It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
It is, then, easy to see why so many successful games feed off of each other and borrow creativity from other mediums. The infamous William Shakespeare, the prodigious playwright, crafted his immortality from the stories told by others – there’s naught an original narrative to be found that Shakespeare authored. Steve Jobs, the late mastermind behind Apple’s successful iPhone, admittedly stole ideas to create his influential technology. Creators of Silent Hill found inspiration in Jacob’s Ladder that fueled the series into multiple iterations and two film adaptations.
Yet, none of these inspirations would have found success based purely on borrowed ideas. No, William Shakespeare is remembered for his brilliant writing, characterization, and, most importantly, still relevant themes. The iPhone would not have found success simply because it utilized touch screen technology (the same tech that Sony already had on the market). No, the iPhone found success because of its innovative operating system, tight security, and ease of access for any consumer.
But what happens to those who just steal ideas? And what constitutes thievery or flattery? Where do we draw the line between borrowed ideas adapted and spun with creative integrity and blatant plagiarism? Look at the recent controversy surrounding comedian Amy Schumer after critics and comedians alike found suspicious similarities between her stand up bits and those of famous comedians of the past. The same allegations have been leveraged against numerous other notable comedians including Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia. Generally, as is the case presently with Ms. Schumer, the idea of plagiarism leaves a sour taste in the mouth of consumers. Likewise, in education, plagiarism can cost students grades, graduation, PhDs, and careers. Intellectual property is priceless, and ‘borrowing’ is certainly a finicky concept.
This is not to say that borrowing ideas is inherently evil, of course. As I stated earlier, with the right creative touch, inspiration can evolve into significant successes. And this is where my article is born: there has been a recent surge of P.T. inspired games finding hefty quantities of donations on crowdfunding platforms. The common thought surmises that the titles could not find successful backing if it were a faulty product pitch. Whisperings of the pessimistic, however, wonder whether the numerous P. T. projects seek easy monetary gain or yearn to yield a fulfilling experience.
For those unfamiliar with the great Konami debacle and the excellent Kojima developed P.T., the aforementioned title surfaced on the PSN worldwide in August of 2014. It served as a promotional teaser for Kojima’s upcoming title. The move proved Kojima’s confidence, as only upon completion would the player understand what he/she just experienced – and that process was a difficult task. As it stood, P.T. demonstrated superb gameplay, intense atmosphere, and sickening horror in a fashion superior to most of the horror genre. Once completed, P.T. exposed Kojima and Konami’s upcoming Silent Hills. Fan children of the world rejoiced – until Konami and Kojima fell apart, forcefully killing the project (co-directed by Guillermo Del Toro) and ultimately harming the Metal Gear Solid V release.
Yet the teaser left a lasting mark upon those who took the time to experience its haunting narrative. At first, Allison Road, an independently developed first-person horror game, emerged from developer Lilith Ltd. After gaining popularity and announcing P.T. as its inspiration, Allison Road created a Kickstarter page to fund its development cycle. The crowdfunding campaign was so successful that Team17 volunteered to publish the project with a tentative release this year. Subsequently, the crowdfunding page was canceled due to the publishing agreement.
Months later, Kickstarter finds itself inundated with P.T. inspired campaigns – some of which I’ve even donated to myself. Visage, for example, has doubled its initial goal of $25,000 with 16 days remaining. Its 12-minute extended trailer has garnered over 160,000 views and utilizes photorealistic graphics with an allegedly in-depth premise to create a hopefully unforgettable experience. Visage is tentatively scheduled to release in January of 2017. Finding success with a P.T. inspired game begs the question of whether other developers will board the bandwagon. And if so, what will become of the experience that we initially loved? When integrity is lost for profit, the industry itself loses.
Here is a solemn letter that sincerely hopes that art can remain unscathed.