How Copyright Trolls Schemed to Murder the Delightful ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Game Genre

'Choose Your Own Adventure' indie games are under assault by the copyright trolls who own the rights to the popular book series.
Posted in: GamingOp-ed
Published:
December 22, 2019 1:00 PM UTC
  • Chooseco currently owns the Choose Your Own Adventure brand of gamebooks.
  • They’ve been sending takedown notices to indie developers on Itch.io for using the term in their games or descriptions.
  • Not only is this tanking the brand’s good reputation, but it also basically amounts to copyright trolling without the financial incentive.

It’s never fun seeing a big company throw their weight around, especially when they’re throwing it at indie game developers. Chooseco, the current owner of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, which dates back to 1976, is doing just that. They’re having games suspended for using the innocuous phrase “choose your own adventure” in their description.

The reason they’re able to get away with this is that “choose your own adventure” is technically a brand name. These days, it’s used more often to describe gamebooks on the whole, but Chooseco doesn’t seem to let that bother them. No, they’d rather weaponize a legal technicality to punish indie gamers.

Choose Your Own Adventure was a classic series, but whoever is currently in charge is abusing the reputation. | Source: CYOA.com

‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Games Are Under Assault by Copyright Trolls

Itch.io’s founder, Leaf Corcoran, recently warned users on Twitter to stop using the phrase. He also spoke to The Verge about the situation, making it clear that he “understood” what was going on.

We are in no way trying to negatively represent the actions of Chooseco. We understand that they need to protect their brand and are happy to work with them to ensure that their trademark is not violated.

There’s no fathomable justification for weaponizing the “Choose Your Own Adventure” brand name to attack indie game developers. | Source: Ben__Stevens/Shutterstock.com

In case you can’t read between the lines, it doesn’t seem like he’s particularly happy about this. Being the head of a platform like Itch.io gives him certain responsibilities, and he can’t just come out and speak the truth: What Chooseco is doing is petty and obnoxious.

Having said that, his feelings on the matter seem clear. No one suggested that Itch.io was negatively representing the actions of Chooseco. The fact that he brought it up at all seems suspicious. It’s almost like he does have negative feelings about what Chooseco is doing, but he has to be diplomatic because he runs a large platform.

An Open Letter to Chooseco

Now, I have a few things to say to Chooseco directly, beginning with this: Stop. There’s no justification for waging this pointless war on indie game developers.

I cannot even begin to imagine the shame that the original creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure series, Edward Packard, would feel if he knew you were doing this. You’re acting entitled to a name that wasn’t even yours to begin with.

Leave indie developers alone. After all, they’re actually contributing something to society – not to mention cultivating an interest in your brand. Instead of trying to sue people and issuing takedown notices to stay relevant, maybe concentrate on reclaiming some of your brand’s lost reputation.

Source: Twitter

Why Is This Even Happening?

The usual motivation for “copyright trolling” is to make money through litigation. That financial incentive doesn’t even exist here, so you have to wonder why Chooseco is even doing this. They don’t seem to have anything to gain by enforcing this copyright.

They’re not getting any money out of the situation, and they cannot seriously believe that these indie games are stealing their business.

Whoever’s making these calls at Chooseco needs to honestly answer a simple question: Is it worth destroying your reputation when you have so little to gain?

This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or Rights and Duties of the Editor, or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us and we will look at it as soon as possible.

Last modified: January 22, 2020 11:40 PM UTC

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William Worrall @mizushinzui

William Worrall is a professional writer based out of the UK who has been writing about video and tabletop games for over a decade and has covered industry events such as EGX and UKGE. Visit his website, contact him at william.worrall@ccn.com, or see his LinkedIn profile here.