Lo and behold, the internets are ablaze with the name ‘Tim Langdell’ burned in fiery letters on the lovely, grassy lot of game developers, gaming, journalism, and more broadly, independent entrepreneurship and the fight for creative freedom. My painting isn’t even that far from the truth. The basic issue is that Tim Langdell runs a business called EDGE games, and has been for over 30 years. (Who heard of it before?) He has been accused by people of being a “trademark troll” since he apparently trademarked the word “Edge” in regard to gaming. Reportedly he has been preying on developers and publishers that make any game or game-related product containing the word, asking them to license the word (”trademark”) from him or face the legal consequences. Some cases named include Namco’s SOUL EDGE (aka Soul Calibur), and reportedly EA’s Mirror’s Edge took some arrangements with him.
This has gone to the extent that EDGE Magazine had to accept such a settlement, apparently, which allows him to list it as one of his company’s bons coups (see http://www.edgegames.com/, section “About”). The wikipedia article on EDGE games (neutrality disputed!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EDGE_Games mentions some interesting stuff. But the real treat happens on the IGDA boards and Gamasutra, and has been picked up by Kotaku and other gaming news websites. For instance,
The most interesting place to see it unfold in my opinion is here: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/StephenJacobs/20090601/1615/Class_Acts_Or_Not_The_IGDA_Langdell_Capps_and_quotPolicingquot_the_Board.php, where Tim makes an appearance.
All this has come to light in face of an independent French developer, Mobigames, publishing a critically-acclaimed game for the iPhone called EDGE. Langdell asked them to either rename their game or license the trademark from him, at the conditions of giving Edge a cut of profits and the right to dispose of the trademark, etc. It’s a bit difficult to read much into Legalese, a language I am not sure to master. Regardless, reportedly Mobigames offered EDGE to rename their game EDGY. And you know it…when he saw that, Langdell filed for registration of the trademark “EDGY”. He dodges all questions on the issue.
It might be funny if it wasn’t done seriously. This has spawned quite a stir however given that Langdell is on the IGDA board. Many feel he threatens developers and publishers given that his company has not released an original title since 1994. Langdell counters these points on the Gamasutra link I provided by saying that EDGE has produced over 300 game SKUs. As I pointed out, game SKUs and games are not to be confused in Legalese. Or Liarese. Because there is also the issue of Tim apparently going on message boards under other names and engaging/slandering others, defending EDGE games.
Anyway, to get a point across other than to simply inform: we may have a blind spot in game studies if we don’t study the production contexts of the games. Analysing a game’s title is fine, but we must remember there are serious conditions that affect production decisions. And this is just for titles. Logos, in-game graphical assets, programming methods, and even game features are all mined ground. We would do well to take that into account when doing research.
For instance, did you know that Namco holds a patent for implementing mini-games during a game’s load time? No one can put a mini-game during a loading screen without paying up to them. (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3562/the_designers_notebook_damn_all_.php)