Hypes, fads and dead-ends: a mere distraction from the real questions
Gaetano Dimita
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Yin Harn Lee
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Michaela MacDonald
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From Snow Crash to Ready Player One, the notion of a unified, immersive virtual world has long had a hold over our collective imagination. Over the last year, the ‘Metaverse’ has become something of a buzzword within the video game and technology circles. And while it continues to attract both considerable attention and investment, we probably still have more questions than answers with regards to what the Metaverse is or ought to be. Does it significantly differ from the many iterations of digital environments we have enjoyed over the last few decades? And if so, what is the core technology that drives the meta-revolution and how will it shake up the legal and regulatory landscape? On one side of the spectrum there are those arguing that the Metaverse does not and will never exist, at the other end those arguing that the Metaverse is already here and is the inevitable evolution of existing technological and communication platforms.

If the Metaverse is to become a reality, then legal and regulatory frameworks for governing the rights and obligations of users and — perhaps even more importantly — the rights and obligations of the platform and technology providers that operate them will become necessary. This raises all the unresolved debates from the 1990s and the advent of ‘cyberspace’: who determines what these rights and obligations are (and the underlying values from which they arise), how are they to be enforced (and by whom)? Questions about democracy, jurisdiction and enforcement remain and become even more urgent.

Fittingly, the articles featured in this issue of the Interactive Entertainment Law Review all address to some degree the liminal space where the digital world meets what is still often called ‘real life’. Jonker and Karjiker’s article ‘Copyright law in the MOBA genre: a comparative analysis of DOTA2 and League of Legends’ deals with the complex authorship and copyright ownership issues surrounding ‘Defence of the Ancients’ (DotA), one of the earliest examples of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre, which began life as a player-created mod for the Blizzard video game Warcraft III. This illustrates the copyright challenges presented by large-scale, community-based projects and the legal issues that need to be dealt with when converting them into viable commercial products.

Salvatore Fasciana’s ‘The Gaming Theatre Company: players, gameplay, performance and the law’ provides a much-needed analysis of gameplay as a form of performance. The performative aspect of video games was already evident during an early stage, exemplified by teenagers crowding around arcade machines to watch and admire the feats of particularly skilled players. In contemporary times, this has been given added resonance by practices such as livestreaming and e-sports.

‘The impact of the Epic Games v. Apple case on developer monetization and payment systems’ by Julian Ward and Elaahe Farsimadan provides a timely reminder that video games — despite often feeling like immersive, self-contained worlds — do not exist in a digital bubble but are instead closely and inescapably intertwined with global systems of commerce.

And finally, ‘Copyright protection of video games: a comparative study’ by Despoina Farmaki sheds light on the legal nature of video games from a copyright perspective in this doctrinal and comparative analysis, looking closer at Germany, France, Greece and the UK.

As we continue to transform the journal, Professor Jon Festinger has decided to step down from his position as co-editor in chief of the IELR after five years. He has been one of the driving forces behind the launch of the only peer-reviewed journal on interactive entertainment law, and his work, experience and dedication were vital in the early stages of this endeavour. Jon will remain on the IELR editorial board and as a prominent member of the IELR community.