International Game Developers Association head Kate Edwards has emphasized that independent game developers require the same levels of freedom of expression as are given to film-makers and authors.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Edwards discussed the issues relating to cultural offensiveness in games. Without localization and with less restrictive submission rules for digital platforms, video games are more likely to cause cultural offense, she explained.
She adds, however, that independent developers should not have their voices restricted on this basis, stating that games are simply another art-form similar to films and novels.
"Games are an art-form, pure and simple," Edwards explained. "As an art-form they should be free to express whatever they want to express. Here in the U.S. we've had the Supreme Court decision which protects games as free-speech, rightly so. So they shouldn't have any limits put on them, like books don't or movies don't.
"Where the limit comes from is the goals. If your goal is to distribute worldwide, you're probably going to want to think about the cultural impact. If your goal is to make a political statement then you need to do what you feel is right."
Edwards added that there is a fracture between what developers do and the marketplace of users who may not necessarily have the same understanding of creative freedom.
"The main thing that I do when I consult with developers, even now in the IGDA role, is to encourage them to be proactive and think about what they want to get out of it. I think developers should feel free to make what they want to make, to create what they want to create. But they can't expect consumers in all markets to have that same understanding of creative freedom.
"As long as they understand that, and that to me is one of the things we can do as the IGDA, then they can go ahead. It's like telling a painter ‘don't paint that picture because it might offend someone.' Most painters would laugh at that — it should be the same for game developers. Games are still progressing from the perception in society that they're a toy, which can have defects and need to regulated, to that of an art-form."