If you work in the creative media industry, it is your responsibility to be aware of the various legal/ethical constraints surrounding your practice. If not, you face either angering a lot of people or getting yourself in trouble with the law, or possibly both.
Legal constraints are laws that govern the media sector and it’s of the up-most importance that you abide by these polices or you could be investigated by law enforcement.
Ethical Constraints aren’t things directly punishable by law, but can hold similarly dire consequences if not taken into strict consideration. These constraints dictate that you are working and/or producing work within accepted norms of your respective society, and you have to represent what is considered the ‘right’ thing to do, i.e. not offending anyone.
The upholders of these certain legal constraints are PEGI and ESRB.
PEGI (Pan European Game Information) and ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) are the two main players in the legal/ethical constraints in the interactive media sector. They are there to ensure that games available on the market are rated correctly to protect minors from being desensitized or wrongly influenced by any of the content with the game, and to ensure that content will not offend, discriminate or insult any group of people.
Codes of practice
The VSC (Video Standards Council) govern the codes of practice regarding the video game industry. They are a non-profit organisation designed to ensure that a particular industry shows a certain amount of care in their dealings with customers and the public generally. The VSC also provides retailer staff with a staff training course dealing with age restrictions related to media titles. The VSC also acts as an administrator of the PEGI system of age rating for video games.
Copyright is a law designed to protect your idea or product from being duplicated by another company. Copyright laws protect how an idea is presented (in the form of a film or game), but not the idea itself. An example of this being the plethora of modern shooter games currently on the market; they are all similar in ideas and concepts, and have no legal quarrels with one-another. However, if one of these shooters were to present itself in a similar fashion to another (i.e., the designs, music etc.) then there would be grounds for copyright infringement and other legal action.
A patent does what copyright does not, and protects the idea of something rather than to protect how it’s presented. A patent is more commonly used alongside inventions and other similar products, but is just as important in the creative media industry.
Constraints relative to my own work
So far, my work within the college has been extremely safe regarding legal and ethical constraints. My two main projects, Upgrade and JAWS are mostly devoid of human characters.
Upgrade features robotic characters only, thus removing any kind of ethical or racial discrimination against people. Upgrade is also an entirely original concept, so that removes any copyright issues that might arise if I choose to publish the game. The game does involve tearing robots apart, which might be considered “violent” in some cases, but the lack of blood or gore means its still suitable for a wider range of audiences.
JAWS, does feature one human character, but she is completely anonymous, allowing the player to more easily project themselves onto the character. Similarly to Upgrade, the lack of human characters removes any sort of ethical issues. The only issue I foresee with JAWS is copyright, due to it being named (and loosely based) after the famous film.