Bethesda knows how to play the game

| Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I finally get it and it is fucking BRILLIANT.

Short version: Notch of Minecraft fame is making or doing something with a game called Scrolls and also Penny Arcade guy is involved, so I'm guessing this will be somewhere between the best game ever and even better than that. Bethesda is the maker of the Elder Scrolls series, or as I refer to it "Oblivion plus those other games that I didn't play." Bethesda is suing Notch or Mojang or maybe the pigmen in Minecraft, claiming that "scrolls" is copywritten because they have a copywrite on "elder scrolls" and obviously when we think "scrolls" we think "elder scrolls".

Except we don't. I mean sure, if you give me a while with a piece of paper and a word association exercise I'll get there eventually. But frankly, I'd get there a lot faster with "awesome game" than with "scrolls", because as Penny Arcade pointed out, scrolls aren't really the defining feature of the series, seeing as they are featured in Oblivion approximately once, in a side quest. Yea, the all-important scrolls aren't even part of the main plot line, but are instead relegated to an awesome, but negative karma side quest line involving stealing everything.

But games are what they make and games are what they play, and Bethesda is playing a damn smart game here.

After all this nonsense about scrolls, they have managed to shift my association. Yes, I now have a strong mental link between Elder Scrolls and scrolls. They have succeeded in manufacturing a reality.

They've also created links between "scrolls" and "frivolous lawsuits" and have reinforced my link between "corporate lawyers" and "people who should have been executed in Georgia rather than a quite possibly innocent man."

Scrolls is a god damn word. A word. Ooh, maybe I should get a copywrite on "word", and then sue anyone who ever tries to use word. Maybe I could sue Blizzard because "world" looks a bit like "word" and maybe when people are trying to buy my game Word they'll accidentally buy World of Warcraft. But with the way copywrite law works, I'd probably get sued instead, with some lawyer pretending that people bought Word when they meant to buy World of Warcraft. Meanwhile Microsoft would sit on the sidelines waiting to swoop in at the last minute and sue both of us.

People can buy free-range chickens and baby bottles with no carcinogens. I want to buy games without lawyers.


TyphoonAndrew said...

All the Elder Scrolls & Bethesda guys did is make themselves look like idiots, and give gamers like me a reason to look at the Scrolls game (just gave them my email address for the Alpha).

Azuriel said...

The hilarious thing, as pointed out elsewhere, is how Bethesda is pushing the lawsuit despite developing a game called RAGE. You know, like the Sega classic Streets of Rage. They both have roads in them too!

Victor Stillwater said...

So, basically...


Ephemeron said...

I'm 90% sure that said lawyers are not even Bethesda's employees. It's probably some big IP law firm (not entirely unlike the one I'm working for) that watches hundreds of thousands of trademarks for many different clients. Their job is to protect the assets that were entrusted to them, and they're doing it admirably.

If you want to blame someone, blame Bethesda's houndmasters for not calling off their vigilant guard dogs.

Bronte said...

Patenting a phrase isn't the same as patenting a word, and frankly, I don't know how you have copyright claims over that to begin with. Language itself is not something you can own, or boast of, or fight lawsuits over. if they had taken your world, or your engine, or your story, or your graphics, you know, something goddamn proprietary, than it may make sense.

As much as I love Bethesda, this is dumb as hell. And yes you are right, they have succeeded in creating a reality where "scrolls" is now associated with "elder scrolls".

Klepsacovic said...

@TyphoonAndrew: Good point. I'd not heard of Scrolls until all this.

@Azuriel: Sega and Notch will team up to make Raging Scrolls.

@Victor: Yes, it is just like a movie that I haven't seen yet but everyone says I should.

@Ephemeron: You're probably right about their employment. But I'd say they're being about as protective as the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq.

@Bronte: I blame Nike.

Ephemeron said...

@Bronte: Trademarks don't have to be identical in order to constitute infringement. It's also possible to sue/oppose the registration of trademark on the basis of "confusing similarity" or "likelihood of confusion".

Bronte said...

@Ephemeron: I understand the legal technicality, doesn't make it any less dumb!

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