Legalities: Fair use & IF/Gamebook

Fanfiction is covered under “Fair Use” of the copyright laws. However paying homage to another media in the form of IF or “Game Books” crosses the line between a simple story to an auctual form of interactive game.

Im writing a gamebook in homage to the old “Alone in the Dark” (1992) video game. Since this is a Video Game to Written Game format would it still be covered under the “Fair Use” clause that “FanFiction” takes protection under, Or would something else provide that blanket?

I just want to cover my butt should the demons of Cease and Desist appear and need to include the incantations to keep them at bay. (ie the few little lines of legalese that says “This is a non profit fanfiction so relax”).

Any help is greatly apreciated.

Fair use advice is hard to come by. You don’t really know whether the company is going to want your work taken down or not (although you can research what actions they’ve taken before). It’s also judged on a case-by-case basis by the courts, so there’s no solid precedent about what’s fair use and what isn’t. However, non-commercial projects rarely even make it to court, since nobody wants to pay to defend it. Most of the time, you receive a cease and desist letter and then take down your work.

Here’s some more information about fangames which might help.

It depends on the country, but in the United States at least fan fiction is not necessarily considered fair use. (The situation is somewhat complicated, and really depends on the nature of the fanfic and the attitudes of the original author.)

EDIT: As busterwrites said.

ALONE IN THE DARK is made of a mish-mash of standard Lovecraftian tropes. Is your story so rooted in that specific game that you can’t change it up enough to make it an original story?

To add to the chorus: no, it really, really isn’t.

The traditional cover-your-ass method is to change all the identifying characteristics - every proper noun and fiction-specific piece of terminology - and avoid explicitly saying that it’s based on the original work. At which point you’re not exactly making fanfic any more.

If you are doing fanfic, there is no magic legalese incantation which will protect you; you’re relying on either a) not getting noticed by the IP owner or b) the IP owner not thinking it’s worth their while to bother with you, which is not a variable you can control. This works perfectly well for many, many fanfic authors, but it’s an inherently precarious position.

You might enjoy the Organization for Transformative Works FAQ, especially the Legal section.

Fic distributed for free may or may not be inherently illegal; US case law is limited in this area. But there is certainly nothing you can say in the way of disclaimer to make it better.

Distribute your work for free, ideally on the OTW website, and make it as transformative as possible. Even better: transform it so much that it’s not fanfic.

I thank you guys for your advice.
It hit me like a blow but I’m already questioning wither or not I really have anything to wory about.

In reguards to originality.
The back story, the hints, etc I believe are all mine with heavy inspiration of lovecraft. It is the house’s layout and many of the ‘monster’ situations that are easily identified as coming from the game. Though I have changed many of the monsters to be different entities more associated with the new back story and a germanic theme instead of a southern creole of ‘alone’. The house itself is detailed to the point that the game looks like a blurry photograph and is described in my game as though a wreck. In the game you think the mansion could use some repair and paint and it would be fine. In my description you would want to burn it down. Even the death sequences of the player character and the monsters are now unique to each situation. I even added a small ‘astral plane’ dogleg. Its like Lovecraft designed a halloween ‘fun house’.

I’ve already contemplated removeing some combat sequences because of how uncessary they are. Many combat sections are replaced with ‘roll for dodge or take X dammage & if you die turn to unique death X’. So you don’t have that borthersome back and forth.

There is so many things that are differnt from the game, yet the framework is so similiar that I’m not really sure -if- I have anything to worry about.

I use none of the name’s or characters from the game. The location is upstate maine not louisaana. It’s still around 1923 and many of the objects are time period related.

If anyone wants to do a quick review I’ld be glad to send them a pdf of the last build.
Remember its a choice game as a ‘game book’.

I still thank you for all the pointers and links to things that help me contemplate my situation.

The reason to avoid basing your game off of Alone in the Dark is not because Infogram’s lawyers will track you down like a dog, but because it is not that good of a game. Ground-breaking, yes; influential, yes… but possessing only flashes of brilliance among reams of genre cliches (you can see this in AITD 2 with its pirate-gangster-ghost-ninjas) and player punishments (do the maze once, sure. then do it again, backwards, in the dark!) How will you telegraph the canned cat scares if denied the option of rendering a single 3D object against a 2D painted backdrop?

So you want to make a period survival horror game with Lovecraft influences set in an old mansion? No problem. But no need to pull the baggage around with you!

Bad works with fond-but-hazy memories attached is one of the top ways fanfic happens.

(This is rather how I classify Lovecraft’s work in the first place.)

Ah yes. I agree. I never cared much more for -any- of the sequels because their stories seemed so hackned and thrown together compared to the first one. It was the gothic horror that I liked. It was my first introduction to it. That slow build up to the climax which is more enjoyable than the climax itself. That tension like a slow playing fiddle that ‘strings’ you along untill the end.

So true, so true. Many of the games I have fond memories of are ones that ‘introduced’ me to new genre’s of either litature or gameplay styles. Even if they were bad ‘clones’ they were the ones that opened my mind.

I have no qualms about the design of my game. I know its little more than portable amusement park ride that fawns over lovecraftian tropes. It too is cheap but this comes from my novice attempt. I admit that I am no writer or designer save for fragments and pieces. Small stuff. The fact that I can auctually complete shoveing all these bits and pieces together is a big feat for me. So often what I start never is completed and so I have my pride in at least that for this project.

It’s taken me several years to complete due to various errors and time wasteing traps. It is a labor of love, not to lovecraft or even “Alone” but to old memories in themselves.

At this stage the thing that would give me the most joy is playtesting and feedback. Is it unique enough to not be a leagal issue from Atari? Where is the dice rolling way to difficult? What really kills it as a game or as a story? Small and simple stuff like that.

The only feedback I ever get is through these forums. If you read my posts and threads you will find that all of you have given me great advice. Much of it is greatly usefull and I have found it good. Though I must give good acknowledgement to those ‘Extra Credits’ videos on youtube. They helped to re-steer me in many choices in better directions. Perhaps its because I tend to be a visual learner, and possibly becauase I mainly work on this project after 11pm.

There is only one thing lacking left. Something missing from all those threads.

I will post a link to the current build example if it is requested.

The Choice of Games forum also likes to playtest stuff. Post there?

Most recent build to gamebook on google drive.
Google drive illustrates it as plain html source text for some strange reason.
It does not pull it up as the html file it auctually is.
you have to load it, download it, and reopen it as a web page.
It’s in plain text so all you have to do is click ‘turn to paragraph x’ instead of hunting for the one with that number.
As before please play, review etc. … sp=sharing