signs of deceleration, as have the legal battles that accompany this fast-growing media.
DID YOU KNOW:
- In 1951, Fusajiro Yamauchi changed the name of his 1889 Japanese playing card company to a single word, Nintendo, meaning “leave luck to heaven.”
- Atari, a Japanese word that means “a hit,” was the name given to the early video game company that was capitalized for only $500. Atari produced the popular classic, Pong, the first commercial video game.
- Pong made its first appearance in 1972 at Andy Capp’s bar in Sunnyvale, California. A complaint from the bar owner to come and take the broken machine away had Atari’s Nolan Bushnell worried – until he discovered the malfunction resulted solely from the machine being overstuffed with quarters.
- Since arcades had not yet been developed, Nolan Bushnell needed a kid-friendly environment to showcase Atari’s early games. His solution? Founding the popular children’s restaurant, Chuck E. Cheese’s.
- In 1975, Don Daglow, a student at Claremont Graduate University, wrote the first computer role-playing game titled Dungeon, based on Dungeons and Dragons, a game that was the subject of a lawsuit by parents of a suicide victim.
- The first outcry for regulating video game violence was directed at a rudimentary 1976 game involving crude looking little cars running down stick figure pedestrians. The game, named Death Race 2000, followed the film by the same name (featuring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone).
- Universal Studios, the rights holder of King Kong, once boasted that it generated revenue solely from threats of copyright infringement actions against any media that dared to use an ape. The studio was successful in exacting licensing fees from media primates until Donkey Kong changed history in 1982.
- Illinois was one of the first states to sign into law a bill that criminalized violent or sexually explicit video games. The poorly-drafted bill was promptly struck down as an unconstitutional restraint on free expression. California championed similar anti-violent entertainment legislation, but also met the same fate.
In 2002, as a pioneer in video game law, the University of La Verne College of Law became the first law school in the United States to provide a course in computer game law. Later, other law schools continued the trend, often combining the subject matter with multimedia or entertainment law courses.
In 2010, La Verne Law students taking the Computer Game Law course will utilize the first casebook ever written, Computer and Video Game Law: Cases, Statutes, Forms, Problems and Materials, which is devoted exclusively to the subject and written by La Verne’s own Professor Ashley Lipson. In addition to studying classic cases (filled with iconic names such as Atari, Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and Universal), the course will require students to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the real and virtual game worlds in real time. Video game history, as colorful as the sprites that dance across gamers’ screens, forms the final unit in this one-of-a-kind course.
- While a nearly 40-year-old industry, entertainment and computer game law is an emerging field with limited precedence and exponential opportunity for legal specialists.
- The video game industry, along with its legal battles, continues to provide a fascinating source of study for academics of all stripes.
- La Verne Law is proud to be a pioneer and an ongoing leader in this exciting and ever-growing field.