May 3rd, 2004
|07:12 pm - (+1, STFU)|
Some dude is whining over on Orkut's IF community that games should all be open-source and anyone should be able to rewrite a game that someone else made (hey I hated how the girl in Photopia died, I'll just change the game and keep her alive) and so we can all dance happily around RMS' maypole and blah blah blah. Actually, the only argument he's made towards copylefting game source is that it "...would allow the inclusion of more IFs in Linux distros." You'll pardon me if my epiphany, then, has yet to arrive.
So I got kinda snippy. I had to edit my response a few times, mostly to get my response down under the arbitrary 2048-character limit Orkut has placed on messages, and also to remove key incendiary phrases like "smack you in the mouth", "go back to Slashdork" and "PS: I have touched a real, live woman." And I came up with this:
Want to read the source? There are a few decompilers out there that you can use on the story file that'll help.
Want to modify someone else's game? I would say that decision is up to the individual authors themselves, but the general consensus seems to be "not bloody likely." Or maybe even just "write your own damn game."
And for good reason, look -- one-half of the term interactive fiction is the word "fiction." Good IF games are not just bits of code, but good stories. Stories that an author has worked long and hard to plot and write, stories involving characters that an author has had to develop, stories crafted and pieced together in what is often a very intensely personal project.
What, then, gives you, me, anyone the right to take an IF game someone else has written, a story that someone has personally invested so much time and energy into, and say "Well, I didn't like this part of the story, and I thought the ending should be happy, and maybe there should be some sexy parts, so I'll change it to something better"? Do you think the author would be happy that you did? Would you dare do the same to your favorite novel, comic book, or screenplay? Do you think people would care to read your version? (Well, hell, they wouldn't have to care, you could just put it up on the Internet and call it "fanfic", a lot of kids already do.)
Or would you rather just take some ideas and characters of your own and write your own game? Go ahead and do that, and GPL it while you're at it, and be happy with it and what people do to it. There could very well be a nice collaborative project that'd come out of such a thing, but for the most part, IF writing is a very personal venture. And let's face it: not every piece of code needs to be open-source. I may be the author of a few silly frippery one-joke games, but the work is my own and if I felt they'd needed third-party rewrites, I'd ask for them.
That'd be parody and parody written with yer own code, though. If you were to take PUTPBAD source (which you can't, actually, it's long-gone) and added the 'flambe' verb, well...
I'd still laugh at least. I wouldn't laugh at gnu-boy, though, attempting to rewrite someone else's tale.
Don't sell yourself short. PUTPBAD had at least two jokes.
My favourite thing to bring up when people talking about GPL'ing fiction is the version of King Lear with the happy ending.
There is something a little funny going on here, in that it *is* possible to rewrite any plain - read "non-interactive" - writing you see to your liking. That IF doesn't have that property is a funny technological artifact, and it seems wrong to defend that detail.
The whole copyright thing was never about the author's feelings about the purity of their work, and shouldn't be. If we had copyrights that were a more reasonable (short) length, such that most works went public while their authors were alive, I would also find it problematic that this gap existed with respect to IF works (As things are going now, I expect to be dead before any IF becomes public domain through copyright expiration).
"we can all dance happily around RMS' maypole" amuses me endlessly.