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Wait, Did Call of Duty Just Prove That Video Games Are Art?

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:48 PM
William Worrall
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:48 PM
  • The owners of the Humvee brand sued Call of Duty creator Activision in 2017.
  • This suit has surrounded the use of the trucks in Modern Warfare titles.
  • Activision just won the lawsuit, meaning that Call of Duty may have been the unlikely title to prove definitively that video games are art.

Gamers have argued for decades that video games are a valid art form . Thanks to a recent lawsuit, we now have definitive legal proof that we were right all along. And from the unlikeliest of sources: Call of Duty.

According to a recent ruling by New York Judge George B. Daniels , the First Amendment protects Call of Duty’s right to use a trademarked name in an artistic work.

If realism is an artistic goal, then the presence in modern warfare games of vehicles employed by actual militaries undoubtedly furthers that goal.

It looks to me like the argument is finally settled. Hopefully, this ruling will silence the critics who keep reigniting these stupid debates.

Call of Duty - Humvee
It seems like the use of Humvees in future Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles is pretty much secured at this stage. | Source: Activision

Call of Duty Just Did Gaming a Huge Favor

It’s a bit hilarious that of all the franchises that could serve as proof that video games are art, Call of Duty was the one that finally defended that legal definition.

Back in 2011, the U.S. “officially” designated games as art by allowing them to apply for art grants . But that designation hadn’t been defended by a video game publisher in a court of law.

This appears to be the first lawsuit where that artistic protection has been tested for a specific game and licensing dispute, rather than a designation broadly applied to games as a whole. Such was the case in the landmark Brown vs. EMA Supreme Court ruling .

At face value, it might not seem like a big deal that Activision won the right to include Humvees in Call of Duty titles without licensing the brand name. But the precedent this sets has the potential to change game development for the better.

Making Games Just Got a Little Less Stressful

One reason that this Call of Duty ruling is so important is that it affects how developers make games. It makes it much easier to add real-world items to your games without fearing you’ll be sued by the company that owns them.

If Call of Duty can get away with using Humvees because it furthers the artistic goal of realism, then the same is surely true of many other items that make a title more realistic. Imagine not having to go through a game set in the modern-day with a bunch of fake-sounding products spread about the place.

That day won’t come immediately. This new legal precedent will not affect games currently being made. At least not those in their late stages of production.

But I bet this ruling makes developers feel a little more emboldened to reference real-world brands in their future games.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.