International Game Developers Association
The biggest IGDA Singapore meeting thus far was held on Thursday, 24th May at the MICA Building, courtesy of MDA (http://www.mda.gov.sg). The following speakers were featured:
- Jonathan Kok of Harry Elias Partnership, talking about IP law in Singapore and answering legal questions asked by the IGDA community.
- Chris Soh of the Games Exchange Alliance of Singapore, with a post-mortem of Singapore's Game Exchange Alliance showcase at E3Expo this year,
- Teo Chor Guan of LucasFilm Singapore, describing LucasFilm's step into game development in Singapore with information about their new TAP program,
- Our very own Danien Chee from Cabalsoft, presenting results from the IGDA Game Industry Survey. Download the Powerpoint here.
Prizes donated by EA Singapore were also raffled off to participants of the survey.
As usual, the session was targeted at professionals in the industry, people wanting to break into the industry, or students/NS men about to enter the industry within the next 6-9 months. Allan Simonsen, coordinator for the IGDA Singapore chapter, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and introducing the first speaker.
Intellectual Property in Computer Games
Jonathan Kok of Harry Elias Partnership started by noting how the Singapore film industry had grown greatly over the past few years, and expected to see a similar boom for the game industry. Classifying games as an audiovisual work, consisting of many different kinds of media, from the script and story to the software code to the packaging and marketing materials, he went on to describe how various IP laws in Singapore grant specific statutory rights regarding such tangible and intangible assets.
Copyrights, trademarks, patents and personality rights are the primary areas of IP law that apply to games. Many of the issues focus on determining ownership of works. Jonathan went into details such as the differences between an author and a producer, joint-authors and co-authors, an employee of a company and a third-party contractor. The corporate structure of a game company is significant in determining who owns the rights to creative work, also known as the "chain of title."
He noted some subtleties, such as the way that copyrights only protect the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Although there is no formal registration process in Singapore, a paper trial and record of development work is very important if the work were ever to be contested in court. Jonathan posited that the patent process, taking up to 4 years, could be too slow to be useful in a fast-moving technological industry such as games, although the phrase "Patent Pending" has its benefits. There are no laws on personality rights in Singapore but, due to free-trade agreements with the US, we inherit many of their legal conventions regarding IP law. In general, consent and clearance should be sought before using any personality's image.
A little time was spent on the detail of licenses versus rights. Looking at case studies, Jonathan described the limits of fair dealing, which protects the use of IP for private study, criticism, review, current event reporting, judicial proceedings, professional advice and decompilation for the sole purpose of achieving interoperability. Anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking laws can also apply, such as was the case in Blizzard vs BnetD.
Jonathan ended the session with a quick look at legislation that is unique to local creators (the Films Act, Penal Code, Defamation Act and Common Gaming House Act) and answering questions from the audience. Judging by number of responses, the audience had clearly found his presentation both engaging and enlightening.
Singapore at E3Expo
Chris Soh from the Games Exchange Alliance (GXA) of Singapore then presented a recap of the Singapore Game Exchange Alliance's experience at E3Expo this year. Singapore had an amazing booth in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. E3Expo 2006 featured a multi-agency cooperative effort, involving the IDA, Media Development Authority and International Enterprise Singapore.
Chris chatted briefly about the goals set and achieved for the E3 delegation, and shared some of the dreams for future E3 trips.
Chris ended with a quick plug for the SGGA Game Graphics Visual Gallery.
Teo Chor Guan, LucasFilm Singapore's Software Engineer Manager, screened excerpts from the latest E3Expo showreel from LucasArts and LucasFilm and presented two new game licenses slated for release in 2008. The local studio is currently involved in the production of the Star Wars TV series. She introduced LucasFilm's Training Attachment Program (TAP) with LucasArts in the USA, an exploratory step towards broadening LucasFilm Singapore into game development. The program is supported by the Economic Development Board.
The program is seeking 4 game programmers, 4 game artists and 3 R&D engineers, with the hope that LucasFilm Singapore will move into game development to accommodate these professionals once the program is over. There are also other openings in LucasFilm Singapore, advertised at LucasFilm's main website.
Singapore Game Industry Survey 2006
Danien Chee presented the results from the industry survey conducted from the 13th of January to the 24th of February 2006. The survey covered categories of salary ranges, education levels, job categories, employment and legal status, company type and general feedback. He estimated that approximately 350 industry professionals currently operate in Singapore, with the poll returning results from about 30% of the industry. Respondents were not required to answer all questions. Certain job categories did not actually get enough responses for meaningful percentile computations, so actual numbers were also included in his presentation to give the audience a better understanding of the results. Some of the results returned very peculiar anomalies, which could be addressed by better clarification of terms used in the survey.
Despite these uncertainties, some clear observations could be found. Singapore has a nice spread of professionals across nationalities. While there are more men employed in the industry than women, the female professionals average out at more senior positions with higher salaries. The industry is very young, with over half the industry having 2 or fewer years of experience. There were also clear requests for more support from the government, industry and IGDA in specific areas, which are detailed in the Powerpoint file linked below.
Allan Simonsen ended the night by thanking the survey participants, raffling off Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Black Edition) and Burnout Revenge to Samir Singha and Gibson Tang, and suggesting that the survey might be repeated next year. Everyone was invited to the traditional post-meeting beer gathering at Brewerkz across the river for a bit of networking and shop talk.