Epic v. Apple: The US Court Punts on Determining Video Games: What is it?

With the ruling of the Epic v. Apple trial dropping today, we got answers to some of the most pressing legal questions brought up during the proceedings. Unfortunately, we did not get the right answer to our question “What’s a videogame?” It was not.

It may seem absurd that there was even a question during court proceedings. However, it is essential to agree on the definitions of common and important terms in order for a court case to be heard.

The question “What is a videogame?” was raised in Epic v. Apple. The question of “What is a video game?” was raised during court proceedings. However, the court concluded that no one agreed and neither side presented evidence of any industry standard.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tried to offer his own definition, but it involved trying to define Fortnite‘s creative mode as…not a video game at all:

He stated that he believes games involve some kind of win, loss, or score progression depending on whether the game is played by an individual player or group of players. You’re building up to a goal in a game, rather than an experience that is open to everyone like writing a Microsoft Word file or creating a Fortnite Creative Island. You are not limited by a scorekeeping system and either you lose or your work is never completed.

Apple’s Head of App Review, Trystan Kosmynka, said that apps are “incredibly dynamic,” have a “beginning, [and] an ending,” and offer “challenges.”

The court did not express any interest. The judge made the final decision and acknowledged that videogames “require some degree of interaction or involvement between players and medium” as well as that they “generally graphically rendered, animated as opposed to being recorded either live or via motion captured as in film or television”. (Though that last part could have been disproved if Telling Lies had been introduced into evidence).

The judge ended up ignoring this question and stating that the definitions given to her did not reflect “the variety of gaming” in today’s gaming market. The judge also noted that Sweeney seemed to want to make Fortnite a different game than it is. She wasn’t impressed.

The ruling states that “The Court does not need to define a videogame or game in a definitive manner because Fortnite is internally and externally considered a game.” Epic Games promotes Fortnite as a videogame to the general public and also encourages Fortnite-related events. Fortnite has creative and social content that is not limited to its competitive shooting modes. However, no evidence exists that Fortnite can be considered in all its components (i.e. the individual modes) rather than in its entirety.

According to both Mr. Sweeney’s and Mr. Weissinger, the metaverse as a product is still in its early stages. The general market doesn’t seem to recognise the metaverse or its associated Fortnite game modes as something separate from the videogame market at this point. “The Court does not need to further clarify the boundaries of the video game definition for the purposes of this dispute.”

We were not able to get a legal definition for a game by Epic v. Apple. Fortnite’s Peely was a more uncommon definition.

Peely was briefly brought to court wearing his Agent Peely costume as an aid in visualizing Fortnite’s Creative Mode. Apple’s lawyer jokingly said that it was better to wear the suit than the naked banana, because we are at federal court this morning.

The matter was brought up again during the trial, when Epic’s lawyer countered the joke and asked Matthew Weissinger, Epic’s vice president of marketing, if Peely was in any way inappropriate without his suit.

Weissinger responded, “It’s just the banana man.”

The court expressed its agreement with Peely’s description and said that the suit Agent Peely was wearing “not necessary, but informative.”

This is not true for video games. However, Peely does have a legal definition. He appears to be in good health now, despite being exploded by Ryu in March’s Fortnite Chapter 2 Season 6 trailer.

The Epic v. Apple court ruling will undoubtedly spark more legal challenges, particularly with so many other issues. Proposed legislation would allow developers to continue using their payment systems after the ruling. This will also help Apple withstand continued criticism from developers who are unhappy with its policies.

Rebekah Valentine works as a reporter at IGN. Follow her @duckvalentine on Twitter

Publited Fri, 10 Sep 2021 at 19:26.06 +0000

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