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‘Palworld,’ intellectual property and artificially-generated designs in video games

Graphic by Ethan Nelson

“Palworld” is a survival monster-taming game — think “Ark: Survival Evolved” crossed with “Pokemon” — that has taken the gaming community by storm this past month. However, many have pointed out that some Pals, the game’s monsters, resemble various Pokemon.

The game has already been dubbed “Pokemon with guns” by a few content creators, bringing the extension of intellectual property (IP) rights of art in video games into question.

Pocket monster games are nothing new, and it’s not like Nintendo holds the rights to the genre. Many companies have developed games with similar concepts: catching, training and fighting. However, “Palworld” is one of the biggest hits for this cross of genres.

While there’s no doubt some Pokemon were simply inspired by real life creatures or morphs of fauna and flora, it’s unlikely some Pal designs were pure original thought.

Anubis and Lucario are the first example many pointed out because the resemblance is obvious. Both are a tall blue and black humanoid with pointy ears, despite Anubis’s more Egyptian theme. 

Grizzbolt and Electabuzz are also compared, with a similar yellow body and black lightning pattern.

The most blatant is Fenglope and Cobalion, as they are both blue quadrupeds with fluffy chests, gray hooves and brown horns.

The Copyright Act of 1976 prompts the belief that video game characters are protected by law. However, arguments could be made that each individual Pokemon would need to be trademarked to be protected because trademark law technically only protects the franchise.

Nintendo’s lawyers are investigating “Palworld,” but have decided to send the team in on a different game, “PokeZoo.”

“PokeZoo” is a trading card game which uses even more obvious IP rips, explaining Nintendo’s trigger-happy response. As of publishing, none of the links to the PokeZoo website are functional, implying the series had some very serious repercussions.

“Palworld” is safe for now, but seeing what else its developers, Pocket Pair, come up with will be interesting. The CEO previously tweeted about artificially generated fake Pokemon, supporting even further that many Pals were not original ideas.

While the AI speculations are just that, it is not unlikely a future game could be produced using machine-generated concepts or artworks, which would be another major hit for the industry.

Despite the massive success of the game, people are still suspicious of the broader intent of Pocket Pair and what they have planned for the future if such allegations are true.

AI art is not real art and it hurts artists and designers who spend hours innovating original creative ideas. Any game that uses technology in this matter is not a game worth playing, whether it’s “Palworld” or anything else.

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