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Imitation is the Sincerest Form

Sean Sands | 17 May 2009 13:00
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We simply don't operate in an environment where fans have unfettered reign to do what they want. Square has been very clear in the past about their position on fan-made projects and has jealously guarded their ownership. We can look at that as greedy and a slap in the face to fans, or we could see that as a group of artists and professionals who take what they do very seriously. Either way it's not really relevant because each company gets to interpret for themselves their relationship with their fans, and ultimately they hold all the cards on that decision.

There's not much reason to think that the brief but explosive angst over Square's decision will impact future sales in the slightest, despite what I'm sure will be very heartfelt-at-the-time calls for boycott and pitchfork gathering. I'm frankly not even sure that there's any indication that Crimson Echoes would have impacted future sales either, but that's not really the point. The point is that in the end companies don't have to buy into the idea of customers and consumers taking ownership of their products, and in many ways that is the heart of the conflict.

Hell, most of them are barely on board with audience participation.

I know that I take on an emotional attachment to some of the games I play. They come into my home, create a space in my memories and become a part of the sum total of my experience. I feel connected to certain games, eager to be a part of the world and the mythos involved, and I understand the headspace from which fans and communities operate. None of that gives me license to act on that desire, and if I can't keep my own check on the difference between what I wish were true and what is actually true, then shame on me when my actions have consequences.

Manipulating company assets without permission isn't just a fast track to a cease and desist letter, it's folly of the highest order. Fan-made projects should operate from the assumption that they will be quashed the moment they have any visibility, and we all really need to stop being so surprised and when it happens. In the end, I simply wonder why the people at Kajar didn't spend four years creating their own project instead of standing on the shoulders of someone else's work.

If the answer is that they didn't have the inspiration or ability to create their own world, their own characters, their own art and their own assets, then I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that they ultimately failed. In an industry already struggling with a crisis of creativity, why exactly are we championing anything less than originality again?

Sean Sands is the co-founder of and a professional copywriter living near Minneapolis with his wife and 2 kids.

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