Copies, Clones, and Genre Building: Discourses on Imitation and Innovation in Digital Games

Christian Katzenbach, Sarah Herweg, Lies van Roessel


This article addresses the tension between innovation and imitation in the games industry based on a case study on a cloning conflict. Developing new games necessarily involves adopting existing elements, but recent disputes centering on alleged copying have gained prominence. What are the criteria to delineate legitimate inspiration from cloning? Given the ambiguous copyright situation, the legitimacy of imitation is contested. Drawing on discursive institutionalism, we investigate professionals’ discussions around an alleged cloning case. We find that imitation is accepted practice in the industry. Originality can involve making small adjustments to existing games, but practitioners condemn wholesale copying of games. The article suggests that, even beyond the games sector, imitation is a necessary part of innovation. Discourses are important in governing innovation practices in creative sectors.


digital games, innovation, originality, imitation, copyright, game design, mobile games, apps, cloning, discourse

Full Text: